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Along with Karloff, it stars Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein, Mae Clarke as his fiancée Elizabeth, Dwight Frye as Fritz and Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman.
Here's a quick summary:
Obsessed with Creating Life, Dr. Frankenstein robs bodies with the help of his hunchbacked assistant Fritz and sews the best pieces together. After the legendary creation scene, he finds out from Dr. Waldman that the brain he used on the creature is in fact a criminal brain and is convinced that it should be destroyed. However, it escapes and starts wreaking havoc in the countryside, prompting the local townsfolk to grab Torches and Pitchforks and chase it down.
- Adaptation Distillation
- And Call Him George: The childlike monster, while innocently playing with a little girl, gets too enthusiastic and throws her in the river, where she drowns. This was considered so disturbing in the 1930s that the scene was cut right as the Creature is reaching for the girl, skipping to her father carrying her dead body. This of course made the implications of the scene much worse.
- Asshole Victim: Fritz.
- Also, Dr. Waldman. Though he promised Henry he'd kill the Monster "painlessly", it's shown he's actually just keeping the Monster sedated so he can vivisect him. The Monster promptly wakes up and strangles Waldman.
- Blasphemous Boast: Henry's "Now I know what it feels like to be God!", which draw much ire in its time from Christians that it had to be cut.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Edward Van Sloan's "friendly warning" before the credits.
- Character as Himself: Boris Karloff is credited as "?"
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Pretty much the reason for the existence of Victor in the film as, in the original cut, Henry had been killed.
- Creating Life
- Dead Unicorn Trope: Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant in the first movie was named Fritz, not Igor. And he had no assistant, hunchbacked or otherwise, in the book.
- Did Not Do the Research: Apparently the writers didn't know that brains in jars would've been soaked in toxic formaldehyde, no doubt making them even less useable than ones from corpses.
- Dramatic Thunder
- Expanded Universe: As with other major Universal Horror films, a few tie-in novels have been written, such as Frankenstein the Shadow of Frankenstein from 2006 (which takes place between Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein).
- Face Revealing Turn
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: Heard in the opening graveyard segment.
- A God Am I
- Grave Robbing
- High-Class Glass
- The Igor: The Trope Maker is Fritz, while the Trope Namer is Ygor from Son of Frankenstein.
- Infant Immortality: Averted.
- Instant Sedation: An early example, where the (very large and very angry) Creature is brought down with a single (likewise very large) injection in the back.
- It's Going Down: This trope probably started with the windmill.
- Kill It with Fire: The movie ends with the Monster trapped in a burning windmill.
- Lightning Can Do Anything
- Mad Scientist
- Science Marches On: As mentioned on the Lightning Can Do Anything page, the film extends the historical anecdote of Luigi Galvani, discovering in the 18th century that by shocking frogs' legs he could make them jerk about, to mean REALLY shocking a piece-meal corpse could bring it back to life. Yeah, Neuroscience Does Not Work Like That. The dialogue gives some further exlanation, but it falls short of an Author's Saving Throw...its talk of a "ray beyond the ultraviolet" which brings life is more a case of pre-Bomb I Love Nuclear Power than anything else.
- Shout-Out: Henry Frankenstein isn't quite an Expy, but his theatrics definitely bring to mind Nikola Tesla's Large Ham tendencies.
- Silly Walk
- Spared by the Adaptation: Elizabeth and Victor in the final cut.
- They Called Me Mad: If not the Trope Maker, than this is certainly the Trope Codifier.
- Too Dumb to Live: Oh Fritz, you silly man! - "Oh you are stronger and more powerful than me, I think I'll aggravate you!"
- Torches and Pitchforks
- Wedding Smashers
- Whip It Good: Fritz torments the Monster with a whip at one point, with fatal consequences.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes??: The Monster's fear of fire is established here.
- You're Insane!:
Victor Moritz: You're crazy!