Dr. Frankenstein and his monster both turn out to be alive, not killed as previously believed. Dr. Frankenstein wants to get out of the evil experiment business, but when a mad scientist, Dr. Pretorius, kidnaps his wife, Dr. Frankenstein agrees to help him create a new creature, a woman, to be the companion of the monster. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
When Karl and the monster are climbing up on the parapet, the background can clearly be seen through their figures. See more »
[looking out the window at a thunderstorm]
How beautifully dramatic! The cruelest savage exhibition of nature at her worst without.
[turns to face Mary and Percy Shelley, both seated]
And we three. We elegant three within. I should like to think that an irate Jehovah was pointing those arrows of lightning directly at my head. The unbowed head of George Gordon, Lord Byron. England's greatest sinner. But I cannot flatter myself to that extent. Possibly those thunders are for ...
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The closing credits have the heading "A good cast is worth repeating". See more »
Series note: Although not imperative, it is strongly suggested that viewers take time to watch Frankenstein prior to Bride of Frankenstein. This is a linear continuation of the story of the first film, and the characters and motivations will have more meaning if you watch the series in order.
Despite appearances to the contrary at the end of the first film, Frankenstein (1931), the monster has survived. The quickly recuperating Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is paid a visit by Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who has been engaging in similar research into the creation and restoration of life. Although Frankenstein wants to quit the business after the atrocities documented in the first film, Pretorius tries to persuade him to continue, while at the same time, the monster starts to become more sophisticated.
Although many fans prefer Bride of Frankenstein to Frankenstein, they are both 10s to me. Given tastes and typical comments about modern horror films, it is surprising that this film is the usual preference, as it is even more rooted in surrealist/absurdist fantasy and it is loaded with a wicked, campy humor--at times the film is more of a spoof of the first than a sequel.
But at that, I love it. I love fantasy, surrealism and absurdism and I like my horror to be campy and humorous as much as I like it to be serious. Director James Whale had acquired more "Hollywood clout" in the four years since making the original film, and said that he wanted to treat Bride as a "hoot"--he found the premise to be "highly amusing". And that it is. Whale gives us whimsical elements from minor characters, such as Minnie (Una O'Connor), who provides a healthy dose of comic relief during the monster's "resurrection", to major characters' mannerisms, such as the Karloff's portrayal of the monster's newfound abilities and subtlety. Pretorius has a flamboyantly questionable sexuality (the film is permeated with all manner of complex sexual metaphors) and his creations are as bizarrely goofy as say, Jar Jar Binks (from Star Wars Episode 1 (1999)), although they do not dominate the film in the same way.
Often noted as a standout element are the sets, and rightly so. Like the first film, the gorgeous sets show a heavy influence from German expressionist films, but here they are even more grand in scale and they are also more numerous and varied. The cinematography is as crisp as can be, and just as atmospheric (occasionally more so) as the first film. The presence of a score this time around works well, although the first film is just as notable for its ability to be just as dramatic without a score.
The story in Bride of Frankenstein is much more sprawling and epic than in the first film. That fact neither makes it better or worse, but pleasantly different compared to Frankenstein's relatively tight, almost claustrophobic plot (which is appropriate for the subject matter). While Karloff's zombie-like muteness from Frankenstein was perfect in that context, it makes sense to have him mature here, and provides for some fantastic scenes, such as his interaction with the blind hermit (O.P. Heggie). Whale also chose to be much more literal and straightforward with the ethical and religious subtexts of the plot, and this film is notable for the large amount of verbal and visual references to God and Christianity--the visual references include the monster being hoisted on a "pole" as if being crucified, the monster descending into a grave with a crucifix looming over him, and a crucifix over a bed upon which the camera lingers.
I actually prefer to think of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein as two halves or a single film, and given their short running times, they can be viewed back to back in about two and a half hours. If you haven't seen either one yet, you owe it to yourself to watch them at least once.
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