"The Bride of Frankenstein" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Without a doubt, James Whale's 1935 "The Bride of Frankenstein" is one of the best monster films ever made. He took everything that was great about his 1933 film about the Monster, and was able to make it ten times better. From the story to the Monster receiving more screen time and more of a character arc, I think this film truly represents what the filmmakers wanted to do in the classic Universal Monsters franchise, and I think this film stands the test of time better than any of the other Monster films.
The movie opens on a dark and stormy night, with the author of "Frankenstein", Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), revealing that there is more to the story when it comes to Frankenstein and his monster. We flash back to the ending of the first film, which then continues on to show that both the scientist and his creature survived the events that took place. Victor Frankenstein (Colin Clive), who now learned his lesson about trying to play God and make man out of bodies parts of the deceased.
When Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) approaches Frankenstein and wants him to make a bride for his green monster, Frankenstein refuses at first, saying he will not dabble in that sort of dark science ever again. But, when Pretorius starts threatening Frankenstein and those closest to him, he must make the decision to help bring this famous bride to life (also played by Lanchester).
At the same time, The Monster (Boris Karloff) is trekking through the fields and towns around him, trying to find some place he belongs in society. When he stumbles across a shack that houses a blind man (O.P. Heggie), he is welcomed as his monstrous and frightening appearance isn't important. He starts to befriend the blind man, which shows the Monster what love and compassion really is. Because of that, he starts to look for this type of companionship, and he is going to take advantage of it whenever he can get it.
Almost every aspect of this movie is heightened from the previous film. The story is perhaps one of the most compelling and modern tales that takes place in this Universal Monsters series of film. In a way, it seems like this movie was way ahead of its time, allowing the viewers to experience the magic and the experience that will help usher in movies that fans and audiences all know and love today. At the same time, I think the cinematography and the special effects are perhaps one of the absolute best things about this film. One thing that stands out to me is the sequence where Pretorius is showing Victor all of the scientific experiments he had for creating life from nothing. He shows him jars full of tiny people, who all co-exist in their own little life. The special effects for this sequence are absolutely stunning, and I would say it is better than effects that are taking place in some movies today.
Karloff and Clive come back to these roles and are able to elevate them past the performance they gave in the predecessor to this movie, especially the Monster. I think in a way, he definitely steals the show, and the storyline between Pretorius and Victor serve as a smaller plot line. The Monster is able to evolve over the course of the movie, showing how he is starting to develop emotions and intelligent thoughts. Not only does this show how as a person he is evolving, but shows how Victor's experiment really worked and the public judged him and his creation too quickly. I mentioned in my "Frankenstein" review that it was about judging a book by its cover, and this film beautifully builds on that factor.
The Bride makes an appearance in the last ten minutes of the film, and she is a beautiful show stopper. Over the past ninety years, she has gained cult status, making her one of the most famous monsters who doesn't have any lines or any real plot details. This is simply due to Lanchester's beautifully haunting performance and visual of this new monster. If it was anybody else, I truly don't think that this character would have been as famous or successful.
This picture takes on the aspect of determining who was the main antagonist of this film. It is more obvious than it was in the first film, but still shows how dangerous power and control can be. In terms of the evil scientist that convinces Victor to help him change the world of science, he is so blinded and hellbent on power that he loses focus of what is important in the world and what is right and wrong. This movie is different from the other monster films in the way that the monster is not necessarily the bad guy, and that the human involved can easily serve as the monster for this film.
If comparing these two films together, I think "The Bride of Frankenstein" takes the crown for being the better film. This is no where near bashing or saying the previous film is bad or a mediocre film; it is simply great as well. But, there is something truly different about this film that elevates it among the other classic monster films, and truly begs the question of who the Gods and Monsters are in this world.