Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The monster's name isn't Frankenstein. We know that, right? Just like Nick Charles isn't the thin man, the monster is known simply as the monster. Where did that misconception come from? Maybe from Bride of Frankenstein.

Now, the Barron DID have a wife but this movie isn't about her. It's about Henry trying to get on with his life when he is visited by another (non-dead) ex-professor. The mysterious Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) arrives but the Barron (Colin Clive again) gets all passive-aggressive and sends him away. Apparently Pretorius is also on the quest to learn the secret of life and thinks it would be nifty if they could compare notes.

When Pretorius bumps into the monster (not dead as previously thought) while hanging around a crypt, he offers to make him a lady friend. Monster likes that idea. So, the monster kidnaps the bride of Frankenstein ... that is to say, the Barron's wife, and they coerce Henry into helping.

A couple things to note: Bride of Frankenstein is a comedy. All classic horror have moments of campyness and levity but Bride goes beyond that. Una O'Connor (my favorite ugly chick) looking up to see the monster standing behind her had distinct shades of Abbot and Costello. And the scene with the blind hermit was played at least partially for laughs.

Also, Dwight Frye, everyone's favorite Igor (never actually played a character with that name) returns. His character Fritz died in Frankenstein so this time his name is Karl. He also played Dracula's Renfield. Seems like his characters don't hang along all that much. In real life he died at my age. They got a new Elizabeth. Apparently Mae Clarke was having some serious mental difficulty at the time. Colin was rewarded with the younger Valerie Hobson. Her next project was as the wife of the title character in Warewolf of London.

Elements of Bride were actually taken from the Shelley novel. There was some talk about making the monster a lady friend but never acted upon. Also, the monster spoke in the book. In fact, he was a total bore. Karloff's monster spoke in short, choppy sentences. Fire bad!

Towards the end of the movie the Bride is unveiled, as a bug-eyed but still somewhat hot Elsa Lanchester with Marge Simpsonesque hair. Further confusing the name of the monster, Pretorius declares her the Bride of Frankenstein! Elsa also played Mary Shelley in an awful prologue where she introduces the story. Funny that an Elizabethan writer would introduce a story that includes telephones and electric lights.

Bride is one of few sequels that is regarded higher than the original (IMdb rates them both an 8), and certainly it's a classic work. But for my money, I like the original better. More serious treatment with some ambiguity about the monster's nature. AMRU 4.
"To a new world of Gods and Monsters!"

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