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1935-Bride of Frankenstein

May 22, 2011
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Bride of Frankenstein from myhollywooddream.com

Bride of Frankenstein from myhollywooddream.com

It is exceedingly rare for a sequel to be as good as, if not better than, the original.  Although I could never choose between the two (and Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies), Bride of Frankenstein is just as good and a wonderful experience in its own right.

The movie posters screamed to the public:  “The Monster Demands a Mate!”  Karloff’s character, realizing that he is seen as a monster and that humanity will ultimately reject him, forces his creator’s hand into making him a companion.  Dr. Frankenstein is resistant to this at first but circumstances beyond his control, coupled with his own curiosity eventually lead him to attempt it.  He is assisted and prodded on by a former colleague and teacher, Dr. Pretorious.  Pretorious is delightfully macabre and over-the-top.  He dines in crypts and plays God by creating life from scientific experiments.  He is, in many ways, driven by the same impulses that drove Dr. Frankenstein in the first movie.  Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, however, he is unconcerned with the moral dilemmas of his experiments.

James Whale returns to the director’s chair and stars Colin Clive and Boris Karloff reprise their roles as Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, respectively.  Clive is stunning as the frantic and tormented Doctor and Karloff brings pathos to the monster, who is able to show a wider range of emotion than in the previous film.  The monster speaks and interacts more with the outside world in this movie.  He wants to make friends, he wants to be accepted, but ultimately he is rejected by humanity.  Being able to better understand where he stands with the masses and the ways in which he will always be an outsider leads the character to force Dr. Frankenstein into creating him a mate.  It never crosses his mind that she might reject him just as humanity has.  Whale was not subtle in his use of religious imagery and the treatment of the “monster” by the crowd is meant to be reminiscent of the crucifixion (you can see the crucifiction scene in the bottom right of the poster atop this post).  The creature suffers throughout the movie because of humanity’s stunning inhumanity.

Visually, of course, it is Elsa Lanchester who steals the show.  When someone mentions the Bride of Frankenstein, they usually imagine her as the monster’s mate, hair sticking straight up with shocks of white on black.  She is stunned and child-like upon awakening and her rejection of Karloff’s character leads to the chaotic and tragic ending.  Even though her image is inextricably tied to the film, she only appears as the “bride” for a few minutes on screen.

This is a genuine classic of the horror genre and of cinema.  If you have seen Frankenstein but have never seen Bride of Frankenstein, I cannot recommend it highly enough (I should add that the third Frankenstein movie, Son of Frankenstein, while not as good as the first two, is still worth a look and is a decent movie in its own right.  It is the last of the series to feature Karloff as the monster).  The performances are strong, the direction is spot-on, and the entire production is one of the strongest from the Universal Studios Monster canon (which is really saying something).

Why this was a hard decision (other movies from 1935 worth seeing):

G-Men is an interesting film.  After the Hays Code went into effect, studios could no longer cast their actors as gangsters, despite the popularity of the genre.  This is an example of how they circumvented the censors and still released gangster movies.  They cast Jimmy Cagney as a kid from the same neighborhood as the gangsters who works for the FBI.  Speaking of Jimmy Cagney, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his only appearance in a Shakespeare production.

The Marx Brothers return in A Night at the Opera, which is wonderfully funny and a little more restrained (as restrained as they could be) than the anarchical Duck Soup.  Wunderkind producer Irving Thalberg was, famously, one of the few people in Hollywood who knew how to play to their strengths, corral their talent, and market them to a broader audience.  Thalberg’s death the following year at 37 was a huge blow to cinema and to the Marx Brothers’ careers.

Captain Blood was Errol Flynn’s first starring role and his first on-screen pairing with the delightful Olivia de Havilland.  It’s a good, swashbuckling time.

If you like Nazis, you’ll love Triumph of the Will.  Also, if you like Nazis, I don’t want you reading my blog.

Mad Love is SO interesting.  It stars Peter Lorre as a Doctor obsessed with an actress, portrayed by Frances Drake.  When her pianist husband, played by Colin Clive, is in an accident, the brilliant Doctor replaces his hands with those of a knife-throwing murderer.

Mark of the Vampire, by Dracula and Freaks director Tod Browning has a wonderful cast including Bela Lugosi, Lionel Barrymore, and Lionel Atwill.  It has a twist ending that you will not see coming.

Werewolf of London is different from the werewolf movies that followed it, particularly the visual representation of the wolf-man, but it is a really interesting film that I recommend everyone see.  Many of the themes are the same, but as the first werewolf film in Hollywood, there are many interesting elements.

Did you know?  (1935 Trivial knowledge)

  • Olivia de Havilland, and her sister Joan Fontaine, are two of the few remaining stars from the depression era.  They are both in their mid-90s as of this writing.
  • A Night at the Opera is the first Marx Brothers movie without Zeppo.  He retired from acting after Duck Soup and became a theatrical agent and inventor.  This was also the brother’s first movie with a different studio (MGM) after their split with Paramount.
  • Mad Love was Peter Lorre’s first American film.  He fled Europe after the Nazi’s rise to power in Germany.
  • Valerie Hobson, who played the wife of the Wolf-man in Werewolf of London, also played Dr. Frankenstein’s wife in Bride of Frankenstein (which is confusing, because the monster’s “bride” was played by Elsa Lanchester, but the monster isn’t “Frankenstein,” he’s “Frankenstein’s Monster.”  Does that make sense?)
  • Part of the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, starring Sir Ian McKellan as James Whale, focuses on the filming of Bride of Frankenstein and the title is taken from a line of dialogue in the film (see the quote below).
  • Mark of the Vampire is a remake of Browning’s silent film, London After Midnight, a lost film that starred Lon Chaney.
  • Although he is mostly associated with the horror genre, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Mad Love were the only horror movies Colin Clive ever made.  He died in 1937 at the age of 37.

Favorite Quote:

“To a new world of Gods and Monsters…”

Dr. Pretorious raising a glass to Dr. Frankenstein


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I write things...this thing that I'm writing and you're reading is a series of posts, starting with 1920 and focusing on a movie from each year that I think you should see.

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