The BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN


The BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
   Film (1935). Universal. Dir James Whale, starring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger. Screenplay John Balderston, William Hurlbut. 80 mins. B/w.
   This sequel to the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, also dir Whale, is the greatest of the many Frankenstein movies and one of the greatest sf movies. Some watchers feel that the horror and pathos of the story are a little overwhelmed by Whale's morbid sense of comedy, seen here particularly in the bizarre figure of the gin-drinking, vain Dr Praetorious, creator of homunculi, who blackmails Frankenstein into constructing an artificial bride for the Monster. We learn immediately from the prologue - in which Mary SHELLEY ("frightened of thunder, fearful of the dark"), played by Lanchester, talks to Percy Shelley and Byron - that the Monster was not killed at the end of the previous film after all; later we see the Monster floundering through the forest, captured by villagers, breaking free, and befriended by a blind hermit where, in a scene of justly celebrated pathos, he is taught to smoke a cigarette. But nothing prepares one for the extraordinary, protracted finale, the most stylized scene in a stylized film, choreographed to perfection. Here the Bride (Lanchester again, thus making a clear and interesting identification of Mary Shelley with her sad, monstrous creation) comes to life - as electrical equipment splutters and sparks - lurches not ungracefully across the room, a white streak in her wild coiffure, screams at her first sight of the Monster, shrinks from him, and finally hisses like a maddened cat as the rejected Monster pulls the lever that will destroy her and all the rest. It is an unforgettable tableau.Whale was too theatrical for tragedy and perhaps too sceptical for true horror, with as much of Oscar Wilde as Shakespeare in his sensibility. But nevertheless his conservatism, his sophisticated, deeply un-American sense of irony, and his bold sense of symbolism make this one of the strongest cinematic statements ever made about, paradoxically, both the potency and the impotence of science.A rather different story, although with deliberate parallels, is told in the much later The Bride (1985) dir Franc Roddam, starring Sting, Jennifer Beals, Clancy Brown, David Rappaport, Alexei Sayle. 118 mins. Colour.
   Here the Bride (Beals) is initially repelled by the Monster (Brown), who flees in dismay to wander afar in the company of a dwarf (Rappaport). Frankenstein (a wooden Sting) becomes obsessed with the Bride to the point of attempted rape; she is saved by the returned Monster, whose love she now reciprocates. In one of the deliberately humorous scenes the fleeing Monster encounters a blind man, who fondly touches his face and then triumphantly yells "I've found him!" to the pursuing mob.
   PN/JGr

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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