Bride of Frankenstein - 31/31 Days of Halloween
Well, friends, we've finally reached the end of our month-long celebration of Halloween. I've always been a fan of the classic Universal Frankenstein movies, and I had a hard time choosing tonight's film. Should I review the original, or its follow up? Finally, I decided on the second installment for reasons I'll explain later. The Frankenstein franchise is important because Mary Shelley and her original novel essentially gave birth to the science fiction genre, which is why I always enjoy a hearty belly laugh anytime some idiot claims women have no place in science fiction. After all, as the old joke goes, Mary Shelley invented science fiction because it sounded more appealing than another lousy threesome with Lord Byron. But I've rambled on enough, and we have a movie to review. So grab your bowl of Halloween candy, turn off the lights, and lets dive right on into our final spooky film of 2018, Bride of Frankenstein!
The film opens with Mary Shelley, her husband Percy, and Lord Byron chatting while a thunderstorm rages outside. Byron praises Mary for her chilling novel, and is delighted when she tells him that the story isn't finished, and she has much more to tell. Mary begins to regale her audience, beginning where the first film left off, with the old mill destroyed by fire and Henry Frankenstein and his creation presumed dead. Eager to put the situation behind him, the burgomaster urges the townspeople to leave, but Hans, the father of one of the Monster's first victims, is determined to see the Monster's body for himself. The Monster awakens and kills both Hans and his wife before escaping from the smoldering debris. One of Baron Frankenstein's servants, Minnie, witnesses the Monster's return and rushes to warn the other villagers, but nobody believes her, and she is ignored. Frankenstein's fiancee is relieved to discover that he is still alive, and nurses him back to health. While he is recovering, Dr. Pretorius, a former teacher of Henry's calls on the young Baron and proposes they work together. While initially reluctant, Henry is intrigued by Pretorius's own discoveries about life and death. Meanwhile, the Monster wanders the countryside, learning and discovering how to be human. Despite his best efforts, only his creator can give him what he desires above all else... a companion.
So the reason I chose this film instead of its predecessor is because it really gets into the meat and potatoes of the story in Shelley's original novel. One of the book's prominent themes was the question of "What is it to be human?" and "Why am I here?" This is where we see how truly misunderstood the Monster is, and Karloff gets to stretch his artistic legs a little. While the first film did depict him as essentially a child thrust into a strange and sometimes frightening world, Bride shows us how the Monster desperately tries to find a sense of belonging, all-too-briefly finding it in the old blind man's hut before two hunters ruin the moment for him. We finally hear the monster speak and, realizing that he'll never fit in with the humans, use that newfound ability to demand the only thing that can bring him happiness, which just happens to be the one thing Henry Frankenstein doesn't want.
Bride introduces a new mad doctor to serve as both friend and foil to Henry, the eccentric genius, Dr. Pretorius. Pretorius' own achievements arguably surpass Frankensteins, since he managed to create life from scratch rather than reanimating patchwork dead tissue, but apparently size matters, and Pretorius seeks to combine their efforts to create the perfect being. Frankly, the story really doesn't need Pretorius to move forward, but he's such a fun character that this is easily forgiven.
The eponymous Bride (portrayed by Elsa Lanchester, who also plays Mary Shelley in the film's opener) is onscreen for a shorter time than it took to give her life. She barely has time to figure out the use of her own legs before the Monster appears to claim her, but to his dismay, like the rest of the world, she is terrified of him and rejects him, driving the Monster to destroy the lab, presumably killing Pretorius, the Bride, and himself in the process. Although her screen time is short, Lanchester's performance is legendary, and the Bride with her crazy hair has become just as iconic as Karloff's Monster himself.
So what's the verdict, you ask? Well, I've already stated my love for the Frankenstein film franchise, so it goes without saying that I think this film is phenomenal. While not my favorite installment, an honor that goes to 1939's Son of Frankenstein, it's definitely in my top three. I'd highly recommend setting aside an evening to watch both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein back to back in a single sitting.
Well, that's it for 2018's 31 Days of Halloween, folks. Thanks to all the readers who followed along with me this year, and I hope you'll all come back next year when I'll review 31 different films. If I didn't review a film you think I should have, either comment here or drop me a line. Maybe I'll get to it next year. Until then, stay scared.