Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein
Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein
Toward the end of Halloween I became interested in the Frankenstein mythos after watching some Munsters, Mockingbird Lane and Young Frankenstein. It dawned on me that I had never seen the original 1931 movie or its very popular sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, from 1935. So I rented them from Netflix and watched them the other day. Even though it is after Halloween I still want to review them and recommend them.
One of the things I wanted to say about these films is that they strike the right tone for me. I am not a big fan of the horror genre so for in order for me to like them they should not be too gory or frightening…although there are exceptions. The movies create a tone that is more creepy than frightening. I am not sure how audiences of the 1930s saw these films. Here in the 21st century I have been desensitized by films much more graphic and frightening so these movies are low on the fright factor. Therefore it is within the realm of credibility that audiences from the 1930s were more frightened by these films that I was. These movies are classics and they still hold together well. This is despite the fact that acting styles have changed greatly since the 1930s. If you can accept the melodramatic approach to acting that most films of this era had, then it should be easy to relax, sit back and enjoy the film.
The movies were loosely based on Mary Shelly’s Gothic novel “Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus and stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. Clive and Karloff shine as the Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature respectively. One of my complaints about the movie is that it doesn’t delve too much into the motives behind why Frankenstein wants to bring the stitched together corpses of dead people back to life. The movie starts with Dr. Frankenstein and his assistant, Fritz, (Igor wouldn’t be featured until later movies) grave robbing and taking down a recently hung person from the gallows. If Dr. Frankenstein is to be seen in a sympathetic light then without the motivations for his actions his behavior seems bizarre and creepy. Maybe that is what they were going for?
I do like the fact that Karloff’s depiction of the Creature is semi-sympathetic. He is shown as a mistake of nature…or science…and is misunderstood. However, he does act in ways that are monstrous. He strangles people that are after him and mistakenly drowns a young girl. This drowning was highly controversial back in the day and state censors had that scene removed as well as a line of dialog where Dr. Frankenstein mentions he knows what its like to be God. All that is shown from the Creature drowning the young girl is him throwing her into the water. The actual throw itself is obscured because we only view it from behind the Creatures head so we do not see much. After she hits the water the scene quickly cuts to the Creature wandering through the woods despondent to what he has accidentally done. These scenes do help us have sympathy for the creature. As scene where Fritz is shown enjoying himself as he torments the Creature with a torch also has us feeling sympathy toward the Creature. There are times when the Creature does seem to kill in moments of fear and anger that detracts from that sympathy. In these ways the tone of how we are supposed to feel toward the Creature are uneven and mixed.
The movie is entertaining and the scenes of Dr. Frankenstein bringing his creation to life and shouting “It’s Alive!” is well known and exciting to watch. The film ends with the appearance of angry torch bearing towns people, their anger comes from the father of the dead girl having brought her body to the streets of the village looking for the Creature, cornering Frankenstein and his creation in a windmill that is burned down. One question I have in the continuity of the film was how did the father know the Creature drowned his daughter when he was nowhere in sight when it happened?
The squeal came out in 1935 and picks up immediately where the original left off. We see that Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature have indeed survived the burning of the windmill. Frankenstein marries his long time fianceé and swears off his medical experiments. The movie follows Frankenstein’s mentor, Dr Septimus Pretorius, as he tries to persuade Frankenstein to return to his work and create a mate for his suffering creature. The creature, now learning to speak, understands that he is rejected and feared because he has been created by the parts of the dead. Frankenstein finally relents to creating a mate for his creature. In the end this mate that is created for him ultimately rejects him! Ouch, that has got to hurt!!
This is actually a very well made film and I have only one complaint. First let me qualify this complaint. I enjoy science-fiction and fantasy movies and one of the aspects of being able to enjoy these types of movie is the ability to suspend disbelief. In these types of movies the ability to do that can be subjective. I may have no problem with a starship flying at warp speed through space or a giant monsters stomping on Tokyo…or even a corpse comprised of stitched together body parts coming to life. But there is one scene that completely takes me out of the movie making it very difficult to suspend disbelief. This scene involves Dr. Pretorius and his efforts to convince Dr. Frankenstein to resume his work. Dr. Pretorius displays his own creations to impress Dr. Frankenstein by presenting him with jars full of homunculi. A Homunculus is a miniature fully formed person. In this movie Dr. Pretorius has miniature living people in a jar. They are a queen, king, archbishop, devil, ballerina, and mermaid. For example the king represents a 6 inch version of King Henry VIII of England all decked out in royal finery This scene took me completely out of the movie! I thought it belonged more in a comedy than a horror movie and was just ridiculous. Although I can respect the 1930s special effects it took to make this scene, it is just too strange and silly for me to have taken it seriously.
Over all though both movies are still very entertaining. Another point I want to make is that both movies are very short by today’s standards. Frankenstein clocks in at 71 minutes and Bride clocks in at 75 minutes. Since Bride picks up right where the original left off it is easy to see this as one story instead of two movies.
Posted on November 5, 2012, in Movie Recomendation and tagged Boris Karloff, Bride of Frankenstein, Colin Clive, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Monster, John Boles, Mae Clarke, Mary Shelly, Mockingbird Lane, Munsters, The Creature, Universal Studios, Young Frankenstein. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.