Films

REVIEW: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

REVIEW: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Bride of Frankenstein


TITLE: Bride of Frankenstein
YEAR RELEASED: 1935
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 www.celluloidwickerman.com


View Comments (1)

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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

Films
@AdamScovell

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

Seize the Night

Seize the Night has landed! Watch it now for FREE

Staff Writer3rd May 2016
nosferatu

Dacre Stoker’s Top 10 Dracula-inspired Films

Dacre Stoker24th April 2016
Judy-Matheson-cover

Hammer’s Judy Matheson counts down her horror film favourites

David Saunderson17th April 2016
Victor-Frankenstein-Poster

Deleted Scene from Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Staff Writer11th April 2016
Fox-Trap-Banner

Fox Trap, a throwback to slasher horror fun

Kayleigh Marie Edwards28th March 2016
Morgan-Fairchild-with-Patrick-Macnee-and-Christopher-Lee-in-Sherlock-Holmes-and-the-Leading-Lady

The many faces of Sherlock’s ‘the woman’ Irene Adler

Nia Jones22nd March 2016
Devil's-Playground-2010

Devil’s Playground (2010) REVIEW

Simon Ball10th March 2016
Batman-vs-Jack-the-Ripper

Batman versus Jack the Ripper

Andrew Garvey9th March 2016
Night-Kaleidoscope

Is ‘Night Kaleidoscope’ the scariest horror of the year?

Kayleigh Marie Edwards6th March 2016
Dinosaur-Project

The Dinosaur Project (2012) REVIEW

Simon Ball6th March 2016
Victor-Frankenstein-Poster

Victor Frankenstein (2015) REVIEW

Ann O'Regan23rd February 2016
Screamvention

Screamvention – Horror comes howling to Dublin!

Ann O'Regan22nd February 2016