Halloween Endurance Test: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

As superior as Frankenstein was to Dracula, its sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, sits higher still. This is the film that made the franchise, and director James Whale’s career. While the Dracula films never truly found a rhythm, never reached a highpoint, and the Mummy films reworked its origins tale numerous times, here director Whale takes all the themes that made the first a success and builds on them.

Freed from the constraints of reproducing a literary classic, Universal’s screenwriters could run with the characters in ways Mary Shelley never dreamed. Including, in yet another opening disclaimer sequence, having “England’s greatest sinner,” Lord Byron, and Mary and Percy Shelley sitting around talking about the book’s creation. Segueing perfectly into a flashback montage from the first film. Which leads Mary to note that Frankenstein’s monster end at the mill was not actually the end at all…

One thing that did end in the first film though, was Frankenstein’s monster’s innocence. The original was censored because of a scene where a little girl drowns. The sequence plays more tragic than horrific though, as the monster doesn’t understand that she can’t float the same as the lily pads around her. Ten minutes into the sequel, and the monster is truly a monster. Revenging himself by drowning the father of the girl whose death he accidentally caused.

30 minutes into the film and we’ve seen two drowning scenes, and Dr. (now Baron) Frankenstein’s teacher Professor/Dr. Pretorius’ own experiments: five homunculi (miniature humans). Where Frankenstein worked with the dead, Pretorius works from the seed of life; hoping to populate the world with “Gods and monsters.” If that isn’t blasphemous enough, the first time the monster is caught, he’s brought to town crucified on a pole!

Frankenstein refuses to work with Pretorius, claiming his experiment was a mistake. He now just wants to be a Baron. The monster, befriending a blind man who teaches him to talk, as well as sanctifying him in a strange dinner scene (bread is broken, wine drank, all under the watching gaze of a crucifix), wants love of his own. This desire for a bride meshes well with Pretorius’ own desires. So a kidnapping is in order.

Don’t think Frankenstein as some tragic hero though, as he fiends as well as any of the others. Finding a suitable body is again a chore, so he pays off an assistant to bring him one that suffered a short and surprising death. (At which point the idea of two ideologically clashing doctors truly falls apart.) No longer will the reanimated dead be a patchwork of cut up body parts. The bride sports a few seams on the head, and a (famed) electrically shocked haircut, but is in no way as mutilated as the monster.

This advance in the reanimation of the dead brings about the ruin of both, as the bride wants nothing to do with her scarred groom. She hisses as a cat when approached, causing a heartbroken monster to end it all by exploding Frankenstein’s lab.

Or was it all? While the franchise would jettison most of what happens in this film story-wise, the ruined tower would remain as an understated constant. Serving as a focal point for the multitude of Frankensteins who would pass through its walls after Victor.


One Response to “Halloween Endurance Test: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)”

  1. Last couple of nights I dreamed about a giant dish filled with bacon and there is a little kid
    sitting in center of it, eating it.

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