BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
James Whale was a unique director. (A portrait of him and some of the scenes of the making of Bride of Frankenstein can be found in Gods and Monsters (1998), which actually takes its title from a line in this film. There have been some silly and unnecessary attempts to try and read Bride of Frankenstein as a parable amount Whales homosexuality). In the first film, James Whale subordinated himself to the story at hand. Frankenstein was a coldly measured film one that showed Whales background as a stage director and was directed toward being an elegant fright show. The films success allowed Whale a greater artistic freedom here and he takes the opportunity to allow his droll, eccentric sense of humour free reign something that never emerged in Frankenstein. Bride of Frankenstein is now less of a horror film than it is a comedy in fact, the exploits of Frankenstein are upstaged by Ernest Thesigers waspish, engrossingly lunatic Pretorius. The first meeting between Pretorious and monster in a crypt where Pretorious tempts the monster with a cigar Have a cigar. They are my only weakness is hysterical.
Whale also has a far greater sense of mise en scene here than in the original. His treatment of the monster is a strange blend of pathos and humour. Out of Boris Karloffs primitive mime there comes a genuine, albeit simplistic, emotion it is quite something to watch the tear roll down his face when the bride rejects him, or the dull grave-stone voiced intonation I love dead, hate living. There is a strangely funny blend of poignancy and humour in the sequence (wickedly parodied in Young Frankenstein ) where the monster encounters a blind hermit in the woods who invites him in for dinner. The most startling introduction this time around is Elsa Lanchesters bride. Lanchester gives a dazzling mime performance all panicky bird-like mannerisms, when she screams her whole face opens up in an exaggerated silent-screen mime.
There are cloying elements particularly Una OConnors whining Cockney maid (in the midst of Germany!!) and the unreal Pollyanna-ishness of the Mittel Europe setting with Heidi-like shepherdesses dancing through the forest, or the heavenly music that keys in when the blind hermit thanks the Lord for having delivered a friend. However, there is much greatness to James Whales eccentric production.
The other Universal Frankenstein films are: Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). The Bride (1985) was a loose remake, while the Bride is also wound in as a character in the tv series Penny Dreadful (2014-6).