Horror Movie Poll: Who’s Your Favorite Film Doctor Frankenstein?

Horror Movie poll about Doctor Frankenstein

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  • John Thomas

    My first choice is always Boris Karloff, but Gene Wilder was really good in Young Frankenstein.

  • Curt

    Colin Clive did double duty, as he also played the not so good doctor in Bride of Frankenstein, one of my top ten all time favorite movies. He earned the top spot.

  • Tiny Tim

    Come on people, Gene Wilder is a joke, literally. Colin Clive IS Dr. Frankenstein, and his first creation scene is film legend while his second (Bride of Frankenstein) is sublime. Basil Rathbone’s stint in ‘Son of Frankenstein’ is completely overshadowed by Lionel Atwill’s insanely brilliant scenery chewing. Peter Cushing is the best Van Helsing but only a passable mad scientist. The rest of these are irrelevant afterthoughts.

  • stephen Farris

    Joke…Smoke. Would you like a roll in the hay?

  • version

    Go Clive! you could make the arguement that Tim Curry was a Dr Frankenstien too.

    Cushing played the most Dr’ didn’t he? 4 or more.

    I find Wilder very memorable – but then again the whole movie was a scream.

  • ed

    clive was so over the top but just right in the bride but peter cushing played the mad doctor more than anyone else. why he was my choice. wilder come on shouldn’t be a choice it’s a comic role and the mad doctor is no comic

  • Martin Stumacher

    As a true lover of classic horror films,how could you not choose Colin Clive. “it’s alive, it’s alive”, is part of horror films legacy. Gene Wilder was hilarious but not better than Clive.

  • Clivefan

    Colin Clive is, without question, the finest film Frankenstein. His voice-like a pipe organ, as one of his co-stars described it-was perfect for the neurotic qualities that the good doctor required. It doesn’t hurt that his two performances were in films directed by James Whale, arguably the greatest director of Golden Age horror films.

  • Rick

    Clive, Karloff, Cushing, Rathbone, and Branaugh, all brought something to the role. Loved Young Frankenstein and Gene Wilder is a genius, but since it is a comedy, I really didn’t consider this. My final choice had to be Cushing though. His ability to portray absolute confidence in himself with just the right level of malevolent, self absorbed arrogance is unparalleled. I also love to watch his manic expressiveness like he truly believes not only is he always right, but it has to be done right now.

  • jake

    What, no Whit Bissell? (I Was a Teenage Frankenstein)

    I think I’d have to go for Peter, since the six (?) Hammer films nicely evolved him from being single-minded with helping his fellow man to eventually being quite mad and obsessed with only helping his own delusions of self-importance and virtual omnipotence, regardless of the cost in human lives. (Not to take anything away from Colin Clive, though he was a bit over the top.)

    By the way, to the poster who voted for Karloff: you do realize, no, that this poll is for the best Frankenstein (as in Dr…), and not the best monster? I thought the bad habit we’d all gotten into of calling the monster “Frankenstein” was nicely buried years ago (though I suppose the monster could be considered an offspring, huh?). Unless, of course, you really do consider Karloff’s Doctor in “Frankenstein 1970″ to be superior to Clive’s or Cushing’s. (Hey, it was Karloff, after all…who am I to argue?)

  • jake

    Astonishingly, now that I’ve voted (after I posted, above), I see that, despite the fact that most remarks so far say that Wilder doesn’t even belong on the list, he’s leading the poll over Clive almost 2-to-1! I guess some people comment, and others vote, or something…lol!

  • broadwayfan

    “Damn your eyes!”
    “Too late.”

    “Whose brain is this?”
    “Abi….Somebody.”

    Tons of brilliant lines in the best Frankenstein movie ever!

  • Susan

    Hands down Tim Curry!!!!!

  • Chris

    To me, this really isn’t even close. It’s Peter Cushing by a landslide. Not to discredit Colin Clive in any way, who did an admirable job playing the role twice. But the quiet menace that Peter Cushing displayed, coupled with a single-minded determination to succeed in his experiments no matter what the cost, makes him the definitive Dr. Frankenstein. He played the role 6 times, but I would leave EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN out of this discussion, as that film fell outside of the continuity of the Frankenstein series from Hammer, being a one-off that was inspired by the Universal original (and for Hammer, was not particularly well-written).

    But in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL Cushing gave us not just the definitive Doctor, but one of the finest series of performances in ALL of horror cinema! How an actor could play such a ruthless character but still have you rooting for him is a testament to how great Peter Cushing was.

  • Tim

    Tim Curry’s part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show was great but it was NOT Dr. Frankenstein…it was Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

  • Arkady

    In my book it’s Cushing all the way, for exactly the reasons everyone else has listed. I particularly like him in “Revenge”, which I think of all the Hammers comes closest to capturing the pathos of the original story.

  • Andrew

    Gene Wilder didn’t play Dr. Frankenstein. It was “Frankensteen”. What a hilarious movie!

  • Elmyra DelVecchio

    Peter Cushing, in my opinion, had the best take on Dr. Frankenstein. His wasn’t the tragic, misguided scientist of Mary Shelley’s novel, Cushing, instead, portrayed him as a cool, calculting, arrogant s.o.b. that you loved to hate. You can also add cruel, ruthless, heartless and imbued with a generous dose of controlled insanity. This made him a human monster that was fascinating to watch. Even the movie titles reflected his wickedness(The Curse of…, The Revenge of…, The Evil of…, …Must Be Destroyed). Cushing was a fine actor and made a great Van Helsing but, his Frankenstein character was so malevolent that he equalled the menace factor found in Christopher Lee’s portrayals of Dracula.

    Colin Clive’s Frankenstein will always be admired by horror enthusiasts. But, personally, I’ve always found his thespic talents to be overly melodramatic – more suited for nineteenth century plays and audience sensibilities of that era. His Frankenstein was mad, moody, wimpy and more often prone to ridicule and laughter from the viewer rather than menace, respect or even sympathy. Clive carried his melodramatics over to his musician portrayal in ‘Mad Love’ – rivaling Ted Healy for the film’s top comic relief.

    ‘Frankenstein 1970′ is a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. Therefore, my fondness for it probably disqualifies me from any objective criticism. I’ll just say it’s an unfairly maligned film with a fine performance by the great Karloff – one that is NOT ‘hammy’, ‘over the top’, ‘phoned in’ or any other snarky, stupid remark uttered or written by boneheaded critics down through the decades.

    Basil Rathbone was insipid but tolerable in ‘Son of Frankenstein’ and third banana (in spite of billing) to Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff (it’s THEIR film, really)

    Gene Wilder was….Gene Wilder. ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a farce and Wilder’s goofy, comedic talents worked well in the zany atmosphere created by Mel Brooks.

    No comment on the rest of the Frankenstein actors listed in the poll.

    A final parting shot – why was Whit Bissell not on the poll? His wacky take on Dr. Frankenstein in ‘I Was a Teenage Frankenstein’ was inspired. This is another guilty pleasure film of mine.

  • sally stark

    COLIN CLIVE. Game, Set, Match! Clive was not only the first Dr. Frankenstein, he was the ONLY one!

  • jake

    Elmyra! Thanks for seconding my write-in for Whit!!! (lol)

    The only thing in everything you’ve said that I’d have reservations about is that Basil played third after Boris and Bela. (Mind, you, I think Rathbone did an EXCELLENT job of playing someone who, little by little as the film goes on, finds himself in something completely over his head and out of his control, making it absolutely one of the most memorable of the Frankenstein franchise…though not, by any means, making him one of the most memorable of the Doc’s.) I think the film belongs to Lionel Atwill. When all is said and done, he’s the most audacious and eccentric major character in the film. (Second would be Lugosi as Ygor, third would, sorry, be Rathbone as Frankenstein. Boris didn’t really have a whole lot to do in that film except strangle people now and then on order and occasionally look menacing. That’s why he bowed out of the films after that. Of course a year later he was making films like “The Gorilla” and probably wondering where he’d went wrong. Still, I’m reminded of something I read once about an interviewer visiting him on his country estate in England and asking him “Have you ever felt bad about being typecast as a monster?” and his response was to gesture at the gardens around him, and ask, in effect, what is there to feel bad about?) But, great as all the performances were, you’ll notice that the one that Brooks selected as something people would remember from that film, something to put into “Young Frankenstein,” was the Atwill role. His role is the one you take away from that film.

    (“Is he a general?” “No, son, he’s much more important than a general. He’s an Inspector.”)

  • Robert Paglione

    If your were looking for laughs it would be Gene Wilder, this is looking for the Horror Genre and the only vote should go to Colin Clive, the one, the only true Dr. Frankenstein!!

  • Wally Gunn

    Colin Clive’s “It’s ALIVE!!!” Will always echo on, in horror movie infamy!

  • Rob in L.A.

    What a great question! However, I’m not sure that I could come up with someone to vote for.

    Kenneth Branagh’s “Frankenstein” had so much going for it — De Niro as the Monster, sticking close to the novel, gorgeous period costuming, the story element of Frankenstein being a Swiss among Germans (even a cameo by Friedrich Schiller!) — but ended up being a sloppy, dreadful mess. As for the music? It’s the only movie I’ve been to when the composer’s name, Patrick Doyle, came on the screen, the audience booed.

    @sally stark ~ The movie’s first Frankenstein wasn’t Colin Clive, but Augustus Phillips in Edison’s 1910 version.

  • S. R. Orsulak

    Peter Cushing was a great actor who played many different characters down through the years, but his role as Dr. Frankenstein in 6 films is by far the best of any others. He played the bad guy who you cheered for and were sorry for at the end.

  • jake

    Rob: regarding Coppola’s “Frankenstein”…

    I’ve always thought it came out as such a mess primarily because they tried to put the entire novel into a two-hour film. Instead of a moody, sometimes scary piece, they wound up with this helter-skelter pastiche of scenes that you could barely keep up with. It had barely a recognizable plot (yeah, we already know what it is, but can you imagine someone watching it that didn’t and trying to keep up?), a patchwork of interconnecting scenes and virtually no mood build up whatsoever. Actually, the only time they slowed down was for the one scene that diverged from the book, the creation of the bride…and that was a mistake, also, given that (in my opinion, anyway) the outcome of that fiasco was more poignant in the book than what the filmmakers made of it, even if it was the most emotional part of the film.

    (Oddly enough, the same can be said of Coppola’s “Dracula,” with his extraneous and unnecessary addition of a “romantic vampire” subplot.)

    Still, those films made a lot of money, so who are we to judge? :)

    But next time someone needles you about how different some film is from the book, point to one of those and smile knowingly.

    Because those are textbook examples of why filmmakers diverge from their source material.

  • sally stark

    He WAS the first talking picture Frankenstein, and will always be the One and ONLY…and the BEST/

  • Rob in L.A.

    @jake ~ Coppola directed “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” but Kenneth Branagh directed (as well as starred in) “Mary Shelley”s Frankenstein.

    And you’re right: the movie tried to squeeze too much story into too little screen time. It’s one of the few movies that I think might have been better if it had been LONGER. Go figure. And it’s my understanding that this “Frankenstein” (understandably) bombed at the box office. One last thing: I always thought that it would have been nice to see Christopher Lee as Professor Waldman, the role that went to John Cleese.

  • Luis M

    GOOD COMMENTS ALL AROUND BUT I HAVE TO THROW THIS IN………DOES ANYONE REMEMBER A TV MOVIE WITH JAMES MASON PLAYING DR. FRANKENSTEIN AND MICHAEL SARRAZIN PLAYING THE MONSTER…….HE STARTED OUT AS A VERY HANDSOME YOUNG MAN AND DETERIORARTED INTO AN UGLY MONSTER…….HIS LAST WORD AS HE HUNG FROM THE MAST OF A SHIP WAS “POLLYDORY”

  • Elmyra DelVecchio

    To Jake: Hurrah for Whit Bissell (what a great name!)! Perhaps you and I stand alone in remembrance of his Dr. Frankenstein role.

    Regarding ‘Son of Frankenstein’ – I enjoyed Rathbone in the film. Maybe ‘insipid’ was too strong a word. It’s just that I don’t find him overly compelling in the role (I also don’t find Sir Cedric Hardwicke very compelling as Dr. F in ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’). I like both of these actors in other stronger roles (Rathbone in ‘Adventures of Robin Hood’ and his Sherlock Holmes features; Hardwicke in 1939’s ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘The Invisible Man Returns’) I don’t think either were stellar in their turns as Dr. Frankenstein.

    Regarding Lionel Atwill, he is a favorite of mine. His role as the Inspector in ‘Son of Frankenstein’ is terrific (as well as his other Inspector roles that followed). In my opinion, the order of top acting honors for ‘Son of Frankenstein’ goes as follows, Bela Lugosi as Ygor, Lionel Atwill as Inspector Kroegh, Boris Karloff as The Monster and Basil Rathbone as Dr. F. Atwill was one of those actors that livened up whatever film he participated in. Along with Lugosi, again, he added spark to ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’ and made the film enjoyable to watch. His presence in ‘Captain Blood’, ‘Mark of the Vampire’, ‘Vampire Bat’ and many other films was always a treat. I’ve often thought that Paramount Pictures should have cast him as the evil ‘Dr. Cyclops’ rather than Albert Dekker. Dekker gave a good performance but, I think Atwill would have added that extra bit of menace that would have made that film a Golden Age horror classic to stand beside ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Wolf Man’.

    And, Jake, I agree with you on Branagh’s Frankenstein. I was a mess of a movie and I, personally, despise it. I, too, didn’t like the romantic ‘love story’ touch to Coppola’s Dracula film. But, there were enough other positive elements to the film that I tolerated it.

    I don’t like any romantic vampire stories – whether it’s Anne Rice’s offerings or, the ‘Twilight’ miseries. Vampires are vile things of horror and darkness and suck human blood for their sustenance. There’s nothing romantic about them. I suppose some bright spark out there will come up with a romantic film involving the current flesh-eating zombie craze. Maybe they’ve already done it and I’m unaware of it. Still, it’s a bad idea. Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies, Living Mummies – they’re all denizens of evil. They’re not heroes, good guys, role models or anything to look up to. Filmmakers – Stop making them romantic!!!

  • Luis M

    @ELMYRA DEL VECCHIO…..WE THREE…..I REMEMBER TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN VERY WELL..ALTHOUGH NEITHER OF YOU MENTIONED THAT THE CLOSING SEQUENCE IS IN COLOR…AND THE CROCODILE IN THE BASEMENT TO EAT THE PARTS THE GOOD DR. DIDN’T NEED….WHIT BISSELL HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF MY FAVORITE ACTORS……

  • Johnny

    First one that came to my mind was “Peter Cushing” a great favorite of Mine.

  • jefferson_thomas

    Andrew was right: “That’s FRONK-en-steen!”

  • sally stark

    In FRANKENSTEIN, THE TRUE STORY, James Mason did NOT play Dr. Frankenstein. He played Polidori. Leonard Whiting played Victor Frankenstein, and David McCallum played Victor’s friend, Henry Clerval.

  • JohnCougar’sMelonCamp

    “It’s pronounced’Fronkensteen’!!”-Gene Wilder:”Young Frankenstein”.
    “WHAT KNOCKERS!!”

  • Graeme Collins

    Peter Cushing is the most consistant over the period of time, and nothing can be added from those other reviewers nominating Mr. Cushing.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Gary Cahall

    Ah, but don’t forget, FrankenFans, that once he embraces his family heritage, Wilder tells Teri Garr and Marty Feldman, “My name is FRANKENSTEIN!”

    Also, for you Whit Bissell buffs out there, we regret leaving his Professor Frankenstein off the list, but we wanted to keep it at 10 choices (This is also why Karloff only got Frankenstein 1970 and not Mad Monster Party).
    As for Whit, how can you not like a mad scientist who tells his creation “Speak! You’ve got a civil tongue in your head! I know you have because I sewed it back myself!”

  • David in LA

    Lots of good actors, but I think Peter Cushing was the best.

    And Jake and Elmyrah, Thank you for remembering the great Whit Bissell!

  • Gail

    Young Frankenstein is my all-time favorite comedies and i think Gene Wilder is soooooooooooooooo funny as Dr Frankensteen

  • Jerry

    It said “Favorite”, not the best.

  • Hyman Rolov

    The Michael Sarrazin Frankenstein (a TV mini-series) is called Frankenstein: The True Story. It was written by Christopher Isherwood and has kind of a gay slant. It is slightly more faithful than many versions, which is not terribly. POLLY-DOLLY is the students’ nickname for James Mason who plays Dr. Polidori. That name derives from one of Byron’s friends who participated in the story writing competition that produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenatein. For an ongoing progression to the Dr. Frankenstein character, Peter Cushing is unsurpassed, partly because he gets to play the role several times. Even Colin Clive (It’s Alive) pales in comparison. The Branagh version is a horrid mess, mainly because of Branagh’s torpid, pretentious direction. Only Di Niro manages an interesting take on the Monster. I recently saw a version with Patrick Bergin and Randy Quaid as the Monster. This one got some good mileage out of the original novel, though it departed from much of the book as all other versions do. It, at least had the Doctor refuse to finish the Monster’s bride, like the book. Few versions pass up the opportunity to bring a Bride to life, even though that’s what’s in the book!

  • Bonnie McGrough

    In the Universal Pictures canon of Frankenstein films it’s clearly Colin Clive that reigns supreme as the best Dr. Frankenstein.

    However, there were other Mad Doctors in the series that eclipsed even Clive. For my money, Ernest Theisiger’s portrayal of Dr. Praetorius in ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ out-Frankensteined Frankenstein and became the standard to meet for ghoulish, self-absorbed mad scientists. I also think Boris Karloff’s role of Dr. Neimann in ‘House of Frankenstein’ also challenged Clive’s role as a quintessential mad scientist. Dr. Neimann was evil incarnate. He’s murderous, revengeful, cruel, deceitful and arrogant – for instance, even though he admired Dr. Frankenstein he questioned Frankenstein’s theories of surgical technique (in the opening prison scene) implying he had better theories and methods. The Dr. Neimann character foreshadowed the character traits found in Peter Cushing’s performances as Dr. Frankenstein throughout the Hammer Films series.

    And, of course, in the Hammer Films canon of Frankenstein films it is Peter Cushing who reigns supreme as Dr. Frankenstein. Ralph Bates, in his one turn at playing Dr. Frankenstein, doesn’t come close to matching Cushing’s brilliance in the role.

    It comes down to Clive and Cushing to claim the ultimate honor of best Frankenstein. But there will always be two camps – each championing their favorite. I’m in the Cushing camp. But, I enjoy them both. Apples and Oranges.

  • Rick

    It seems everyone has forgotten Robert Foxworth’s Frankenstein. But then again he wasn’t that good. I did like Bo Svenson as the Monster in the version and I always liked Susan Strassberg, but Foxworth was forgettable.

  • Rick

    After reading everyone’s comments, you have made some good points but I am still a Peter Cushing fan.

  • golden1

    “It’s alive! It’s alive!” That scene is a classic. Colin Clive is brilliant as he has a nervous breakdown right before our eyes. He’s my favorite, and he’s the best ever Dr. Frankenstein.

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