on 30 January 2003
Forget 'Godfather 2'. Forget 'The Empire Strikes Back'. This is THE greatest example of a sequal surpassing the original. Coming 4 years after the original 'Frankenstein' in 1931, James Whale was originally reluctant to take on the project, but he soon changed his mind after the studio allowed him more creative freedom. No other director has ever managed to blend horror, comedy and pathos as successfully as Whale. The film features some of the most memorable scenes in film history; notably the monster's encounter with a lonely hermit ("friends - good!") and the introduction of 'The Bride'. The film has it all: superb casting, tremendous sets and make up, memorable dialogue ("To a new world of Gods and monsters") and a brilliantly effective score by Franz Waxman. Boris Karloff was surely one of the greatest actors to ever appear on film. He manages to improve on his characterisation of the monster in the first film, due mainly to the addition of dialogue ("I love dead, hate living!"), and, unlike in the first film, makes the audience feel total empathy for the monster (i.e. the monster is now the victim). Colin Clive reprises his most famous role (in what would be a tragically short career) as the reluctant Dr Frankenstein, Una O'Connor maks a wonderful addition to the cast, as the twittering, hysterical Minnie, but it is Ernest Thesiger whio steals the film with his hillarious performance ("Have a cigar. They are my only weakness") as the sinister Dr. Pretorious (the scene with him and the monster meeting for the first time is a gem). Although Elsa Lanchester appears as the bride for only about 2 minutes at the film's finale, it will be the role for which she is forever associated. Some great exras are included on this DVD including the documentary 'She's Alive!' and an audio commentary with film historian Scott MacQueen. The film is regarded as the high point of the Universal horror series and stands as a testament to the genius of James Whale.
Rarely is a sequel, particularly a horror sequel, better than its predecessor, but Bride of Frankenstein (1935) easily replaced the 1931 original classic as the definitive Universal Frankenstein movie. Director James Whale did not want to do another Frankenstein movie for the most admirable of reasons, and largely because of his feelings on the matter he brought to a life a sequel that sought perfection in every discernible way and provided a much deeper and more poignant look at the monster of Frankenstein's creation - the comedic exploitation of the monster did not begin on his watch. The addition of a full-scale musical score added depth and its own emotional layers to the drama, Karloff brought amazing pathos and humanity to the creature, and Elsa Lanchester, in a few short minutes, gave the world one of the truly eternal horror images and icons in the form of the Bride of Frankenstein's Monster (which is what the film should have been called).
Most of the principal cast members of the original Frankenstein movie reprise their roles here, including Colin Clive as Frankenstein and the inimitable Boris Karloff as the monster. Mae Clarke, however, was unavailable for health reasons, and a seventeen-year-old Valerie Hobson took on the role of Elizabeth, Frankenstein's fiancée. This is a noticeable change, as Hobson played Elizabeth in a strikingly different manner. As you may have guessed, Frankenstein's monster did not actually die in the big fire that ended the first motion picture. The windmill was built over a cistern (more like a great big underground pond, if you ask me), and the monster escapes the conflagration, not before killing a couple of people and scaring Minnie, this film's version of interminable comic relief, half to death. Dr. Frankenstein, for his part, also survives (although we already knew this thanks to the last-minute concluding scene of the first movie). He regrets his foolish attempts to play God, even though he still speaks with a mad zeal about the dreams he pursued so dangerously. Enter Dr. Praetorius (Ernest Thesiger), a former professor of Frankenstein's and the kind of evil genius our reformed young doctor should have become. Praetorius has been doing his own God-like experiments and now seeks to join his knowledge with that of Frankenstein to make not a man, but a woman. In the film's only borderline ridiculous moments, we see the products of Praetorius' work - the film work and special effects are brilliantly done, but the whole idea is just laughably silly. Still, you can't help liking old Praetorius because he is everything a mad scientist should be. Frankenstein has now become - well, he's a total wuss, a cowardly man who seems incapable of acting on his own accord. Luckily, Dr. Praetorius knows how to deal with a man such as Frankenstein, and he eventually succeeds in getting the good doctor back in the lab for one final experiment.
As for Frankenstein's monster, we finally get to see the humanity of the character emerge. Seeking friendship, he is met only with fear, screams, and malice. He does manage to find a friend in the countryside, however - the sound of violin music takes him to the home of a blind hermit. In one of the most touching scenes in cinema history, the blind man takes the monster in, thanks God for finally sending him a friend to assuage his loneliness, and shines the full light of humanity, all too briefly, on the lonely creature. Naturally, this time of happiness does not last long, but the monster does develop the ability to speak before he is separated forever from his friend. He ends up crossing paths with Dr. Praetorius, who quickly sells him on the idea of a mate, setting the stage for another pyrotechnic creation scene that gives us the unforgettable Bride of Frankenstein.
The cinematography, musical score, and basically everything else are well-nigh perfect in this film; despite the ridiculous editing demands of the censors, Bride of Frankenstein achieves the pinnacle of monster movie success. Still, it bothers me that these films have defined Frankenstein's monster as a creature much different than the literary monster of Mary Shelley's creation. The first film completely stood Shelley's story on its head, missing the point entirely. How ironic it is for Bride of Frankenstein to feature a prologue featuring the character of Mary Shelley herself, in company with her companion Percy Bysse Shelley and the flamboyant Lord Byron, explaining the meaning of her work and then introducing yet another bastardization of the real Mary Shelley's literary masterpiece. The original monster, as envisioned by Shelley, was not the creature at all; it was Dr. Frankenstein, not so much because he played God but because he abandoned his monstrous creation and left him alone to fend for himself. Bride of Frankenstein rights some of this wrong by showing the depth of humanity in the monster, but it cannot undo the wrongs already done the character. In the context of the cinema, he will forever be a "monster," a shadow of his true literary self, forced to suffer at the hands of man while the true villain of the story fails to even attempt to redeem himself or to suffer the harsh yet noble fate that he so rightfully earned in Shelley's original story.
on 10 September 2003
Interestingly, Whale did not want to make a sequel to his incredibly successful 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, and bowed to studio pressure only when he received assurance of absolute control. The result is perhaps his most personal film--a strange collage of gothic horror, black humor, religious motifs, and sexual innuendo--and one of the great classics of the genre.
The plot elaborates an idea contained in the Mary Shelly novel: Frankenstein is pressured to create a mate for the monster. In Shelly's novel, the doctor eventually balks; in the film, however, he sees the experiment through due to a mix of his own obsession and the manipulations of a new character, Dr. Pretorious, and the two create the only truly iconographical monster in the film pantheon of the 1930s horror film: "The Bride," brilliantly played by Elsa Lanchester.
The cast is excellent throughout, with Colin Clive and Boris Karloff repeating their roles and Frankenstein and the monster, and Valerie Hobson an able replacement for Mae Clarke in the role of Elizabeth; Ernest Thesiger and Una O'Connor also give incredibly memorable performances as the truly strange Pretorius and the constantly hysterical maid Minnie. The art design is remarkable, and the Waxman score is justly famous. But the genius of the film lies not so much in these new and bizarre characters, in the familiar ones, or in the production values: it is in the way in which Whales delicately balances his elements and then subverts them.
FRANKENSTEIN owes much of its power to its directness--it has a raw energy that is difficult to resist, still more difficult to describe. But THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN owes its power to its complexity. Nothing here is quite what it appears to be, and throughout the film we constantly receive mixed messages about the characters and implications of their situations. While Thesiger's Dr. Pretorius is justly celebrated as a covert gay icon of the darkest possible variety, and while many people quickly grasp Whale's often subversive use of Christian imagery, the film has many, many layers that do not reveal themselves upon a single viewing.
The single most startling sequence, at least to my mind, is the famous scene in which the Monster stumbles into the lonely cottage of the blind hermit, a role beautifully played by O.P. Heggie. On the surface, the sequence would seem to be about how cruely we judge people by appearances, and how true kindness can lift the fallen. It was not until I had seen the film several times that it dawned upon me that Whale has essentially endowed the a scene with a host of covertly homosexual overtones--and then tied them to a series of Christian elements for good measure. It is startling, to say the least.
Like most Universal horror DVDs, the package here is superior, and the film is supported with an interesting documentary and a still more interesting audio commentary track. Critics and fans continue to battle over whether FRANKENSTEIN or THE BRIDE is the better film--but I say they are so completely different that the question simply doesn't arise. Whatever the case, if you are a fan of 1930s horror and James Whale in particular, this is a must own DVD.
on 4 June 2008
This follow-up to the original Frankenstein (1931) manages to eclipse its predecessor in every department; it's a grander, more large-scale production, with a visibly bigger budget, a far wittier script, and better performances across the board. The magnificent set design and pitch-perfect music also contribute to making this one of the most critically acclaimed horror movies ever produced in Hollywood.
Though Boris Karloff was reported to favour his performance in the original movie, in this sequel he refines and deepens the character of the Monster, beautifully portraying the stunted humanity of a creature who wanders through the story just looking for a friend. Colin Clive is even more memorably hysterical than he was in the first movie, whilst the beautiful Valerie Hobson (later the star of Ealing's masterful Kind Hearts and Coronets) totally eclipses Mae Clarke's performance as Elizabeth in the earlier film. Elsa Lanchester does a good job in the dual roles of Mary Shelley and the Monster's bride, Ernest Thesiger's Dr. Pretorious is a scream, and OP Heggie, as the lonely, blind hermit, is touchingly vulnerable; his scene with Karloff is the undisputed highlight of the film for me.
Of course, the film does fall down in a couple of areas; I've never really understood the point of the framing device that has Mary `telling the story' to Percy and Byron, as the events of both this film and the earlier one bear so little relationship to the plot of the original book. And Una O' Connor's ghastly performance in the comic relief role of Minnie the maid has certainly not aged well; O' Connor's brand of broad comedy worked well in the opening scenes of Whale's The Invisible Man (1933), but in this movie she's simply a distraction, endlessly re-appearing to mug at the camera every time the film hits a dramatic high. For example, after the Monster has been on a murderous rampage and been captured by the villagers in one of the film's best set-pieces, we have to endure O' Connor's gurning and ranting as she pointlessly instructs the police to `make sure he doesn't get loose again; he's dangerous!' in a screeching voice that could shatter glass; it's a shame that O' Connor doesn't get strangled to death along with Karloff's many other victims.
Also included here is a good documentary, `She's Alive', previously featured on Universal's 1999 VHS release of the movie.
This film is an amazing 67 years old and it is a classic! Better than the first Frankenstein made by James Whale with Boris Karloff playing the monster. It is also very, very dark and atmospheric. And at times, quite funny too. The scenes between the monster and the blind hermit may be a little embarrassing at times, but it does add to the humour which seems to surface now and then. The ending is one of the finest ever filmed for a horror movie. The emergence of the bride wonderfully played by Elsa Lanchester, who then takes an instant dislike to her new mate is both sad and funny too. Shame they dont make movies like this any more. Even if you are not a serious movie buff like me, you should still see this though. Picture and sound are reasonable considering the film's age, but needs remastering from an original print, which thanks to the growth of the DVD market shouldnt be long coming.
Bride of Frankenstein is one, if not THE best, Universal horror movie made in their golden era of the 1930's. A direct sequel to Frankenstein, but in nearly every way a better movie. This is a much more artistic work. Sure there is still some hammy acting and the not so special effects are, by comparison to today laughable.
However, as a movie, this has many things that most modern horror films lack. The cinematography is marvellous. There are dozens of moments in the film where I wished I could have stopped the DVD and taken a copy of the image on the screen. No more so than near the end when the bride appears. The lighting in this scene combined with the photography produces a marvellous almost surreal effect. It also has a few moments of great pathos, most noteably when the monster meets the blind hermit. Here we do get some fine acting by Karloff (which is how he is credited in the film) and O.P.Heggie who plays the hermit.
So whilst this doesn't have the blood and guts of a modern horror film, you are getting something completely different, that for its time was a remarkable piece of filmmaking. Even today 73 years after it was made it is ranked in the top 250 films of all time on the IMDB database.
on 29 November 2007
The pinnacle of the Universal horror genre of the thirties and forties and maybe, one of the highest peaks in the history of cinema. Horror, humour, technical brilliance, two eternal icons(the monster and the bride) and fantastic supporting characters (Dr Pretorius and the Frankenstein's maid to name but two). I have lost count of the times I have watched this movie and (pending a reasonable lifespan - or two) I will watch it as many times again. The first film I recomend to 'borrowers' who can't make their minds up and the first film I recomend to you.
Favourite scene - Protorius dining in the crypt, totally unphased by his visitor.
Wow.This film is phenomenal.When people talk about the greatest sequels ever they always say Empire Strikes Back,Aliens,Godfather Part II (and theyre right) but no-one ever mentions Bride Of Frankenstein and it should be mentioned,1931's Frankenstein is brilliant but this sequel is better in every way!
Colin Clive gives a great performance as Dr Frankenstein,coaxed into making the monster a mate and Ernest Thesiger has pure energy as Dr Protoreous, the crazy Doctor who talks Dr Frankenstein back into his old ways.
Ernest is clearly having a great time in this film. Out of Boris Karloff's three iconic appearances as The Monster this is my favorite.
Having him talk sounds like a bad idea,but it works and gives the Monster humour and a childlike innocence. the scene in the wood cabin where The Monster makes friends with a blind hermit is one of my favorite scenes in cinema history and i must admit it brought a tear to my eye.
Elsa Lancaster is charming in the opening scenes as Mary Shelley recapping the events of the first film (which is a great idea,more sequels should do this) and she is iconic as the Bride.
I first seen this film late at night on TV around 10 years ago and it always stuck with me, having bought it on DVD i watched it twice(im not kidding) in one day due to how entertaining it is and it has a very brief running time of around 75 minutes.
Add amazing visuals,make-up,supporting characters and an unforgettable score and you have a film i cant flaw.
on 25 October 2012
The second film in the Frankenstein series continues with "The Bride of Frankenstein", with the return of Boris (never to be beaten) Karloff as the hapless monster.
An obvious emphasis by director James Whale on the camp (Dr Praetorius played by Ernest Thesiger) and the downright silly (the annoying old woman catterwalling and staring at the camera), together with at times, a not dark enough score, makes this movie not as good as the first Frankenstein film though I know others will disagree.
The highlights however are the touching scenes between the monster and blind man, the now talking monster, and of course, the all too brief five minute iconic performance of "The Bride" herself played by Elsa Lanchester, who also played Mary Shelley at the start of the film. A worthwhile mention also has to go to the 17 year old Valerie Hobson who plays Elizabeth. But it is Boris who is still the best thing in the picture by a long shot - if only SHE hadn't jilted him...
She's Alive! Creating The Bride of Frankenstein, is a documentary presented by Joe Dante and features views from various film historians and from Sara Karloff, Boris' daughter. Detailed is the difference in Karloff's make-up from the first film to "The Bride..." and clips from both films, Gods and Monsters, The Invisible Man and curiously, The Bride of Chucky. A couple of stills from "The Old Dark House" is also included - great little film that's worth checking out directed also by Whale. This bonus lasts for 38 minutes.
The Bride of Frankenstein Archive is a 13 minute filler that features slides of posters, stills from the movie both played with the score from the film.
Lastly, the theatrical trailer is here (1 min 28 secs)
on 27 December 2012
First released in 1935, this was the sequel to the 1931 Universal Frankenstein film. Boris Karloff returns as the monster and Colin Clive reprises his role as Dr. Frankenstein. This film is well renowned and acclaimed, so it really needs very little introduction. If you enjoyed the first Frankenstein film, or you like the old Universal horrors, then you should definitely see this film, because it delvers more of the same, only with more humour. I did notice that it was slightly out of synch in some scenes, but I did not find this too distracting. You should also be aware that the 15 certificate is not for the film, as it appears, but for some of the extras on the disc. This is a true classic and always will be, even though it is now over 77 years old. I never get fed up of watching this, or most of the other Universal horror films. I give this five stars, without any hesitation.