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Frankenstein  (1931)
Directed by: James Whale
Cast: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke and Boris Karloff IMDB Database page about Frankenstein page about Frankenstein

Studio(s): - Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood: Many of the exteriors of the village were shot on the Little Europe sets at Universal, including the Court of Miracles {The townspeople of Goldstadt celebrated the wedding of Henry Frankenstein to Elizabeth in this square. ). However, they're not the same sets that can be seen today - all of todays Little Europe was built in 1967 after a huge fire destroyed the vintage sets.
Universal Studios Hollywood: Many scenes that look like exteriors were shot on soundstages (there are some unfortunate ripples of backcloths which give away the interior shooting, and footsteps that sound like wooden staging not outdoor rocks and mud). The highly theatrical backdrops with dramatic skies helped to set the atmosphere of exaggerated reality.
Universal Studios Hollywood: The huge Laboratory set was built on Stage 12 at Universal Studios Hollywood. The stage had been built in 1929. The electrical machinery in Dr Frankenstein's laboratory was provided by Kenneth Strickfaden. The same machinery reappeared years later in the fabulous Mel Brooks homage Young Frankenstein

The movie opened on 21 November 1931, and earned $12 million, with production costs of only $262,000.

Filming Locations

Many of the exteriors of the village were shot on the Little Europe sets at Universal. However, they're not the same sets that can be seen today - all of todays Little Europe was built in 1967 after a huge fire destroyed the vintage sets.
Many scenes that look like exteriors were shot on soundstages (there are some unfortunate ripples of backcloths which give away the interior shooting, and footsteps that sound like wooden staging not outdoor rocks and mud).
The highly theatrical backdrops with dramatic skies helped to set the atmosphere of exaggerated reality.

IMDB reveals that some of the sets were originally constructed for The Cat and The Canary in 1927, and were reused for this movie.

The lake scene was shot either at Malibou Lake or Lake Sherwood, both in California.

Laboratory:
The huge Laboratory set was built on Stage 12 at Universal Studios Hollywood. The stage had been built in 1929.
The electrical machinery in Dr Frankenstein's laboratory was provided by Kenneth Strickfaden. The same machinery reappeared years later in the fabulous Mel Brooks homage Young Frankenstein (1974).

Windmill:
The full windmill was actually a miniature, shot inside a soundstage.
The dramatic sky behind the windmill model was a painted cloth backdrop.
The full-scale scenes leading to our first view of the windmill show creases in the backdrop, and close-up shots of the crowd arriving at the windmill show matte lines around them implying they were composited into the shot with the model after filming.
The shot looking up at the windmill with the Monster standing at the top after throwing Frankenstein to the ground, proves this as the Monster was composited into the shot afterwards, as he appears in front of the windmill sails when they rotate past him.
The platform on which the Monster stands is a full-scale set, as is the very base of the windmill, which is set alight. Both of these are most likely soundstage shots.

Sound Effects

The famous Castle Thunder sound effect was first recorded for and used in this movie. It's been used thousands of times since.

Make-Up

Jack Pierce created the incredible make-up for Boris Karloff as The Monster.
Universal has copyright on the design until (at least) the year 2026.
He came up with innovations (which weren't mentioned in Mary Shelley's book) such as the Monster's flat head, the bolts through the neck, the droopy eyelids, and the poorly-fitted suit.
Any future Frankenstein film that features any of these physical abnormalities is taking its inspiration from Pierce's make-up work.

Trailer




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