REVIEW: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

REVIEW: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Bride of Frankenstein

TITLE: Bride of Frankenstein
DIRECTOR: James Whale
CAST: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger, Dwight Frye

ADAM SCOVELL reviews The Bride of Frankenstein, which he says “showcases all of Whale’s wonderfully subversive and quintessentially British qualities”

The Bride of Frankenstein PosterThere was a time when Universal held the monopoly on horror film.

The Universal cycle of monster films is possibly the most influential in all off horror and easily one of the most iconoclastic in the whole of cinema.

Striding comfortably ahead of the rest of this pack that consists of groundbreaking films such as Tod Browning’s Dracula and Karl Freund’s The Mummy, James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein is perhaps the greatest of horror film to come out of classic Hollywood.

There’s something so irresistibly witty about Whale’s films in general that make them such good company on dark, winter nights.

Though his first take on Frankenstein enshrined Boris Karloff into the cinematic canon permanently, it’s his 1935 sequel that showcases all of Whale’s wonderfully subversive and quintessentially British qualities.

Initially opening with Lord Byron begging Mary Shelley to continue with her now finished story of Frankenstein and his monster, the film opens roughly where the previous instalment left off with Frankenstein’s castle destroyed and the monster presumed dead.

What follows is a gripping and fun tale of the monster on the run from the public mob which is desperate to see him killed.

Though there are obvious elements of pure entertainment in the film, Whale mixes his keen eye for visuals with some extremely stark and subversive imagery.

When the villagers tie the monster up and prepare him to be burned, the imagery is almost blasphemous in its relation to Jesus’ crucifixion.

The obvious hinting at xenophobia present in the first film is amplified here too with Frankenstein’s monster making its only real friend in the form of a blind musician, who is blissfully unaware of his guest’s looks.

If all this political and religious allegory is sounding a tad heavy, it must be stated that there is a huge dose of camp humour riddled into the film. Specifically in the form of Dr Pretorius played by the magnificently hammy Ernest Thesiger who steals every scene he graces as the creator of the monster’s bride.

Whether it’s his marvellous introduction and scheming with Frankenstein to his wonderfully camp flourish as he announces “The Bride of Frankenstein” as his womanly creation comes to life, he brings a healthy sense of fun to this story filled with discourse about xenophobia, racism and misogyny.

The monster’s wife (played by English actress Elsa Lanchester) is another highlight of the film, though is a perverse concoction of womankind. Her rejection of the original monster leads to the climactic finale, which results in more explosions and chaos in similar vein to its prequel.

Whale would leave Frankenstein and his monster after this film for other directors to attempt a continuation of the story.

They would never be able to match Whale for visuals or calibre of subversive direction though and in Whale himself we found the first real godfather of American horror, ironically in the form of a shy and retiring British gentleman, willing to push boundaries while creating splendid and timeless horror.

ADAM SCOVELL is a music student specialising in film music. When not obsessively watching and writing about film, he can be found playing jazz guitar in seedy clubs and making short films found at

View Comments (1)

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Adam Scovell is a writer and filmmaker currently studying for a PhD in Music at the University of Liverpool. He has written for The Times and The Guardian, had films screened at Manchester Art Gallery, FACT and The Everyman Playhouse, and runs the twice Blog North Awards nominated website, Celluloid Wicker Man.

More in Films


Crimson Peak (2015) REVIEW

Ann O'Regan9th November 2015

An Evening with Boris Karloff and His Friends (1967) AUDIO

Richard Phillips-Jones25th October 2015
Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince Film Poster

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) REVIEW

Sarah Blair-Dickinson20th October 2015

Uncovering 1970s Horror Memories

David Saunderson17th October 2015

One Way, coming this way in 2016

Richard Phillips-Jones16th October 2015

The Phantom Of The Opera (1989) REVIEW

Richard Phillips-Jones15th October 2015
The Redwood Massacre

The Redwood Massacre (2014) REVIEW

Andrew Garvey10th October 2015

The Fall Of The House Of Usher (1949) REVIEW

Richard Phillips-Jones7th October 2015

Corruption (1967) REVIEW

Richard Phillips-Jones1st October 2015

Fallen Soldiers (2015) REVIEW

Simon Ball16th September 2015
Christopher Lee in Devil Rides Out

Dennis Wheatley on Film

Barry McCann31st July 2015

Author tells of Modern Mythmakers

Guest Writer24th July 2015