7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Film; Exceptional DVD Package,
This review is from: The Bride Of Frankenstein [DVD] (DVD)
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.