FRANKENSTEIN/THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN: A MONSTROUS DOUBLE BILL OF HALLOWEEN HORROR FILM REVIEWS FROM SANDRA HARRIS. ©
FRANKENSTEIN. (1931) DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. BASED ON THE BOOK BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. DIRECTED BY JAMES WHALE. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE JR.
STARRING BORIS KARLOFF, COLIN CLIVE, MAE CLARKE, EDWARD VAN SLOAN, DWIGHT FRYE, FREDERICK KERR AND MARILYN HARRIS.
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1935) DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. BASED ON THE BOOK BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. DIRECTED BY JAMES WHALE. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE JR. MUSIC BY FRANZ WAXMAN.
STARRING BORIS KARLOFF, ELSA LANCHESTER, COLIN CLIVE, VALERIE HOBSON, ERNEST THESIGER, MARY GORDON, UNA O’CONNOR AND DWIGHT FRYE.
Happy Birthday to Frankenstein’s Monster! By which I mean that Mary Shelley’s iconic horror novel, one of the first of its kind, pre-dating even Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, was written at the Villa Diodati two hundred years ago this year.
What a wonderful achievement. Two centuries later, we’re still reading the book and watching the many different film versions that have been made from it. Not bad going for a little woman, eh…?
Today we’re looking at probably the two best films ever made from Mrs. Shelley’s book. FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) are widely regarded both as two of the best films of all time and also two of the best horror films ever made.
The sequel is, if anything, even better than the original, and you can’t lynch me for saying that, haha, because I’m not the only one who thinks so, so there…!
Important film critics and suchlike all seem to agree on this one, although there’s no denying that the original film is still superb. I honestly think that there’s just even more to love about the sequel.
FRANKENSTEIN tells the story of the handsome and wealthy Dr. Henry Frankenstein, the man whose burning desire to create life out of re-animated body parts takes over his life and his mind and nearly gets him killed into the bargain.
With the help of his hunchbacked assistant, Fritz, he robs graves and cobbles body parts together good-style until he’s created his famous Monster, magnificently played in both films by Boris Karloff. The Monster’s clothes are ill-fitting (he’ll have you in ‘stitches’ with his home-made get-up…!) and he’s bothered, bewildered and bemused by the strange and hostile world he’s been thrust into.
Dr. Frankenstein, as much as we like him, doesn’t give much thought to what’s supposed to happen to his poor Monster after he’s been brought to life. Let’s face it, Henry’s just playing God, isn’t he? He has no plan for his Creation for after it’s been re-animated and, therefore, you could say that he’s pretty much to blame for the disasters that happen from then on.
We all remember the scene where the Monster unintentionally drowns a little girl and draws the wrath of the entire village down upon his big boxy-looking head. Angry mob ahoy, haha. And who’s to blame? The Monster who didn’t ask to be born, or the scientist who wanted to feed his own ego by playing God and creating life out of the saddest, most pathetic body parts imaginable? You tell me…
I’ve always preferred the sequel, as I’ve already said, though it’s no less violent, heartbreaking or gory than the original film. The Monster, still on the run from those meanie townspeople, finds a friend in a blind hermit who teaches him to communicate verbally. He also instils in him a liking for booze and fags, incidentally, which is hilarious and is obviously the first step on the slippery slope towards complete and utter depravity, haha.
Not unnaturally, we’ve got several changes of personnel in this second film, my favourite of which is the introduction of Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Septimus Pretorius, a mad scientist who makes Dr. Frankenstein look like a well-adjusted human being. The scene where he shows Henry his collection of miniature ‘people’ is mind-bogglingly bizarre and freaky.
He wants Henry to go in with him on creating a ‘bride’ for Henry’s Monster out of yet more dead body parts. Henry is against this idea at first. He’s had enough of playing God. Maybe the abduction of his lovely fiancée Elizabeth (whom he still hasn’t married, by the way. I’m just saying, is all!) will help him to smarten up his ideas a bit…
My favourite scene in this whole film, apart from the ‘reveal’ of the beautiful bride herself, is the one where Dr. Pretorius is dining alone in the vaults, his food and drink spread out on an old tomb.
He’s not at all fazed to have the Monster join him for a tipple, and they have a lovely chat in which it’s established that the poor old lonely Creature is well aware of his miserable origins. Aw. It’s so sad, the way he’s just abandoned by his Creator like that and left to fend for himself.
Dr. Henry has been beyond irresponsible, I’m sorry to say, to so thoughtlessly do what he’s done, although I’ll forgive him much on account of his easiness on the eye and, like Lenny Leonard in THE SIMPSONS, I know eye-ease…!
The opening scenes in particular are just marvellous. Elsa Lanchester plays Mary Shelley as well as the Bride, and she’s utterly beautiful as she recounts the sequel to her famous horror tale to her hubby Shelley and a foppish Lord Byron.
Of course, it’s as the Bride that we’ll always remember her, with her white dress and the outrageous hairstyle with the lightning streaks that has passed into legend and popular culture without any difficulty whatsoever. She is an icon of pure classic horror, every bit as much as Karloff’s magnificent but tragic Monster or Bela Lugosi’s Dracula or Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man.
The ending to this one is electrifying. It’ll rock you to your very foundations, as it were (not to give anything away, haha!).
The ‘mid-European’ settings are all breath-takingly beautiful and the musical score captivating.
And just to add as well that Una O’Connor, whom you might remember as the shrieky landlady in THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), does a terrific job in this film as the surprisingly bloodthirsty, s**t-stirring little house-servant, Minnie.
Will you join me now, my horror friends, in raising a glass to Frankenstein and his tragic Monster on the auspicious occasion of their bicentennial?
We’ll drink to Mary Shelley and her little book that went on to take its place alongside DRACULA and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE as one of the most legendary horror novels of all time. Kudos to you, dear Mrs. Shelley, and Happy Halloween to the rest of us. We all are creatures of the night. What music we make…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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