The British born director James Whale unleashed some fine classics of the horror genre on an unsuspecting cinema-going
public in the 1930s. The Old Dark House, The Invisible
Man and the original Frankenstein,
but Whale's camp classic Bride of Frankenstein is considered by some to be his finest hour (or more appropriately - his
finest hour and twenty minutes.)
Bride of Frankenstein mixes the black humour of The Old Dark House with the macabre horror of the original Frankenstein and comes up with a marriage
made in hell (or rather - a marriage made in Henry Frankenstein's laboratory!)
Just four years after Frankenstein's man-made monster stumbled stiffly onto the screen he
is resurrected in Bride. It seems that the monster did not perish in the burning mill after all.
Boris Karloff gets a pre-title credit this time, and just his surname - Karloff. In the first film there was merely a question mark in the cast list, adding mystery as to who played the
monster (if anyone - and not an actual monster!)
Advances in camera technology allowed Whale wider scope with shots, and amazing special effects
for the time (but more about those later!)
After the opening sequence where Mary Shelley (played by Elsa Lanchester who also plays the monster's bride later in
the film) is encouraged to tell more of her story by Bryon and Shelley (in the recreation of the infamous occasion where allegedly
the monster's tale was conceived) the action switches to the burnt-out mill.
The monster has survived the fire, climbs from the charred remains of the mill and runs amok. Baron Frankenstein (Colin Clive) meanwhile, thought dead, is taken back to the castle
where he regains consciousness and is comforted by his fiancée, Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson).
Dr Pretorious (played very camp by Ernest Thesiger) arrives not long after, on a: 'secret
matter of grave importance.'
'He's a very queer looking gentleman sir,' the Baron's housekeeper informs her master. Dr Pretorious is there to try to persuade Henry into helping him with his own experiments.
He takes the Baron to his house, where he encourages him to join him in a toast, 'to a new
world, of gods and monsters.'
After the toast, he demonstrates the results of his own experiments in creating life.
Miniature people in jars!
This is where the special effects are something else - they actually look quite realistic! There is a Queen, a King, an Arch Bishop, the Devil, a ballerina and most novel of
all, a mermaid. 'An experiment with seaweed,' Pretorious says of the latter.
'This isn't science, it's more like black magic,' Henry comments.
Pretorious suggests that they should create a woman as a companion for Frankenstein's creation. 'Alone you have created a man and now together we will create his mate.'
'You mean ... ?'
'Yes, a woman, that should be really interesting.'
Meanwhile the townsfolk capture the monster and put him in jail. But no sooner as he been shackled into place, than that ever elusive monster breaks loose and escapes.
He arrives at the home of a blind hermit. The hermit teaches him a few
basic words such as 'bread', 'drink', 'good', and 'friend'. The monster goes
on to discover the joys drinking and smoking with his new found "friend", until, that is, two men drop by, one armed with
a gun. The resulting confrontation ends in the monster accidentally setting fire
to the hermit's hut (oh dear!)
The monster is chased to a graveyard where (as luck would have it) he encounters Dr Pretorious
and two grave robbers. The monster hides until the pair of grave robbers leave
and then makes his acquaintance with the mad scientist.
Frankenstein's creation seems quite enthusiastic when Pretorious informs him that he intends
to make him a woman.
'Woman ... friend,' he utters.
Pretorious takes the monster to meet his maker (Baron Frankenstein - as persuasion that he'll
help in his work.)
The monster kidnaps Elizabeth. With Henry having
no choice in the matter now, the pair of scientists get to work on their experiments.
The bride is brought to life during an electrical storm, in much the same way as the monster
was resurrected in the first film, with impressive buzzing electrical equipment and arcs of light.
The shock-haired, stitched-together result, wrapped in bandages and white smock meets her groom. Is the pairing love at first sight? Well, no. As soon as she claps eyes on him, our bride lets out a scream. Hardly
the perfect start to a relationship!
The monster is not best pleased (as you would expect) and his anger eventually leads him to
take hold of a lever (a lever that Pretorious announces will, 'blow us all to atoms!')
The monster urges Henry and Elizabeth to leave, but orders Pretorious to stay, informing him:
'We belong dead.' He then pulls the dreaded lever which causes the laboratory
A classic by anyone's standards, albeit it laced with over the top, stagy dialogue, which,
however, only adds to the fun!
The original print of the movie was only 75 minutes and didn't include the Mary Shelley
prologue and the burgermeister's death.
But a further 15 minutes were also cut and never restored.
These include an extended prologue.
A subplot involving grave robber Karl (Frye) and his aunt and uncle.
A courtroom session.
Dr. Pretorius unveiling his tiny creations to Henry Frankenstein, with the addition of
a miniature child that resembles Karloff, of which Pretorius comments: 'I think
this baby will grow into something worth watching.'
Dr. Pretorious explaining to Frankenstein the hold he has over his assistant Karl (Frye). Apparently while grave robbing for the scientist, the body snatcher dug up a victim
of catalepsy who Pretorious began to dissect while she was still alive until her screams alerted him.