Warning, there will be spoilers…
Bride of Frankenstein is one of those movies I always heard about, but until this weekend, I had never seen it. Since I’m a writer, whenever there’s a famous movie or book, I tend to concoct a plot based on the snippets I’ve picked up from the collective pop culture consciousness. I should really stop myself from doing this because it always leaves me a bit attached to the version I dreamed up. It’s not that I expected the Bride of Frankenstein to be about the monster preparing for his nuptials, but I thought the bride had a lot more to do in the film. Elsa Lancaster has more screentime as Mary Shelley than she does as the title character.
The film opens with writer Mary Shelley explaining to Lord Byron that her story of Frankenstein did not end with monster being killed by the townspeople like one would think. That alone should show how much audiences have changed since the 1930s. Can you imagine any film made today opening with the author talking about “what really happened” in a Victorian parlor? Byron heaps praise on Shelley and the famous story she created, as scenes from the first film are shown. It’s very “last time on Frankenstein”. Shelley informs Byron that the monster was not killed by the townspeople as previously believed. The film follows a monster as he tries to find peace, only to be routinely thwarted by angry townspeople. Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein is visited by Dr. Pretorius, who convinces him to create a mate for his monster. When their meeting does not go particularly smoothly (she hisses at him) , the depressed monster decides to end it all by blowing up the castle, killing himself, the bride, and Dr. Pretorius in the process (or does it), while Dr. Frankenstein and his wife escape.
Boris Karloff (Or simply Karloff, as he is listed in the credits, since he was such a big name star at the time) does a beautiful job as the monster. He shows signs of being a gentle giant, appreciating music and friendship, but has such a short fused, so whenever he is provoked by the fearful townsfolk, he lashes out and continues to make his situation worse and worse. By the end of the film, he decides death is the only answer for him. Everyone has encountered someone like the monster in their life, who continues to sabotage their own happiness, when all they want is love.
One great sequence is when Dr. Pretorius shows Dr. Frankenstein his collection of miniature people. The mad scientist creates tiny people that he dresses up like kings, queens, etc and keeps in jars for his enjoyment. The special effects are still quite impressive. It makes you think about all the innovations that have been made over the decades and wonder how much they actually elevate the medium. Many films made in the 30s, could not be made more magical with all our modern technology.
If you haven’t seen the film and want to check it out, I would recommend you watch it with someone who’s company you enjoy and spilt a bottle of wine, because it is a film that could not be made today and is an entertaining blast from the past.