Monday, October 10, 2016
Bride of Frankenstein
Based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Bride of Frankenstein is the sequel to the 1931 film in which Dr. Henry Frankenstein who is tempted to help his creation and find a bride for his monster. Directed by James Whale and screenplay by William Hurlbut from an adapted story by Hurlbut and John L. Balderston, the film plays into Dr. Frankenstein’s attempt to make things right as well as give his monster a companion as Colin Clive reprises his role as Dr. Frankenstein and Boris Karloff reprising his role as the monster. Also starring Elsa Lanchester and Ernest Thesiger. Bride of Frankenstein is a sensational and entrancing film from James Whale.
The film has a simple story in which Dr. Henry Frankenstein is coerced by a former mentor to recreate his experiment just as the monster he created has gotten loose and is discovering humanity. This time around, Dr. Frankenstein has to find a bride for the monster as he also becomes conflicted of going back to the experiment that caused so much trouble. William Hurlbut’s screenplay starts off with a scene in which novelist Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester) is having a conversation with her husband Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) as she tells the story about Frankenstein and his bride. Then the narrative shifts into this story as Dr. Frankenstein is recovering from his encounter with the monster where he wants to spend time with his bride Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) but the visit of his old mentor Dr. Septimus Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) would reveal what he’s done and why he needs Dr. Frankenstein.
The narrative also has the monster trying to hide from an angry mob as he would discover some of the good aspects of humanity but also revelations about who he is. One major sequence in which the monster is given food and shelter from a blind man (O.P. Heggie) where it is a key moment that is quite touching. Notably in how the monster is humanized and learns to say a few things as he would later meet Dr. Pretorius as he learns what he will do.
James Whale’s direction is definitely mesmerizing for the way he creates the setting of the film but also play into that air of suspense and terror where a man tries to see the error of his own ways while realizing the humanity that is growing in his monster. Whale’s approach to compositions where he maintains an atmosphere in the wide and medium shots to play into some of the experiment scenes as well as some of the chilling moments where Whale definitely expresses concern for the monster who is being chased by the angry mob. Whale’s usage of close-ups do play into the growing sense of humanity into the monster but also in Dr. Frankenstein’s anguish over what he created and his attempt to live a normal life again. The film’s climax would be about the bride (Elsa Lanchester) who is something the monster wants but he too would feel some conflict as it once again play into the fallacy of resurrection and man’s attempt to be God. Overall, Whale creates a phenomenal and terrifying film about a mad scientist trying to create a bride for his monster.
Cinematographer John J. Mescall, with visual effects photography by John P. Fulton, does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to create some unique lighting and shadows for some of the nighttime interiors at the castle where Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius does as the work of Fulton showcases the live miniatures the latter had created. Editor Ted Kent does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the suspense and horror. Art director Charles D. Hall does fantastic work with the look of Dr. Frankenstein‘s home as well as the lab he and Dr. Pretorius work at with all of its amazing props.
Costume designer Vera West does nice work with the look of the locals as well as Dr. Pretorius as well as the clothes of the bride. Hair stylist Irma Kusely and makeup artist Jack P. Pierce do amazing work with the look of the monster as well as the design of the bride and her hair. The sound work of Gilbert Kurland is superb for some of the sound effects that are created as well as the climatic scene of the awakening of the bride. The film’s music by Franz Waxman is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that has elements of somber music while maintaining a sense of bombast for its suspense and horror.
The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles from E.E. Clive as the burgomaster, John Carradine as a hunter, Dwight Frye as Dr. Pretorius’ assistant Karl, Anne Darling as a shepherdess who meets the monster and is later saved by him, Gavin Gordon as Lord Byron, Douglas Walton as Percy Shelley, and O.P. Heggie in a superb performance as the blind hermit who would invite the monster for food, drinks, and shelter as he would be the first to bring true humanity to the monster. Una O’Connor is terrific as the Frankenstein housekeeper Minnie who is always screaming as she provides some nice humor in the film. Valerie Hobson is wonderful as Elizabeth as Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancée who tries to help him get back in good health while dealing with the presence of the monster.
Ernest Thesiger is excellent as Dr. Pretorius as Dr. Frankenstein’s former mentor who wants to expand on his protégé’s experiment for grander things as he is this great manipulator that tries to get Dr. Frankenstein to get back in the game. Elsa Lanchester is amazing in a dual role as author Mary Shelley in the film’s prologue as she would tell the story about the bride as well as being the bride herself where she doesn’t speak much but her presence alone makes it a marvel to watch. Colin Clive is brilliant as Dr. Henry Frankenstein as the monster’s conflicted creator who tries to return to a normal life as he is forced by his old mentor to recreate the experiment with new ideas as he copes with what he’s done. Finally, there’s Boris Karloff in an incredible performance as the monster as a man created from body parts of the dead who becomes humanized by his experiences in the previous film as he learns to say words and have thoughts while maintaining that great sense of physicality as it’s an iconic performance from Karloff.
Bride of Frankenstein is a phenomenal film from James Whale that features a remarkable performance from Boris Karloff as the monster. Featuring a great supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, and some amazing art direction, it’s a film that isn’t just a fascinating monster film but also a film that says a lot about cheating death and resurrection in all of its fallacies. In the end, Bride of Frankenstein is a spectacular film from James Whale.
Related: Young Frankenstein
James Whale Films: (Journey’s End (1930 film)) - (Hell’s Angels) - (Waterloo Bridge) - Frankenstein - (The Impatient Maiden) - (The Old Dark House) - The Invisible Man - (By Candlelight) - (One More River) - (Remember Last Night?) - (Show Boat (1936 film)) - (The Road Back) - (The Great Garrick) - (Sinners in Paradise) - (Wives Under Suspicion) - (Port of Seven Seas) - (The Man in the Iron Mask (1939 film)) - (Green Hell) - (They Dare Not Love)
© thevoid99 2016
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Phenomenal film indeed. It is on my October watch list because I haven't seen it in a few years. Loved this write-up.
Thank you. It is an awesome film. I got a lot more horror/suspense films to watch!
I may have already said this, but I actually like this better than the original. Both are phenomenal, but this edges out the first film, for me. The deeper exploration of emotions just gives it that much more gravity.
@Wendell-I agree with you on this as I also think the visuals are stronger and there's more dramatic stake in this film than in the first.
This would be a good one to re-watch this month. I hope I have the time!
@assholeswatchingmovies.com-And if you do, I hope you have fun watching it.
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