Bride of Frankenstein

Having heard for most of my life that Bride is one of the few sequels that’s better than the original, I decided to actually watch it for myself.

So… the thing is… okay, let’s put it this way, the appreciation of art is not only personally subjective, it’s context subjective as well.

From a contextual perspective, I watched the original Frankenstein on many Creature Features gatherings. I have warm, fuzzy memories of everyone being terrified in a dark room lit only by the flickering TV screen, my babysitter recoiled in terror.

By contrast, I had never seen Bride. I watched it with the same pitiless remorselessness as anyone who’s been watching movies for six decades.

From a personally subjective point of view, I think Bride is not nearly as strong a film as the original. On its own, it’s actually a generally weak film.

In. My. Opinion.

And here’s why: The opening pantomime with Lord Byron, Percy Shelly, and Mary Shelly is bizarre and unnecessary. And this is why context is important. Maybe at the time, sequels were new and the audience needed to be escorted into the idea of a continuing story? I don’t know, maybe, but this is not a great scene or a valuable one.

The character of Minnie is so awful, so vaudevillian and over-the-top, she’s plays as an alien from a strange and distant culture unfamiliar to us humans. And she ruins every scene she’s in… for me. She also unfortunately highlights the primitive sound equipment of the time by fuzzing out the microphone every time she has a fit.

Pretorius presents his own problems as a character, but the segment with the miniature people is just ludicrous… to me, now as I reside here in the future.

There’s not a lot of motivation for Pretorius’ hold over the doctor. He could have been a Faustian character who wooed Frankenstein back into his unhallowed arts, but he just shows up and says, “You know you want to do this. Also, I’ve kidnapped your wife.” Relieving the doctor of his onerous burden by making it mandatory is a big mistake story-wise…as far as I’m concerned, having not seen this movie until the 21st century.

The ending is both treacly sweet and unfortunate. The movies always want to make the tragedy about the monster, but I feel like the real tragedy is Frankenstein’s downfall. Having the monster urge his awful creator to flee with his bride before he destroys the castle is literally what we used to mean by derisively calling something a “Hollywood ending.”

There were some good things, though. Dwight Frye, as always, turns in the picture-stealing performance. My favorite of his is still him falling to pieces upon seeing the Mummy, but this one is very good, too. No, you know, Renfield is the best. And I can’t wait to see Nicholas Hoult take on the role in the new movie.

I thought Elsa Lanchester’s chin deserved an Oscar, but after a quick google of the subject, it appears the Academy ignored greatness once again.

I remember having long, serious conversations with my friends after a Creature Features session about why everyone in the Frankenstein movies dresses like a German but talks like an Englishman. I don’t remember what we decided, but being nine years old allows you to account for anything.

But the best thing about Bride of Frankenstein had to be its 75 minute runtime which allowed it to be shown on television without being trimmed for commercials.

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