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This is a roughly 40 minute documentary on James Whale's 1935 film, The
Bride of Frankenstein. It has been included on Universal's recent DVD
releases of Bride and "The Frankenstein Legacy Collection" She's Alive!
Creating the Bride of Frankenstein, written and directed by noted
author David J. Skal, is a marvelous collection of interviews, clips
and stills which give historical background as well as cultural
contexts for The Bride of Frankenstein and related works.
The interviewees include Rick Baker, who was confesses his adulation for Frankenstein makeup man Jack Pierce, Scott MacQueen, a film historian who wrote the monograph that serves as commentary on the Bride disc, horror director Joe Dante, horror author, director, painter, and all around renaissance man Clive Barker, and two relatives of Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein cast members--Sara Karloff (Boris' daughter) and Dwight David Frye (Dwight Frye, Sr.'s son).
In combination with a lot of stills, they do a great job at providing a kind of "making of" account of the film. This is interspersed with comments on the cultural significance of horror films, the Frankenstein films in particular, the Bride as a female monster icon, the studio system, censorship and many related topics, contextualized both to the early 1930s and the present.
Most interesting to me were the historical, anecdotal comments such as James Whale's working relationship with Universal and Carl Laemmle, Jr., comments gleaned from discussions with Elsa Lanchester and Valerie Hobson, or Sara Karloff reporting her dad's misgivings about the monster talking, as well as his reluctance to continue playing the Monster after Son of Frankenstein. These kinds of "behind the scenes" glimpses of the personalities involved with the film, along with the behind the scenes stills, were fascinating.
Every so often Skal and editor Keith Clark make an odd decision about what film clips to edit into the documentary and where. For example, we're shown the clip of Elsa Lanchester as the Bride "hissing" before we're told how she arrived at the idea. This would have been better the other way around. But in general, the editing and the order and content of the interview clips is well chosen.
Occasionally, the achievement of Bride is a bit too overstated, a bit too pumped up for my tastes, especially in conjunction with downplaying other horror films or the horror genre in general. I too feel that The Bride of Frankenstein is a 10 out of 10, but so is Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein in my critical opinion, and the later films in the series aren't exactly slouches, even those made under what has been characterized as a "factory-like system" within the "Big Five" studios during the era.
Other bits of conventional wisdom are repeated (although not always espoused) that I feel are sorely mistaken--such as "sequels are never better than the originals", the impression that horror is a lesser genre ("not as deep" as other kinds of films), and a severe implied discounting of other horror/comedy films after Bride (Bride is called the "pinnacle" of that amalgamation). But these ideas are conventional wisdom, after all, as wrongheaded as they may be, so it's certainly not a flaw that Skal shows his subjects repeating them.
If you're at all interested in the history of horror, especially a much more serious cultural look at the genre, you owe it to yourself to see this documentary. You should also listen to the very informative scholarly commentaries on the classic Universal DVDs, and make sure you check out Skal's books, including The Monster Show, Hollywood Gothic (on the literary, stage and screen history of Stoker's Dracula), Screams of Reason (on mad scientists), Dark Carnival, Death Makes a Holiday (a cultural history of Halloween), Vampires, and V is for Vampire.
This documentary gives a great view about the best horror-film of all
Each scene and character are being portrait and that shows things that you
wouldn't think about when watching the movie, naturally because while
watching it you're being captured by it.
Also the director and the cast are being portrait and they even show clips of other horror classics like "Frankenstein" and "The Invisible Man".
It is better to watch this documentary when you have already seen the movie so that you can really understand it. I saw it right after the movie because it was on the superb DVD collection box "The Classic Monster Collection.
Buy this collection if you like old horror movies, because besides "The Bride of Frankenstein" other films on this box are "Creature from the Black Lagoon", "Dracula(includes Spanish version!)", "Frankenstein", "The Invisible Man", "The Mummy", "Phantom of the Opera" and "The Wolf Man". All these films also have their own documentary's.
Alright, maybe one negative point on this documentary is Joe Dante, who hosts the documentary with no interest at all, but, in the end, WHO cares?
A must-see documentary of a must-see film!
She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein (1999)
**** (out of 4)
Another terrific documentary that was originally released when BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN first hit DVD back in 1999 but it has since been re-released with the film countless times now. This is one you could watch yearly and never grow tired as the documentary does a terrific job at discussing the film as well as all the problems with the pre and post production. Joe Dante hosts and we get interviews with Rick Baker, Dwight David Frye, Paul Jensen, Bill Condon, Clive Barker, Sara Karloff, Scott MacQueen and Gregory Mank. All of the interview have interesting options and tell some terrific stories. For me the most interesting thing about the film is what is missing. We learn about the subplot dealing with the Dwight Frye character, which was apparently about ten minutes worth of footage. We also learn about some other scenes that were cut out due to the censor boards. It's interesting to think that had James Whale agreed to do the film earlier then we probably wouldn't have had to worry about all the edits as the Production Code didn't go into full effect until 1934; a year after BRIDE was released. Baker tells some great observations about the difference in make up for Karloff and the monster and Karloff's daughter shares a few fond memories of stories her dad told her. A couple of the guys interviewed had at one time spoke with Elsa Lancaster so it's great getting to hear what she thought of the film. Many of the experts and fans here call BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN the greatest horror movies and simply one of the greatest films no matter what genre. I'd certainly have to agree and this documentary is a great way to learn some other stuff about the production.
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