My friends, it seems the Dark Lord of Castlevania has been put to rest for the time being, but in the demons outside being at bay we now turn back inwards. What terrors dwell in the minds of man, when last we saw our friend Dr Frankenstein we saw how for a moment he let his desire for progress overwhelm his morality a lesson he learned near the end. But perhaps there are those that do not wish to learn this lesson, and feel fully the ends justify the means, and those ends themselves are of a dark intent.
Bride of Frankenstein is the sequel to the horror classic Frankenstein by universal studios coming out in 1935. While a sequel as a movie it uses elements of the original novel that were left out of the first movie namely the making of the monster’s mate (no, not his chum he goes round to pubs at… note to self pitch… oh wait young Frankenstein already did the comedy version well… never mind).
While the arguments of antagonist of the first movies villain can go around, this film is very clear, Doctor Septimus Pretorius, Frankenstein’s former mentor who had already created small homunculi and now wishes to work with his former prodigy to make a mate for the monster. The monster himself still played by Boris Karloff is now turned into a more sympathetic creature, even meeting and being befriended by a kind blind man and learning to speak slightly, something Karloff was against.
While Dr Frankenstein has learned his lesson about morality it is clear Pretorius is a completely different kind of person. While not directly stated (I heard it was cut) it is implied by his actions that he is homosexual. This puts his creation of life into a potential dark intent as his actions subtly imply that he intends to replace women as the means of making life with his own creations, which is something that you probably couldn’t get away with in films these days. Further differentiating the good Dr Frankenstein as just a man who got caught up in his goals while Pretorius was fully dedicated to his dark intent is that while Frankenstein merely robbed graves Pretorius openly has people killed to claim their body parts and even manipulates the monster to use as intimidation to force Frankenstein to continue his research.
Pretorius really sells this film for the most part, his somewhat camp mannerisms are not done to the cartoonishly gay ways that plagued most early depictions of such characters later. This is a man who openly says he would prefer it if we didn’t have morality seeing it as holding man back, all this brought to us by the actor Ernest Thesiger. There are two other main draws for the film. First is the monster, as mentioned he is now more sympathetic, the mob now seen less like delivering justice against a horror and now stalking something that they see as different and the monster having almost a child’s mind only lashing out when threatened and wanting not to be left alone by these people yet also after being befriended wishing for a companion as he no longer wishes to be alone, all done with the minimalist acting wonderfully done by Karloff. Now don’t take that wrong, when I say minimalist I mean slight movements here and there expressing sooo much, not overly exaggerated making him a great contrast to Pretorius.
Of course what good review of this film could there be without talking about the monster’s mate. We see only one scene with her and only one line a scream upon seeing the monster, which given the creature’s growth is a final stabbing blow to him. Something made for him, rejects and treats him like all the others. It’s amazing to think that with so small a part in the film ultimately the monster’s bride became such an iconic image thanks to its striking design. I don’t feel the need to go into it as you will have seen it already.
While even back then sequels were considered inferior to the originals and were actually much rarer then than in the originality lacking modern cinema, Bride of Frankenstein managed to exceed its original. The 3 main characters of Frankenstein, Pretorius and the monster parallel and contrast one another perfectly. Also people, yes Lord Byron actually did live in a gothic castle, he was a weirdo.