Best Movies of All Time + Valerie Hobson



Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 horror film directed by James Whale that serves as a direct sequel to 1931's Frankenstein. We pick up where the previous story left off, seeing the windmill where the Monster (Boris Karloff) burn to the ground. The townsfolk, thinking that the Monster has been destroyed, take Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) back to his home where his soon-to-be-wife Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) nurses him back to health. During his recovery, he is visited by Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who has taken interest in his ability to create life. The doctor shows Frankenstein his own creations and asks for his help in creating a female partner for the now-on-the-loose Monster. After disregarding the offer, Pretorius finds the Monster and commands him to kidnap Elizabeth in the hopes of blackmailing Frankenstein into helping with his experiment.

In the annals of my movie-viewing history, there have only been a few instances where a sequel outperforms the original film. A lot of film buffs claim that The Godfather: Part II is better than its immediate predecessor (I tend to disagree, having enjoyed the first installment much more). I think that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a huge step up from The Terminator. You could also make the argument that The Empire Strikes Back is better than the first Star Wars movie. However, once you get past these and maybe less than a handful of other examples, you'll have exhausted your evidence. Luckily, I have found one more piece for the argument in Bride of Frankenstein.

I know that I usually start with talk of screenplay, but let's go with acting first this time around. Overall, the acting in this movie is a huge step ahead of the performances put forth in Frankenstein. With Clive and Karloff the only major returning characters - aside from Elizabeth who is played by a different actress this time around - we have a slew of new, albeit supporting, characters on exposé. Ernest Thesiger is sufficiently creepy and maniacal in his role, crafting a very charismatic villain. Early on, you almost want to like the guy, but there's something that constantly chews at the back of your mind that tells you this guy is bad news. I did have a little bit of grief with the character Minnie (Una O'Connor), who was either an extremely nosy concerned citizen or a worker in the Frankenstein mansion. O'Connor played the part a little too over-the-top for my personal tastes, but she does provide a couple of laughs here and there. However, our two returning leads are the real story here. Clive takes his familiar role and makes Frankenstein a more realistic man. He has the ability to tone down the manic energy that drove his character in the original film, crafting a subtly great performance. As good as Clive is, the real props have to go to Boris Karloff who completely humanizes the Monster by the end of the movie. Through a series of events, the Monster quickly learns how to speak in stunted English, but his vocabulary grows throughout the film. We even see some emotion, including a single teardrop running down the cheek! (I'm a sucker for that, folks. You can bawl all you want, but if you can keep it to a single teardrop running down the cheek, you'll completely hook me into the emotion.) Congratulations, Mr. Karloff, for humanizing a re-animated mass of dead tissue.

Now, to the screenplay, which I found to be quite superb. We actually open the film with a prologue in a British loft with two men and a woman who is quickly identified as Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), the author of the novel, Frankenstein. She starts to tell the men the continuation of the story, and that's how we get to the events of this movie. One of the things I liked about this screenplay, in contrast with its predecessor, is the fact that we are given a much more humanized Monster. We see his progression from a mindless brute to a thoughtful and - even if he's still prone to outbursts of anger - caring man. There's one scene that put an emotional stamp on the film. During his wandering around the forest, the Monster stumbles upon an old cottage that housed an old blind man (O.P. Heggie) who graciously welcomes the Monster into his home. He tells the Monster that he has prayed to God to send him a friend, and the two soon develop a close friendship (this is where the Monster starts to learn language, by the way). I don't really know what more to say about it other than the screenplay is definitely a step up from the first film, and I was thoroughly impressed with it. Oh, and the climax of the film is, well, brilliant, to say the least.

Because this movie is a sequel, you may need to see the original Frankenstein before delving into Bride of Frankenstein. I mean, I'm sure you could pick up the storyline pretty easily - they do give a little bit of a re-cap in the prologue - but I think you'll have more of an appreciation for the brilliance of Bride of Frankenstein if you take the time to watch the original first.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: A-
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #1502 Thumbs Up

1935, Boris Karloff, Bride of Frankenstein, Colin Clive, drama, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger, Frankenstein, horror, James Whale, movie review, OP Heggie, sequel, Una O'Connor, and more:

Relevant to: BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN + Valerie Hobson