I love the classic Universal monster movies. Growing up, many hours of my childhood were spent sitting in front of my family’s TV, enthralled by whatever monster happened to be on, and I’ve grown to appreciate them even more as an adult. There’s just so much in those films that a lot of today’s horror/monster movies lack. The amazing set designs, the makeup, everything about those classic films were done with imagination and a desire to think outside of the box to achieve the effects they were going for. Those films didn’t have the luxury of CGI that today’s films have, and instead of relying on that luxury which I’ve always felt has hindered recent attempts at recreating the magic that those classic films had, they used their heads to come up with practical ways to make them work. So, for this “A LOOK BACK AT” article, I decided to go with a film that is not only one of my favorite Universal Monster movies, but is also one of my favorite films period, James Whale’s sequel to his 1931 classic FRANKENSTEIN, the 1935 masterpiece, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN begins with a stormy night, and Lord Byron having a conversation with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary Shelley (author of the classic FRANKENSTEIN novel) about her story. Shelley reveals to Byron that the story did not end with FRANKENSTEIN, and that both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster survived the events of the first story. We’re then taken into the continuing story, and into the aftermath of the first film. The villagers are all gathered around, happy as hell that the monster is dead (so they think), and at first we are led to believe that Dr. Henry Frankenstein has died as well. They take Henry’s body back to the village, while the mother and father of young Maria,(the little girl that Frankenstein tragically threw into the water in the first film), stay behind to make sure the monster is dead. The father, unfortunately for him, falls into a water flooded hole under the windmill where the monster is waiting, alive and well. This is where we’re introduced to a meaner and more vicious monster than we saw in the first film. The monster in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN means business, and it doesn’t take him long to choke Maria’s father to death, get out of the pit, throw the mother to her death and scare the hell out of an old woman.
Back at the village, Dr. Frankenstein’s fiance’ realizes that Henry is not dead, and he’s eventually nursed back to health. While initially having no intention of playing god again, Henry’s soon coerced by his former mentor, Dr Pretorious, into attempting to create a mate for the Frankenstein monster, after showing him various miniature people that he had made.
Still reluctant to help, Henry is told by Pretorious to gather body parts for the mate, while Pretorious himself, will create the brain. Meanwhile, the monster is shot by a couple of hunters after saving a woman from drowning, and is chained up. This means nothing to the monster, who almost immediately breaks loose and goes about wandering around, eventually finding a gypsy family and being taught by an old blind man to say basic words like “friend” and so on. Soon after, the monster is chased off by hunters, but not before accidentally burning down the gypsy family’s cottage and wreaking more havoc. He finds solace in a small crypt, where he eventually sees Pretorious and his goons getting into graves to get parts for the mate. Pretorious sees him and takes the monster in, pretty much planning on ruining Henry’s life for sure.
Henry, newly married to his fiance’, is content not being a part of the situation, that is until Dr. Pretorious send the monster to kidnap his wife. Forced to take part in the experiment, Henry eventually starts to show the crazy as hell side of his personality that we saw in most of the first film, when the experiment begins to look like it might be successful. Henry and Pretorious finish the body, and raise it into the storm, allowing it be to shocked and brought to life. Mad as hell at this point, we then get the classic line of “SHE’S ALIVE! ALIVE!”, and all is well…until Frankenstein’s monster approaches her and asks “friend?”, which scares her, causing her to scream. Rejected by his new mate, the monster yells that she hates him like the others, and begins to destroy everything. Henry’s wife runs to his side, and the monster tells them to leave, which they happily do. The monster then tells Pretorious and the bride that they all three belong dead, begins to cry and pulls a lever to destroy the whole building, along with themselves. It’s a pretty sad moment, one of many that as viewers we have experienced with following the monster for two movies at this point.
What sets Frankenstein’s monster apart from a lot of the other Universal Monsters, is the fact that he’s definitely the victim of the story. It was Henry’s madness that brought the monster to life, and it was the insane “I want to create!” attitude of Pretorious that eventually led to the monster’s death. Aside from Maria’s mother and father, the monster never really hurts anyone just for the sake of hurting them, and even with them, it was only because they were going to cause him harm. The monster is a very tragic character, and I’ve always felt like he’s somewhat of the hero of the films as opposed to the villain that a lot for people consider him.