Saturday, 26 September 2015

Bride of Frankenstein (5 Stars)

This film was made in 1935 as a sequel to the 1931 film "Frankenstein". The monster was seemingly killed at the end of the first film, but "Bride of Frankenstein" shows us how he survived. The principle actors Colin Clive and Boris Karloff return as Henry Frankenstein and the monster, but Henry's wife Elizabeth is replaced by a newer, younger actress, 17-year-old Valerie Hobson. (I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere). Baron Frankenstein, Henry's father, doesn't return in this film. We're told that he died, making Henry the new baron. The actor Frederick Kerr really did die in 1933, and I believe it was the right decision to rewrite the script rather than replace him with another actor.

"Bride of Frankenstein" is an example of a sequel that far surpasses an original film in terms of success and critical acclaim. Today it's considered to be the best film directed by James Whale, and the best horror film made by Universal Studios. It almost didn't get there. The American film board demanded 15 minutes of cuts from the film, footage which has been lost forever. It wasn't the film's violence that the censors objected to. It was scenes that they thought mocked Christianity, as well as the English actress Elsa Lanchester revealing too much cleavage in the film's prologue. The scene pictured below made it into the film, so what else happened that was so bad? Was she leaning forwards, enticing Percy Shelley and Lord Byron to look at her enormous breasts? Enormous? I've seen bigger.

Elsa Lanchester plays two roles in the film. She appears first as Mary Shelley, then as the Bride herself. At least she kept herself covered up enough to keep the censors happy in the latter role. But she still likes to have the attention of two men.

Something I didn't know until today is that Universal Studios wasn't considered to be a major film company in the 1930's. It was an independent film company, much smaller than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount. Universal was known for making low budget films, which included all of its early horror films. It wasn't until the late 1950's, after changing owners a few times, that Universal was acknowledged as a major studio.

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