Here’s one I watched many times as a kid, and more than a few times as an adult. I like it enough that it was one of the last cuts to my Facebook Fave Fifty list (I’d put it at #77). And while I sometimes think people go a bit overboard when describing its greatness, the truth is, I agree with them.
It lasts only 75 minutes, and you know that makes me happy. What’s is amazing is how much Whale stuffs into that hour and fifteen. It’s a given that a movie this short will (hopefully) lack the extraneous flab that poisons so many films that are twice as long, but despite its economy, Bride of Frankenstein is a burst of excess. The queer subtext is hardly buried at all, and illuminates almost every scene. The film insists on its outsider status, even while somehow convincing the censors that all of the necessary cuts had been made. (The censors were worried about Elsa Lanchester’s bosom when she plays Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, apparently missing Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s fruity contributions to the prologue.) Colin Clive is his usual self as Dr. Frankenstein (how can an actor overact and still be bland?), but Ernest Thesiger is over the top as Dr. Pretorius, thumbing his nose at God and convincing Frankenstein to join him in the creation of The Bride, who may be the first movie monster to be able to say, “I Have Two Daddies”. The townspeople are just as vengeful as they were in the first Frankenstein movie, and while the monster is much more sympathetic this time around, he is at least as brutal, killing more than once person because he can’t control his temper. Dr. Frankenstein is spineless, his wife is simpering, Pretorius is a godless madman, the monster is a killer, Dwight Frye is Dwight Frye … clearly, the only truly likable character in the whole movie is The Bride.
I understand that Elsa Lanchester was odd-looking, but I always thought she was hot in this film, both as the bosomy Mary Shelley and the hissing Bride. (I like Valerie Hobson in general, and think she does the best she can with what she’s given here, especially since she was only 17 when the movie was made. (That’s a bit scandalous, too, now that I think of it … a 17-year-old playing a married woman. Mae Clarke, who played the character in Frankenstein, was 21 at the time.). She had an interesting life and was in a few movies I quite liked. But against The Bride, she had no chance.)
Of course, this would make a nice double-bill with Gods and Monsters, a movie I’ve often recommended anyway because I like to show people that Brendan Fraser is one of our more underrated actors.
Bride of Frankenstein looks great, it holds up almost 80 years later, it has iconic performances, it stands above the other fine classics from Universal’s monster movie era. It’s #308 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. And it gets 10/10 from me.