Franchise Chronicles: The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

By Edward O'Hare

Old Fashioned Romance

Welcome to the Franchise Chronicles, a movie-by-movie look at the development and evolution of cinema’s most enduring sagas. I am currently exploring the classic Universal Monsters and this week’s movie is The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) directed by James Whale.

After four solo adventures and one alternate version, today we get to talk about the first direct continuation building the world of Universal Monsters. Released four years after the first Frankenstein, Bride picks up mere moments after the original and takes these films in a completely different direction. Many modern horror sequels end up being clones of their forerunners but in this case James Whale builds on the narrative and adopts a unique tone that arguably makes this entry more accessible.

Alright, let’s start with the features from the first film that stick around for this installment. Of course, Boris Karloff is back (this time credited as just “KARLOFF”) with his iconic Jack Pierce makeup. Colin Clive returns as the ever-tortured Henry Frankenstein (Inhuman experiments aside, this guy could really use a hug). Valerie Hobson replaces Mae Clarke as Henry’s new wife, Elizabeth (who should really re-consider her life choices). Dwight Frye also returns, this time as another assistant named Karl who is a dead ringer for Fritz but without the hump. Finally the gorgeous art direction and cinematography serve as the cherry on top that brings us back into the world of the Monster.

To mix things up Whale decided to add a few elements from The Invisible Man. We get to spend more time with the villagers who are so frightened of the Monster that on sight, they either run away screaming or attack him with torches and pitchforks. Included in those villagers is the bumbling E.E. Clive, who trades in his constable uniform to play the town burgomaster and Una O’Connor, who gives us another lovable turn screaming to high heaven, this time as the Frankenstein's loyal servant Minnie.

"With all due respect my dear: oh no you didn't..."
The other over-the-top character Whale introduces is Henry’s mentor Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who is hell-bent on convincing Henry to continue his work and create a mate for the Monster. Thesiger’s performance can best be described as delicious. I spent about two days deciding on that word. Pretorius is so absurd and outlandish that you just want to eat him up. He is also the best example of the camp elements Whale adds to the production. In my experience camp done well can be a romp for adults and dead-serious for young kids. This is the kind of movie people of all ages can enjoy and take away different things. There are no real scares here. All of the drama is character-focused, which makes the ending all the more tragic and impactful.

Emo before it was cool.

We only get to see the Bride herself for the final five minutes of the film. This is due to the narrative structure which is the exact reverse of the first film. We start with the Monster being cornered by the townsfolk. Then he runs around unintentionally terrorizing everybody while Henry is guilt-ridden and arguing with his colleagues. This all culminates in Henry bringing another body to life. We need all of that build-up to give the Bride’s rejection of the Monster maximum effect. In the end Henry and Elizabeth escape the exploding castle to have a normal life together. Somehow I doubt the village will allow that, but like all classic movies this one ends mere seconds after the climax.

This movie offers everything you could want from a sequel. It keeps all the core elements of the first film intact and continues the story with enough new elements to stand on its own. Anyone in Hollywood working on a tentpole franchise should be required to watch this before they have Peter Parker dance in a jazz club or send Jason Voorhees to space.

Next week we will check out Universal’s first crack at a furry Monster: Werewolf of London.
"Arghh! This not smoking section!"

Edward O’Hare, nickname TBD, has been poking around the deep caverns of pop culture for some years now. His hobbies include making Starfleet org charts and badgering people who haven’t seen the Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1941. He one day dreams of teaching Bill Simmons that superheroes and pro athletes are not all that different.

No comments:

Post a Comment