Frankenstein (1931) generated massive box office returns and global headlines (after it was banned in many countries) and made Boris Karloff into a bankable star. It was inevitable that Universal would want to take another run at a Monster-based movie. It took a couple of years to reassemble Karloff, Colin Clive, and director James Whale, but in January 1935 they reunited on the set of one of the final – and most outrageous – pre-Code horror films.
Like Dracula, the movie version of Frankenstein was based on a stage play (Peggy Webling’s Frankenstein: An Adventure in the Macabre) rather than on the original novel. Webling’s play was commissioned in 1928 by impresario Hamilton Deane, who had been very successful with his UK production of Dracula in the mid-1920s, and it proved to be a similar hit.
After the huge success of Dracula, released on Valentine’s Day 1931, Universal snapped up the screen rights to Frankenstein and the property entered the, even then, labyrinthine studio development process. Dracula screenwriter Garrett Ford hopped on board and drafted a screenplay based on two assumptions. First, that Frenchman Robert Florey would direct, and that Bela Lugosi would star in the leading role — as the mad scientist, Henry, not as his monstrous creation.