This film is more than a mere sequel of a horror movie it contains so many references that transcend into the horror films of today, proving that imagination holds no boundaries and likely James Whale gives the definitive version of Mary Shelley‘s original story of Frankenstein Or The Modern Prometheus to screen an enduring lasting impression. It is always rare when a sequel triumphs above the processor, especially when the Bride only appears on screen for just 3-minutes, but it’s the story, passion, and style that allows this movie to achieve incredible long-lasting status, that earned its place on the Nation Film Preservation Board in 1998.
Following the massive success of Frankenstein (1931) it delivered stardom for Boris Karloff and equally for director James Whale, but as with any great financial box office a sequel becomes a definite must-have for the producers; they wanted no one else but Whale. However, he wasn’t interested as balanced himself between theater and yet continued to make two more stellar quality horror films The Old Dark House (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933) both earning big returns on their initial investment. Nevertheless, Whale succumbed to pressure but with one small condition, as any intelligent man would, he wanted absolute authority on every aspect of the film, every word, shot, personnel, etc. Universal Studios agreed, as they already spent money on various screenwriters who gave the contribution from adaption to story to dialogue, but in the end William Hurlbut (The Cat Creeps ) penned the screenplay, with Robert Florey, (Murders in the Rue Morgue ) who previously worked on the first film returned to assist in the story . A major question still existed would the Monster and his to-be Bride survive the censors? What many may not know, in the 1930s all scripts had to go before the Hollywood’s Production Code, which was known as the Hay’s code formed 1930 and became highly rigid in 1934, without their approval a film couldn’t be shown to the general public, by the way this group still exists today but as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). They would object dialogue and line references anything condemning God, or encouraging any perversion. Whale and his team worked around those issue the science was ‘perverted’, but the story told of good versus bad moral, and the wrongful practices of challenging the Lord. However this wouldn’t be the only hurdle they needed to clear that came from the … well more on who that entity was later in this review and perhaps more frankly an article. In the end, Whale made the movie in some manners a reflection of himself with mischievous dialogue and while controlling his set with incredible unbridled freedom for 46 days to finish the principal photography at cost of $400,000 which equals $7.3-million in today’s value.
I shall refrain from diving too far into the story and exposing much of plot, although those who’ve read the book or have seen other versions likely know the overall concept, but in all fairness the classic horror movie needs one to savor it thoroughly. It begins with a prologue of the young author Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester (Terror in the Wax Museum )) sits in a grandiose setting while her husband Percy (Douglas Walton) mulls about and her friend Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) started out watching a thunderstorm discussing her book, and she reveals there’s much more to the story, and that the Monster escaped death. From there the story cuts immediately to an old windmill with a townsfolk Minnie (Una O’Connor) rejoicing in the pleasure that creature is dead and gleefully stating “Insides are always the last to be consumed.” As the residents return happily home the Monster rises up from the ruins and frightens her, as he trudges toward the wilderness; Whale clearly shows his macabre humor in the scene. Soon enough through his escape he comes to the hut of a blind hermit (O.P. Heggie), his music soothes the anger and he becomes the only friend in his life. He’s been cast aside by everyone, his father Henry Frankenstein abandoned him, because he wasn’t what he hoped for in creation, one can wonder how often that happens in real life. Meanwhile Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), who’s not a doctor as he had abandoned the schooling, believing his ego smarter than everyone else, recovers at home, with his wife Elizabeth by his side. They have a heightened discussion about the righteousness of the Lord to create life, and man has no place in it, but fears the devil tempted him again. Just then the sinister and yet almost comical Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), arrives and inferred that devil is conjuring new methods to debauchery, Henry follows this Doctor back this lab, which is interesting enough as the doctor’s last name has the Latin meaning of leader, they begin an interesting chat about life, nature and bible stories stated a snide facial expression. We see some of the Pretorius mad scientist creations, very curious experiments, however he wishes to make a woman for the Monster.
Although Henry refuses, this dear doctor and the help of a friend will work to change his mind. The one key difference between this movie and part one, is now the Monster speaks, (Karloff objected) he speaks about forty words. The final act of the film contains electronic gizmos (designed by Kenneth Strickfaden, who again received an uncredited status like so many others in the making of this film) harness the lightning to give their creation of a woman, the Bride (Lanchester) her legendary black and white streak hair, makes a shocking appearance, her looks and poses each more striking. Who hisses and screams at the sight of the Monster? All of it captured perfectly by cinematographer John J. Mescall, we witness the suffering he has endured, empty promises, no one loves him, all he suffered showing the evil and hatred of those around him, the emotion Karloff provides is truly moving and hits it home for the viewers.
First, let’s note the fantastic score created by Franz Waxman working on his first horror film, all the cues he assigns to the characters allow him to orchestrate the urges in the listeners (if listening to the soundtrack) and understood the psychological motivations of the audience. In addition, he took lessons from silent films, where the music accompanied played live for those subtle hints of how to feel to the images on the screen. His work on here went often being recycled or reused as stock music for numerous productions including The Funhouse (1981), Gods and Monsters (1998), and countless others. Next is the remarkable work of makeup artist of Jack Pierce, who worked in over 40-horror films, and numerous times with Whale, and many of the Universal Studios creations, knew how to age The Monster, working on the eyes to convey more feelings, aiding in helping Karloff achieve even more sympathies. His work on the Bride is a fittingly tribute, that carries the memory and imagine to all horror and cinema fans, bizarre to some and lovely to others, regardless one look and everyone knows the name of the character. Speaking of Karloff, he endured pain, perhaps more than the first time he played the titled character, in the mill scene he fell and dislocated his hip and instead shutting down the filming, received some medical help and with straps he carried onward using that injury to aid him in the walk and anguish of his character, this makes his performance even greater for the movie. Some makeup artists point the Monster having a fuller face feature and connecting it with Boris was earning more and hence added some weight to himself, sorry slightly incorrect, since the Monster talks briefly Boris needed to keep his bridge in, or the dialogue would rendered muddled and unintelligent even for the creature, and though its 5-hours for his makeup he still took time for a spot of tea or cup of coffee under the grueling process. As for the all-important Bride, she like those of today are always very special so unique for the film the credit lists her as “?”, however the woman behind it all endured 3-hours of makeup and costume work, which meant she needed to stay that for a few days as to ruin it or the continuity. She was placed in mummified bandages wrapped very tightly and carried about the set for her scenes, aided by staff to help with all personal aspects, suffering for the role of a lifetime all for our viewing pleasure.
As I previously mention before the film could get the official stamp of approval Whale needed to get past one more censor board, that was Catholic Legion of Decency dedicated to identifying and combating objectionable content, they were deemed what was permitted, to the general public. Although it went further, in the mid-1930s in America, Catholics were 20-million, heavily controlled and conditioned that watching a film not approved equaled under pain of mortal sin. While this is archaic to us now, for many then and now question someone’s faith is obscene, this group vanished in 1980, after morals and values shifted greatly. However for Whale it was nightmarish, but again as a wise man he used many tricks against the board, namely the opening scene of where Elsa is speaking about her book, the two men in the room with her freely speaking was considered rude, a woman not knowing her place, but James inferred that in parts of the world a woman is an equal and it was wrong to condemn other cultures views. In that same scene another objection to eye-line sight of that showed excessive cleavage, James once more settled the issue, God endowed her, can’t challenge the Lord on his creation, hence unable to cast blame to the recognizes the issue, whether they did or not James was shoveling manure at them in an unknown.
I do agree with many others that Bride Of Frankenstein contains a careful balance with black comedic lines and full display of horror, but the reasons it surpasses part one, is that there’s a bigger budget and overall improvement to production values, remembering that it came out four years later in an industry still relativity new to sound a delicate balance between black comedy and all-out horror. The film is likely the best out of the Universal Horror Frankenstein films to date, noting it doesn’t include the horror-comedies that used equipment and themes of this creation. Nevertheless, even in 2020, this movie is still phenomenal, every time seeing the blind hermit (O.P Heggie) scene I think is wonderful and makes me think of Young Frankenstein (1974). One thing is very clear with this film and its predecessor, Karloff’s star and fame became a lasting testament all thanks to the portrayal of The Monster which was foreign to his mild-mannered self.
- WHO will be The Bride of Frankenstein WHO will dare?
- A BRIDE FOR THE MONSTER COMES TO LIFE IN A SCIENTIST’S LABORATORY! (original print ad – all caps)
- She breathes, sees, hears, walks — but can she love?
- WARNING! Not for the young, the scary, the nervous, BUT if you enjoy thrills, chills and spine-tingling sensation, while your hair stands on end — SEE “The Bride of Frankenstein.”
- …more fearful than the monster himself!
- A MONSTER IN FORM but HUMAN IN HIS DESIRE FOR LOVE! (Print ad- Lodi News, ((Lodi, Calif.)) 31 May 1935)
- Warning! The Monster demands a Mate!
- I Demand A Mate!
- Coming! Universal’s Shiveriest Sensation!
- A Mate… For The Monster!
- The Monster Thriller
- Created in a weird scientist’s laboratory… from the skeletons of two women and the heart of a living girl!
- The Monster Talks and Demands A Mate!
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.5/10
The Invisible Man (1933)
Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
The Invisible Woman (1940)
The Wolf Man (1941)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Invisible Agent (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Son of Dracula (1943)
The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
The Bride (1985)
Young Frankenstein (1974)