Wednesdays during Wilhelm Screamfest will be sharing the likes of two separate creatures, the werewolf and the Frankenstein Monster. Wolfenstein Wednesday is here, so let’s get right to it with one of the most celebrated sequels- “Bride of Frankenstein.”
Picking up what is presumed shortly after the last film, “Bride of Frankenstein” follows two intertwining stories. First we have the Monster who stumbles out from the wreckage of the windmill set ablaze, and into the forest. Along the way he encounters several villagers who have various reactions towards him. We also follow the recovering Dr. Henry Frankenstein. Side note- it’s a common misconception that the Monster is named Frankenstein, but in reality the name is derived from that of the Doctor. Through the dismay caused by his infatuation with science, Dr. Frankenstein vows to spend the remainder of his life with his newlywed; however Dr. Praetorius, another crazed scientist, seeks to follow in his footsteps – thus leaving Frankenstein to return to his work.
Similar to other Universal monster films, the monster steals the show, much of this thanks to the iconic Boris Karloff. As a misunderstood creature, we really get a unique viewpoint of the character than what was showcased in the previous film. Though he does have his murderous tendencies, the monster learns compassion and what it’s like in the real world. One of my most favorite scenes is when the monster interacts with a hermit. The lonely blind man shows him kindness and even teaches him how to speak. The interaction between the two is touching because they mirror each other when it comes to being shunned or ignored by the community. It’s quite a brilliant moment in cinematic history, as film classes to this day discuss it.
The rest of cast is just as memorable, even with some characters having little screen time. Colin Clive returns as Dr. Frankenstein, yet this time in a much different state of mind. With his dark sunken eyes, you really get a sense that his prior actions have come back to haunt him. They could have easily wrote the character to be just as insane as before, but the personality change cements the idea that Universal really wanted to have a sequel that wasn’t trying to copy the first. There is however Dr. Praetorius, whom may be more obsessed with science that Frankenstein. Together we have the anguish of Frankenstein and the insanity of Praetorius which create rather entertaining moments throughout the film.
Although “Bride of Frankenstein” was released in 1935, the look of the film is astounding. There’s a reason that Universal was such a huge deal in the early 20th century. They weren’t afraid to spend large sums of money on their projects. When the eccentric sets are taking hold of the viewers attention, perfectly placed lighting allow shadows to aid in the storytelling of the film. Similar to the sets, the makeup work is another feat that would be a crime not to celebrate. Supporting the continuity, the monster’s forehead has singed hair, exposing the metal clamps that hold his face together. It’s a truly breathtaking work of art, as individuals who really appreciate the art will pause and gaze upon the handcrafted art. Special effects like the miniaturized humans in jars are incredibly advanced for the time.
Being one of the first horror sequels, “Bride of Frankenstein” manages to continue the legacy of its predecessor, without rehashing all the same elements that made it great. We do get some similar aspects, but the fact that the characters get more focus, allowing the audience to relate, the sequel ends up being better than the first, making it a staple for the horror genre. “Bride of Frankenstein” isn’t just a classic horror film, but one of the greatest films ever made.