Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Bride of Frankenstein

Year: 1935
Director: James Whale
Screenplay: William Hurlbut and John L. Balderston, based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester and Una O'Connor
Running Time: 73 minutes
Genre: Horror, monster, science-fiction

Summary: On a dark and stormy night, the poets Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton) persuade Shelley's wife, Mary (Lanchester) to continue the story of Frankenstein and his Creature.
The story takes up from the end of the first film, with the Creature (Karloff) missing, presumed dead, in the blazing inferno and his creator, Henry Frankenstein (Clive) injured and traumatised but very much alive. However, the Creature has survived the fire and escaped, soon attracting the attention of the local villagers who persue him with pitchforks, blazing torches and shotguns.
Meanwhile, Frankenstein wants nothing more than to abandon his work and build a life with his fiancee, Elizabeth (Hobson). However, Frankenstein is approached by the sinister Doctor Septimus Pretorius (Thesiger), who has been experimenting with creating homunculi (and has successfully created a miniature king, queen, archbishop, devil, ballerina and mermaid). He blackmails Frankenstein into helping him create a woman: The "Bride of Frankenstein" (Lanchester)

Opinions: This movie, the first sequel to Frankenstein (1931) is widely regarded as not only one of the best horror movies ever made, but as one of the best movies ever made. It is also one of the very few sequels which is better than the original. The idea of a sequel was mooted as early as the first previews of Frankenstein and the plot hearkens back to a subplot in the original novel where the Creature demands that Frankenstein builds him a female companion, which he does but, envisioning a world overrun by the monsterous children of his two creations, destroys the unfinished woman before the Creature's horrified eyes (apparently it never occured to Mary Shelley that, for someone who could create a living being out of scraps of corpses, it would probably be pretty easy for him to create a woman without the ability to reproduce, then again it was written in 1818).
The original film's director, James Whale, was persuaded to return to direct the sequel with the promise of complete creative control, and many people today see a very strong gay subtext to the film (Whale himself was openly gay). Colin Clive returns as the tormented Henry Frankenstein and gives a great performance. Also memorable is Ernest Thesiger as the vain and highly camp but sinister Doctor Pretorius. Most memorable though is Boris Karloff as the Creature, under the iconic makeup from Jack Pierce. The Creature is portrayed as a sympathetic victim, and is largely non-violent except when provoked. One of the movies most memorable scenes is where the Creature finds short-lived peace with a blind hermit (O. P. Heggie) who teaches him to speak and smoke cigars. Elsa Lanchester, who has a dual role as Mary Shelley in the prologue and the titular Bride, has one of the most memorable scenes in cinema history as she comes to life, resplendent in white with the conical hairstyle complete with twin white lightning like streaks, jerkily rising among the sparking laboratory machines as wedding bells play on the soundtrack.
The film is full of memorable scenes, some comical (Doctor Pretorius eating his packed lunch in a mausoleum, resting his sandwiches on a tomb and cracking jokes with a skull) some surprisingly heartbreaking (the Creature's speech "Yes... Dead... I love... Dead... Hate... Living").
Inevitably the movie has dated and it is fair to say that it really isn't very scary by modern standards but it is a must see for anyone who has even the slightest interest in films.

"To a new world of gods and monsters!"
-Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) in Bride of Frankenstein

Aw, they make such a cute couple: Elsa Lanchester realises Boris Karloff has forgotten the ring in Bride of Frankenstein

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