Frankenstein (1931) / Bride of Frankenstein (1935) or How Women Ruin Everything

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Is he a Zombie? I vote he's a Zombie.
Is he a Zombie? I vote he's a Zombie.

Genre: Horror Thriller

Starring: Boris Karloff (The MummyThe Black Cat), Colin Clive (Jane Eyre (1934)Mad Love)

Directed By: James Whale (The Invisible ManShow Boat)

Overview to Frankenstein: Doctor Frankenstein - semi-mad semi-genius has developed a way of creating life out of death. Unfortunately what his assistant doesn't tell him when the good doctor creates his first man is that the brain used in the experiment is an abnormal one. Go figure, it's violent. When Frankenstein's monster gets loose, it spells terror for the whole town.

Overview Bride of Frankenstein: The Monster flees to the woods following the townsfolk's wrath and finds friendship in a blind man. Doctor Frankenstein receives a visit from a mysterious stranger hoping to collaborate with him on his next experiment in creating life. How could anything possibly go wrong!

Frankenstein is one of those classic films that carries a certain degree of hype. For as much as I may have a natural affinity to classic monsters like Godzilla and King Kong, I've been burned by uber-classic stinkers The Mummy and Dracula, and have decided to add a hefty pinch of salt to the innate trust I grant to classic monsters. Considered to be Boris Karloff's fame-making, if not greatest role, one might be driven to equate Frankenstein with greatness, but as I've found in the past, the legend is mightier than the (patchwork) man.

The pacing is typical for a film of it's era: theatrical, expository and with secondary characters you'd rather see impaled on a pike or hucked from a lightning capped tower. With such wonderfully creative mood-enhancing directorial decisions as having a hideous assistant with terror-inducing potential reduced to 'idiotic simpleton bordering on comic relief' status, or the intentionally idiotic old housemaid who was nothing but a constant stream of inappropriate comic relief, we have in Frankenstein the kind of film that looks like it was intended for younger audiences, while still having incredibly atmospheric scenes such as harvesting body parts off dead men dangling from nooses at twilight or the life-giving experiment itself complete with those classic ever-arcing oversized electric machines in that immense drafty tower. Sadly these moments of greatness did nothing but make me mourn how the rest of the film was so mundane even more.

Much as it was with the original Dracula, we have here something that seems to have been churned out without too much effort spent on making a horror, instead being content in squeezing out a story with some pretty spooky bits thrown in.

 "I know! I get the WORST Static Cling!"
"I know! I get the WORST Static Cling!"

Performance: 6 Cinematography: 8 Script: 5 Plot: 7 Mood:7

Overall Rating: 66% (It's Alive, But Barely)

Now just as Dracula's Daughter was a three-seconds-later B-grade sequel to Dracula, so too is Bride of Frankenstein to its original. Following the last scene of the last film, we find The Monster alive and well in the cool and refreshing cavern under the climactic windmill of the 1931 film. Guess who rears her ugly face (and boy do I mean ugly) as one of the first characters on the screen but my favourite whiny shrieking old biddy of a maid, who swears she saw him again. Next comes a visit from a man who is ripe to bump Dr. Frankenstein to Mad Scientist Silver Medalist. Not only does he know about The Monster but he hopes to collaborate with Franky to make a lady. This standard rote of a mediocre film takes a turn for the pathetically ludicrous when mad Scientist #2 whips out a bunch of mason jars with miniature people in them: A king, a queen and some other imbeciles which somehow prove that a.) he's a strong worker with enthusiasm, experience and a real live résumé b.) This movie has no hope of redeeming itself.
 
All is not lost however. What manages to salvage Bride of Frankenstein some semblance of dignity is The Monster and his character development, given that he says more this time around than "UUuunnnnnRRRrrrrGggggggg!!" Had this film focused on the friendship that The Monster made and the humanity he gains from it could have made a much more interesting character arc than the story we focus on, that of the two doctors and their latest experiment. I personally would have preferred a story where a monster becomes more human, only to be given the gift of a bride crafted in the same fashion as he was. What lovely irony that he would then find her all too monstrous. Sadly, Bride of Frankenstein is nothing more than Saturday matinee family fare and the sort of film that has been entirely built up from iconic hype and - admittedly great - costume design. This poor old dame should have faded to obscurity the way Dracula's Daughter did.

She looks great, but she's literally 7 minutes of the movie.
She looks great, but she's literally 7 minutes of the movie.

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 7 Script: 5 Plot: 6 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 62% (Freakin'Stunk)
Aftertaste:

Currently #225 on IMDb's Top 250  I'll be the first to admit that Frankenstein is of those iconic films that need be seen to point at a cultural context of an era, one of those films that critics needs to see because of it's overall relevance, or, in short, a movie that shouldn't be on IMDb's 250 best movies. Watching it is more like work than enjoyment. Yet another film that proves my own tastes from this generation: 1931 = early talkie = not for Squish.

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I liked "Frankenstein" as a pre-code morality tale much more than as a horror film. "Bride of Frankenstein" really irritated me, and despite being told it was ironic and deliberately campy, I just didn't get it. And I had the exact same reaction you did to discovering the maid was back in "Bride". I almost stopped watching at that point.


Stacia! A woman after my own heart. I still don't get how Frankenstein is one of AFI's Top 100 films EVER MADE


October 2010 update: Frankenstein is no longer on the IMDb's top 250.

Thank you society, for making me right.


Wait until you see The Wolf Man.  Besides just the boring, campy plot, I am supposed to believe a beautiful blonde woman would fall for Lon Chaney Jr! Oh come on!!

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