"Warning! The Monster demands a Mate!"

A review by palash_ghosh

Coming to screen five years after the first Universal 'Frankenstein,' the sequel, 'Bride of Frankenstein' is a far superior picture in many ways and mixes in heavy amounts of humor. To abide by the constraints of making a commercial Hollywood film, the brilliant director James Whale had to radically alter or do away with entire parts of Mary Shelley's novel and insert his own perverse view of marriage and sexual role models into the film. In the book, for instance, Victor Frankenstein 'aborts' the 'Bride' before it can even come to life, fearing she and the Monster could breed a whole new race of monstrous, sub-human beings. In the film, it is the Monster who destroys the bride after she cruelly rejects him.

The most unforgettable character in 'Bride of Frankenstein' was Dr. Septimus Pretorius, the strange, evil, satanic 'doctor' who coerces Dr. Frankenstein into helping him create a bride for the monster. It's not clear to me if Pretorius was based on any character (or combination of characters) in Shelley's novel or not. Still, whatever the inspiration was, Pretorius (played by the magnificent, wild-haired and needle-nosed British actor Ernest Thesiger) keeps the film in high comedic gear and never allows the grim storyline to overcome the movie as entertainment value.

Much has been made of James Whale's homosexuality, and how his gayness has been imparted onto his 'Frankenstein' opuses. The recent excellent film, 'Gods and Monsters' (with Sir Ian McKellen playing an elderly, dying Whale) exploits this theme throughout. Not only was Whale gay, so were the leading stars, Colin Clive (who drank himself to death a few years after) and Thesiger. Moreover, Elsa Lanchester (The Bride) was married to the notorious homosexual actor, Charles Laughton.

Some of the key points of the 'gay analysis' of 'Bride' asserts that the very creation of the Bride without a woman is itself a defiant ' homosexual act; that the only healthy, nourishing relationship in the entire film was between the Monster and the blind hermit (two men), and that Whale perhaps viewed himself as a 'Monster' of sorts - a lonely, sad creature despised by society and forced to run and hide.

Despite carrying the film's title, the 'Bride' only appears on screen for about four minutes and at the very end. Still, her creation scene is magnificent; Whale cuts and edits like crazy for maximum dramatic effect. And when the Bride appears in her gruesome magnificence and bizarrely streaked haircut, it's pure filmmaking history.

The film is also nicely framed with an introduction that shows Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley inside their villa in Switzerland as a violent thunderstorm rages outside. I think Whale used this device to connect the author Mary (Elsa Lanchester) to the Bride (also played by Elsa). If one is looking for a 'Frankenstein' film that is faithful to the plot and Gothic feeling of the original novel, one should perhaps go see Kenneth Branagh's movie version. But if one wants to be entertained by the vision an extremely talented and creative director, one should watch James Whale's 'Bride of Frankenstein.'

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