Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Thursday, June 6th
This 1935 sequel to the Universal horror film Frankenstein (1931) is a re-imagination based on the original Frankenstein story written by Mary Shelly. To tie the two films together, Bride of Frankenstein begins with a prologue featuring authoress Mary Shelly (Elsa Lanchester) in the company of Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) and her husband Percy Shelly (Douglas Walton). From the onset, there is the comparison of good and evil. The beautiful, gentle, and supposedly afraid of the storm Mary Shelly is the one who conceived the original dark story about a monster created from the dead. Also, in the prologue there is a quick glimpse of Una O’Connor as a servant. This is an additional nod to foreshadow that we will see this actress and another from this introduction later in the imaginative world of Frankenstein. We are then taken to the original film and reminded of the birth of the monster, his violence against humans, and presumed demise. However for this dark and stormy night, Mary Shelly has a continuation to her story that she will tell her companions.
Baron Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) battles within himself over his obsessions of creating life and the consequences that befell his last attempt. Yet, there is Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who urges Frankenstein to continue with his work. Pretorius is a devil figure, working against all things that are natural and good. He has been working on his own experiments creating miniature beings. Pretorius is obsessed with man-made life and the ability for this life to multiply and continue. He suggests to Frankenstein the creation of a mate for the monster.
Unable to convince Frankenstein to proceed with the plans for a mate for the monster, the monster conveniently kidnaps Elizabeth. Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) the new bride of Frankenstein is the perfect replacement for the monsters mate. If he cannot have a bride of his own, he will take Frankenstein’s. Henry now begins the exhausting work of creating a female monster. Like the conception of the Karloff version of the monster, the look of the female monster has created a lasting image that continues to be used for future characterizations of the bride of Frankenstein. Elsa Lanchester seen in the beginning of the film as Frankenstein authoress Mary Shelly is now seen again this time as the bride. However, the question remains…will love be the cure for the savage beast?
The monster (Boris Karloff) in the film is often compared to Christ, the embodiment of God as man. However, the monster is the creation of man, and with that there are consequences. The movie sensors at the time warned that there was to be no reference made to man acting as God. The film is careful with these references, but the film is filled with Christian images and symbolism. Much of this film is about the monster desperately seeking human contact. However, he is most often met with fear and anger which agitates the monster to harm and kill. The monster though un-godly is a sympathetic figure in the film, much of this is due to the ability of actor Boris Karloff to display emotions from beyond the make-up.
One thing to note is the uncertainty of the setting and time period of the story. The costuming of the villagers and look of the village suggests the location is somewhere in Eastern Europe. However, contrasts such as the costumes of the villagers and the residents of Frankenstein castle and the fact that horse driven carriages are used yet there is access to telephones leaves the time period unknown. According to the scripts the time period was to be set in the present, but it seems the setting for this film is some unreal world set within Mary Shelly’s imagination.
As a Mel Brooks fan, something must be said about the monster encountering and befriending the blind hermit (O.P. Heggie). The calm sincerity of the scene with the blind hermit allows for another dimension of exploration into the monsters loneliness. Unable to find companionship, the monster finds solace with another lonely individual. However, what the hermit lacks in sight he retains in an inner sight. He does not fear the monster because of his appearance. But, takes the monster in as a gift from God, the friend he has always prayed for. Having seen both Mel Brooks’ film Young Frankenstein (1974) and 2007 musical version with the same title, this scene was recreated by Brooks into a perfect comic re-imagination. So perfect, that while watching this original scene you can almost chuckle thinking of the parody.
Bride of Frankenstein will be shown on Thursday as part of an evening of films TCM is calling their “Creature Features:”
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) 6:00PM (ET)
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) 7:30PM (ET)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 9:00PM (ET)
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) 10:30PM (ET)
King Kong (1933) 12:00AM (ET)
Cyclops (1957) 2:00AM (ET)
Images from: Bride of Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal 1935. DVD.
Tagged: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Cyclops, Douglas Walton, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger, Frankenstein, Gavin Gordon, Godzilla King of the Monsters, It Came from Beneath the Sea, King Kong, Mary Shelly, Mel Brooks, O.P. Heggie, TCM, TCM Creature Features, The Bride of Frankenstein, Turner Classic Movies, Una O'Connor, Valerie Hobson, Young Frankenstein