I REMEMBER THE first time that I watched this film guided by the critical praise that had been heaped upon it and feeling somewhat bewildered by this.
I couldn’t get beyond Doctor Pretorius’ invention of the little people, which the FX were incredibly convincing for it’s time, but I just found that it threw me out of the picture because it defied logic and reasoning.
The science behind the novel and indeed it’s predecessor were ground in reality, but this felt like it had crossed a line and into the world of fantasy.
Some people out there might suggest that this is a good thing, but despite Bride of Frankenstein being described as James Whale’s masterpiece, I struggled.
Fast forward to today, when I sat down to review the movie once more, I still stinted at Pretorius’ revelation, but pushed this aside to discover a new-found appreciation for the film.
The opening in particular was a refreshing nod to the inspiration, and creator behind the novel, Mary Shelley.
It recounts of the now infamous discussions between Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron.
In this instance she recounts how the original story was only the tip of the iceberg and ventured to tell the tale of more monsters lurking within.
It is here that the story picks up where Frankenstein left off, with the supposed demise of the monster within the burning windmill and Dr Frankenstein (Colin Clive resurrecting his role) being rescued from the rubble.
When lo and behold the monster resurfaces and swiftly dispatches a local and his wife along the way.
Our maniacal Doctor Frankenstein has softened, seeing the error of his ways and is hell bent to put an end to his studies, but is lured back into the laboratory by a fellow scientist, the afore-mentioned Pretorius.
Pretorius seeps into a place of darkness, as he journeys into a mad new “world of Gods and Monsters” in order to see through his experiments.
The strength of the movie though doesn’t come from our protagonists but instead by our antagonist, The Monster, who is once more played by Boris Karloff.
This is his movie and his chance to shine, and shine he does as the script allows him to show more of the human, loving, and misrepresented character.
One of the most powerful scenes comes about when The Monster is stumbling around in the woods and happens to come across a blind man.
This man befriends The Monster and is not swayed by judging him by his appearance.
The friendship is a strong one, as they share in the delights of music and smoking, but this world of companionship would soon come crashing down as some passing hunters discover The Monster and he is forced to flee once more.
The subject of companionship is a strong one in this movie, and drives the plot line forward.
Pretorious seeks the companionship of a fellow scientist as he seeks to carry out his experiments; Frankenstein ultimately is willing to end this in favour of the love he has for his wife; and of course The Monster seeks friendship and when he stumbles upon Pretorius, his offer is all too great and he is willing to follow the mad man.
The cruelty would come at full force though, when The Bride (played by Elsa Lanchester, who also doubled up as Mary Shelley in the film’s prologue scene) is ‘awakened’ but finds the sight of The Monster too horrible to comprehend.
All hell breaks loose and the walls come tumbling down, crushing all but Frankenstein and his wife, who manage to escape just in time.
The film is beautifully shot with some of the framework simply stunning, and along the way has heralded some of the most iconic images to fall in the Universal Monsters universe.
Karloff hits the heart with perfect pain and angst, and his harrowing demise (albeit a rushed conclusion) is the only fitting way for his life to find closure…
Forced into a world that wouldn’t accept him and then just as swiftly dispatched from it, with a cold and abrupt end.
It is worthy successor to the original movie and probably one of the finer sequels to ever have been made.
- Paul Farrell