Film Fridays – ‘Bride of Frankenstein’

Film Fridays is a project initiated by Sarah and I. After doing a daily music challenge for a month last year we talked about doing something similar for movies. The current global lockdowns give us the perfect excuse to start. Many of us are confined to home with only the TV for company so we thought we would start ‘Film Fridays’ so that we can talk about our favourite movies and hopefully give our readers some ideas for things to watch. If you join us please tag filmfriday and link back to one or both of us so we can read your own contributions!

We would be delighted if you would join us! We don’t necessarily want to talk about the nerdy technical details but more about why these films speak to us as individuals, why they have a place in out hearts, and any personal memories they evoke. 

Sarah and I have shared our lists and decided to tackle them as written – in my case in alphabetical order because I am sad like that….

‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935)

The trailer is on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYD3-pIF9jQ

However, it is rather corny. This clip gives a better idea of the look of the movie.

This post skips a movie from my list. I was originally going to write about “Blade Runner’ but I find that movie very sad and my heart just is not in it today, so you get ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ instead!

Before anyone asks: No, I am not ancient enough to remember this being made. And no, it is not the oldest movie on my list!

UK horror movie enthusiasts of a certain age still talk fondly of the late night horror double-bill seasons that were broadcast on the BBC from 1975 to 1983 . Remember, in those days, home video was barely getting started and in the UK we had only three TV channels. The only chance of seeing older movies was to wait for them to be shown on these TV channels or, occasionally, a cinema would have a retrospective weekend or similar. So well regarded are these seasons that the full listings are on Wikipedia. Therefore I can tell you exactly when I first saw ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ – Saturday 9th July 1977. This was the month before my 11th Birthday.

It is a sequel to ‘Frankenstein’ of 1931, which introduced the iconic look worn by Boris Karloff. Even at this stage the sequel was considered – with a last minute change to the ending to allow for one. But it took 4 years to come to fruition, having been stuck in development. It follows a remorseful Dr Frankenstein as he is blackmailed by his former mentor, Dr Pretorius, into creating a mate for the monster he made in the first movie.

Much as I love the first film, this is one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original. Firstly it looks amazing – the stark lighting, the fantastic set design and of course the look of the Bride herself – played by Elsa Lanchester, which was to become as iconic as Karloff’s original monster. It is only 85 minutes long so if you don’t enjoy it you have not wasted much time! This movie (and its predecessor) was lampooned hilariously in Mel Brooks’ ‘Young Frankenstein’ in 1974, but even there you can sense a genuine fondness for the source material.

The look of the monster, as played by Karloff, is iconic of course. None of the subsequent Frankenstein adaptations have recreated this look – Universal still hold the rights to the makeup look even though the Frankenstein story itself is public domain, having been written by Mary Shelley between 1816 and 1818. ‘Mary Shelley’ appears in Bride of Frankenstein, played by Elsa Lanchester who also plays the Bride.

The sequel took a risk in allowing the Monster to speak, albeit with a limited vocabulary. If anyone is wondering why he looks less gaunt than in the first movie – it is because the need to speak meant that Karloff could not take his dentures out this time round!

Both movies were directed by James Whale. Whale was reluctant to direct the sequel but was eventually persuaded after the great success of his ‘The Invisible Man’. ‘Bride’ became his masterpiece. He was an interesting fellow and in 1998 became the subject of the movie ‘Gods and Monsters’, in which he was played by Ian McKellen.

Universal studios, in the early 30s, had a hit on their hands with adaptations of classic horror stories. Their takes on Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolfman among others all became classic movies. I believe they could only have been made at this time – between the introduction of ‘talkies’ in 1929 and introduction of the Hays Code in 1934 which made horror movies (or anything else ‘morally questionable’) increasingly hard to produce. Bride of Frankenstein was lucky to slip through (script approved in November 1934) before restrictions started to bite. Afterwards, Universal attempted desperately to keep their iconic but now toothless monsters profitable by various means that ultimately ended up with them as bit-players in Abbott & Costello comedies. The ‘classic horror’ movie genre then became a shadow of its former self, not helped by the real horrors of a world war, until Hammer arrived in the late 1950s – notably a UK studio and therefore unrestricted by Hollywood’s Hays Code which was only lifted in 1968. Arguably the Hays code still shapes Hollywood (and US censors) tastes today – where any amount of violence is OK but the sight of a female nipple results in an ‘R’ rating.

Universal had big intentions to revive their ‘Classic Monsters’ a few years back and create a cinematic universe to rival that of Marvel. Indeed the main monsters had a few crossover movies even in their 30s incarnations so this was not without precedent. Sadly they began with the Tom Cruise starring ‘The Mummy’ , which was not well received, so the whole scheme died out.

Anyway, I digress. Apologies, but hopefully you can see the love I have for movies made during this mini golden era. Some more will be along later!

18 Comments

  1. Just watched the 2nd clip – so cool!!! Unbelievable as it is I’ve never watched this one, or the first, but am of course familiar with the story (which I’ve read in numerous adaptations, films, theatre productions…) and the look of the original monster which was the best of course!
    I really love old b/w films and enjoy the fact that you can concentrate on the character for more than a few seconds before the next take interrupts the scene. Imagine – actors had to remember lines that took a couple of minutes! I bet many of today’s would have trouble with that. 😂
    I also get that you skipped Blade Runner today – a sad and dense atmosphere (but I love it so much!). I have to confess that I’ve lost.list!! And am now winging it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah😍. I guess it is so old that a lot of folks will not have seen it.
      I am so pleased that you love old b&w movies too. A lot of youngsters refuse to watch anything black and white. Even my own generation for that matter. I just don’t get it.
      I love Blade Runner too. But not today. The recent sequel is even more sad. I still have your list if you want me to send it? X

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you on not wanting to revisit Blade Runner at the moment Darren 😦
    You’ve probably guessed that I’ll say I haven’t seen The Bride of Frankenstein — for genre rather than age reasons. There are so many films of that era that I totally love.

    But, having watched the clip, it does look interesting. There are films that are just so well-made that I can ignore genre! I think it’s one to watch with my son who is the only other person I know who gets excited about lighting and camera work and editing. Even as a kid, he’d come out of a move and enthuse about a particular camera angle; having hardly noticed the plot 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should give it a go Su. Obviously the horror aspects are tame by modern standards but with your photographer’s eye there is a lot to enjoy in this movie.
      The visuals v plot thing is interesting. I do prefer movies to have both but I definitely find the craft of filmmaking fascinating. One reason so many ‘visual’ movies are on my list is that even now that I know the plot I still find new details every time I see them and can enjoy repeat viewing.
      I am increasingly amazed by the talent of set designers/dressers by the way. We watched the Robert Downey Jr ‘Sherlock Holmes’ the other night and the love and detail put into recreating Victorian London seems almost obsessive for such a movie.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get that. I suspect that’s part of the reason I can re-watch so many films too.
        Are you a Greenaway fan? He’s a painter as well as a film-maker and his films are visually stunning.
        I agree about costume/set design, and the Sherlock movies are a great example. Love him or loath him, Guy Ritchie has a really good eye for detail.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. As far as I can recall, the only Greenaway film I have seen is ‘The cook, the thief..etc’, which looked fab but I found a bit extreme even for me. I have fancied Helen Mirren ever since though😉.
          I should investigate his other movies.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah; it’s my second least favourite Greenaway film. The Baby of Macon pips it for first place only because I spent longer “watching” it from behind my hand.
            Drowning by Numbers is my fave.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. My BF likes to ask – If you could be any of these which one would you be? Frankenstein, Dracula, or the Wolfman? He’s a Frankenstein guy himself and he has his theories around what you chose. He’s convinced women like Dracula, but not really men. You’ve written about the Wolfman and now Frankenstein, so which one are you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting theory! I did mention Blade-Trinity, in which the big D makes an appearance. So I’ve almost completed the set.
      I confess to finding the original Universal adaptation of Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, rather boring. Though I do like the 1922 silent ‘Nosferatu’ and all those later Hammer ones with Christopher Lee.
      I identify most with Frankenstein’s monster I guess – not actually evil but misunderstood, lumbering and socially awkward.
      That said – Dracula does get to spend a lot of time with scantily clad young ladies. So I guess I know which one I would prefer to be😉😍

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha. Oh right, you did mention Blade. I never think of it as a vampire movie! But I never watched it so it hasn’t stuck.

        Good answer. You feel like Frank but want to be Drac. Hahahahhaa.

        Like

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