Directed by James Whale
Recuperating from the events of the last film, Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is contacted by the mysterious Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who seeks to begin Henry’s unnatural experiments again.
This is one of the first sequels that could probably be considered a classic along with its predecessor. The Bride of Frankenstein expanded upon the first film without changing a thing other than the hair color of Henry’s bride from blond to brown. The character’s hair also got significantly longer even though the movie occurred immediately after the first film. Mae Clarke was suffering some health issues (though what I cannot find) and Valerie Hobson who was 7 years younger than Clarke replaced her as Henry’s fiancée, Elizabeth.
One thing this film continues doing that the first one did was be impressionistic with its sets. The world is rendered to create a feel rather than rendered to be realistic. The sets bend and look like they were pulled from someone’s feverish mind rather than be constructed.
The Monster (Boris Karloff reprising the role and billed simply as Karloff) survived the fire by falling underground. Universal makeup artist Jack Pierce changed the eyes a little bit and removed the drooping eyelids. The Monster was even given skin burns and the hair was shortened to indicate it was burned as well. Pierce, during the course of the film, made changes to the makeup to indicate it was healing.
Karloff this time was given lines having become even more famous. By now he was a horror icon have solidified that in the original The Mummy. The Monster is more a character here than just a simplistic sympathetic figure.
There are a few things closely associated with Universal Pictures take on the Frankenstein Monster character that do not appear on film together. The first is Little Maria (Marilyn Harris) tossing flowers into the water and being drowned along with “It’s ALIVE!” Those are in the first film. Next is the Bride and the scene with the hermit (O. P. Heggie) which doesn’t occur until this film and quite possibly the thing most strongly associated with Frankenstein and the monster other than Henry is the character of Ygor (usually spelled Igor in non-Universal versions) who doesn’t show up until the third film and is played by Bela Lugosi.
Speaking of Elsa Lanchester, what an iconic creature design. Somehow they took random pieces of cloth and a tricked out wig and made an image that has stuck with audiences from the time it hit the screen until now. She did more in the opening scene as Mary Shelley than she did as The Monster’s Bride, but everyone remembers her as just The Monster’s Bride.
The Monster was a little more tragic here. He was unaware of his own brute strength to an extent, but now he knew he was alone. Hence he forced the doctor to craft him a bride who upon being brought to life rejected him. In the hermit he made a friend but the people that were hunting him would not let be with that friend. He had gone from a murderous beast to a misunderstood individual. He was truly alone.
Some have noted Christian imagery in the film. I will give them crucifixes but The Monster eating bread and wine at what turned out to be his last supper being an attempt to liken the creature to Jesus is just coincidence. Whale reportedly had no strong religious beliefs and it strikes me that this choice of items to be consumed had more to do with what Whale himself might want and the moment. In other words, the choice was directed by Whale’s stomach or that of some employee. I also argue with “gay subtext” when it comes to the Monster and his relationships onscreen. Those relationships were just was as presented. I will concede that Pretorius could be seen as presented as gay and the humor here was camp and mostly done by character actress Una O’Connor returning as Minnie. I am not sure if O’Connor was even given a mention in the previous film’s credits. But gay subtext is not here. Whale was going for nothing more than
I, like many others, enjoy the story a little more here. It continued the narrative begun in the first film as well as expanding the mythology. The Monster was made into something a bit better than before with the simple addition of speech. Whale felt he could not duplicate what he had done previously so he decided to make it “a real hoot” in his words. And it most definitely is. He just went all out here and decided to have fun. And sometimes that is the better route than trying do an exact copy of what was done first. It certainly was here.
Bride of Frankenstein is one of the best sequels ever and definitely one of the first sequels to ever be considered a classic alongside the original. It is a wonderful movie that while not scary is still as good as the original was. You cannot go wrong with this classic.