Bride of Frankenstein, The (1935): James Whale Horror Masterpiece

Many critics consider The Bride of Frankenstein to be the greatest of all the Frankenstein movies.

The story follows on immediately from the events of the earlier film, and is rooted in a subplot of the original and Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein, published in 1818 and still admired.

Warm and cozy inside their palatial villa, Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon), Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton), and Shelley’s wife Mary (Elsa Lanchester) engage in morbidly sparkling conversation. The wicked Byron mockingly chastises Mary for frightening the literary world with her recent novel, Frankenstein, but Mary insists that her horror tale preached a valuable moral, that man was not meant to dabble in the works of God. Mary adds that her story did not end with the death of Frankenstein’s monster.

She proceeds by telling the eagerly enthralled Byron and Shelley what happened next. Surviving the windmill fire that ended the original 1931 tale, the Monster (Boris Karloff) quickly revives and goes on another rampage of death and destruction. Meanwhile, his ailing creator Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) discovers that his former mentor, the demented Doctor Praetorius (Ernst Thesiger), plans to create another life-sized monster, this time a woman!

After a wild “creation” sequence, the bandages are unwrapped, and the Bride of the Monster (Elsa Lanchester again) emerges. The Monster’s tender efforts to connect with his new Mate are reciprocated by her revulsion and screams. “She hate me,” he growls, “Just like others!”

Wittily scripted by William Hurlbut, and expertly directed by James Whale, who stresses plot as well as mood and tone, The Bride of Frankenstein is further enhanced by the vivid Franz Waxman musical score.

The film was trimmed from 90 to 75 minutes after the first preview.

Since its release the film’s reputation has grown, and it is hailed as Whale’s masterpiece. Several film scholars (myself included), noting Whale’s homosexuality and that of the others involved in the production, have detected latent gay sensibility in the film.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Sound Recording: Gilbert Kurland

Oscar Awards: None

The winner was Douglas Shearer (Norma’s brother) for “”Naughty Marietta.”

End Note:

Director James Whale was memorably embodied by Ian McKellen in the Oscar-winning 1998 biopic “Gods and Monsters.”

Running time: 75 minutes

Cast

Boris Karloff as the Monster

Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein

Valerie Hobson as Elizabeth Frankenstein

Elsa Lanchester Mary Shelley/The Bride

Ernst Thesiger Dr. Septimus Pretorius