Friday, October 8, 2010

Bride of Frankenstein

Directed by James Whale.
1935. Not Rated, 75 minutes.
Boris Karloff
Colin Clive
Valerie Hobson
Ernest Thesiger
Elsa Lanchester
Gavin Gordon
Una O’Connor
O. P. Heggie

As soon as Bride of Frankenstein starts, it brazenly lets us know it’s pulling a fast one on us. It shows us “Frankenstein” novel author Mary Shelley (Lanchester, who also plays the bride) and some of her inner-circle chit-chatting about, and essentially recapping the events of her legendary story. Just when they’re wrapping it up, she basically says to forget all about that wonderfully Shakespearean ending. They ain’t dead. Normally, this is an early warning sign that you’re about to watch a sequel that shouldn’t even exist and of a quality that suggests the same. Luckily, we get a sequel that actually outdoes the original.

Our new villain, the even more brilliant and crazier Dr. Pretorius (Thesiger) recruits Dr. Frankenstein (Clive), against his will, to help him in creating a companion for Frankenstein’s original monster. By the way, the monster (Karloff) roams the countryside terrorizing, and occasionally killing folks until he stumbles into a lonely blind man. This plays out much better than it sounds.

As mentioned, this film has a clear cut villain, Pretorius, and reluctant accomplice in Dr. Frankenstein. However, instead of an actual hero, we get a victim in Frankenstein’s monster. This works incredibly well as we’re properly set up for another doozy of an ending which finally includes the unveiling of the bride. Without having watched it, the knowledge that the title character doesn’t appear until very near the end of our tale seems like a terrible idea. When you do see it, you’ll realize it works perfectly.

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