Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Dir: James Whale
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lancaster, Gavin Gordon, Douglas Walton, Una O’Connor, O.P Heggie
Run Time: 75 Mins
The sequel to 1931’s Frankenstein is one of those rare sequels to be widely regarded as being superior to the original. And it is. Comfortably.
It opens with Percy Bysshe Shelley (Walton), Lord Byron (Gordon) and Mary Shelley (Lancaster – pulling double duty by also portraying “The Bride”) discussing the latter’s novel and their hope it will soon find a publisher. Their discussion of the work serves as a handy recap for audiences who haven’t seen the original, then the men beg Shelley to tell them more of the story.
So we go back to the end of Frankenstein. The Monster (credited here only as KARLOFF) and Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) have both survived. Frankenstein is reunited with his fiancée (Hobson) while the Monster is captured but quickly escapes and goes rampaging through the countryside, as he does. Frankenstein is visited by his old mentor, the sinister Dr. Pretorius (Thesiger). Pretorius has been doing his own experiments in creating life and has managed to create Homunculi. His minute creations look completely human and have distinct personalities and intellects, but he’s been unable to crack the problem of giving his creations full human size. He wants to combine efforts with Frankenstein to create a perfect full sized human creature. “Here’s to a new world of Gods and Monsters.”
Meanwhile The Monster encounters a remote, blind hermit (Heggie) who takes him in and shows him hospitality and kindness. The Hermit teaches The Monster a few simple words, like “Good” and “Friend”. Naturally, this peace doesn’t last as two hunters come across them, the Monster attacks and accidentally burns the Hermits’ hut down.
When it comes down to it, Frankenstein doesn’t want to go through with his experiments any more, so Pretorius has his fiancée kidnapped as a means of persuasion, and Frankenstein is also sncouraged by the Monster who wants a new “friend.” Frankenstein goes ahead and helps create The Bride – who is another triumph for legendary make-up artist Jack Pierce, creator of the now iconic Frankenstein’s Monster look, along with The Wolf Man and more.
Thesiger is a magnificent addition to the cast. His prissy, darkly humorous Pretorius steals every scene, especially those he shares with Clive- again excelling as a man barely in control of his emotions. Thesiger is one of those actors who clearly loves wrapping his tongue around every last syllable of dialogue. Karloff again does a great job of bringing a sense of humanity to the unfortunate monster, even if he was dead against giving the monster any dialogue;in fact everyone from the main cast down to the supports all do well, though it’s worth mentioning Una O’Connor whose completely over the top turn as a hysterical landlady (similar to her role in The Invisible Man) only adds to the camp and zany fun.
Meanwhile as director Whale not pays strong attention to story and character, getting strong performances from his leads, but he also creates a potent cocktail of Gothic horror, dark humour, subtle (and not so subtle) sexual commentary and moody, striking visuals.
The Verdict: Better than the original in every possible way. Just hugely watchable, crazy fun with strong turns and memorable moments.