Rewatching the Universal monster movies. The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. The first sequel of the bunch, Bride of Frankenstein, is also one of the biggest and baddest of monster history and movie history.
Here’s what happens: Beginning the same night the first movie ended, Frankenstein’s monster ravages the countryside, while Dr. Frankenstein is lured back into the lab by a fellow mad scientist. Their stories converge as the Bride is created.
Monster!: The monster kills and maims his way throughout the movie, with some pretty brutal violence, only to learn speech and take some agency for his actions in the movie’s second half. Having the monster talk remains a controversial choice to this day. Some believe that it makes him less scary and more childlike, while others believe that it’s necessary character development. I say that neither side is right nor wrong.
Then there’s the bride. It’s true that she doesn’t do much, but the huge buildup to her debut, her striking image, and just her mere presence make her a worthy inclusion in scary movie history.
Also a monster!: The monster and the bride are the marquee stars, but it’s Dr. Pretorius who fills the antagonist role. Actor Ernest Thesiger gives 100 percent, making the most of the script’s macabre humor, but never losing his character’s sense of menace.
Our hero: Dr. Frankenstein is less mad this time, and cast instead as the hero, after his wife has an odd apocalyptic vision. He gets back into monster-making reluctantly, only so he can rescue his wife from Dr. Pretorius.
Hapless humans: Supporting cast includes Dr. Frankenstein’s wife, a bunch of kooky graverobbers (allegedly called “ghouls” in the script). Of special note is the blind hermit who befriends the monster.
Frights: As noted above, Frankenstein’s monster kills a lot of folks, usually just by smacking them around. Then the monster and Dr. Pretorius team up to blackmail Dr. Frankenstein in the second half of the movie, giving the plot a lot of urgency.
Laughs: Una O’Connor is back, this time playing a villager later revealed to be the Frankenstein’s housekeeper. She repeats her comedic screaming from The Invisible Man. Also worth noting is Pretorius’ experiments, tiny people in jars who speak in cartoon squeaks, and include a buffoonish glutton king horny for his queen.
Thoughts upon this viewing: They say no movie is perfect, but Bride of Frankenstein is as close to perfect as it gets.
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