Universal Studios had tasted success earlier in 1931 with Tod Browning's version of Dracula, and this being the heart of the Great Depression was eager to rush another macabre tale into production. But when Bela Lugosi famously declined the (largely mute) part of The Monster, feeling it was beneath his talents, little-known British transplant Boris Karloff was tapped for the role that would ensure his fame for decades to come often to his bemused regret.
Though indisputably a classic of the first order, James Whale's impressive work in Frankenstein does suffer a bit in comparison to its more accomplished sequel and only to that high-water mark. There is a general creakiness in the scenes in which the Creature is not directly involved, and the picture boasts a less-than-stellar supporting cast, with the exception of the reliably demented Dwight Frye as the hunchbacked assistant to Colin Clive's hyperventilating Dr. Frankenstein (it is he who drops the container holding the ''good'' brain, forcing him to utilize the criminal brain that sets the entire tragedy on its path). The impact of Karloff's introductory scene as the creature, however, has never been surpassed, even after 75 years of great horror film moments.
Image Credit: Frankenstein: Everett Collection
In honor of his 75th birthday, we pick the creature's 10 finest films, from Boris Karloff's original classic to Mel Brooks' monsterously funny sendup (plus, a couple that definitely belong dead)