Review by Matt Bailey
Posted on 17 October 2004
Source Universal Pictures DVD
features: October: 31 Horror Films
Director James Whale originally did not want to make a sequel to his 1931 film, Frankenstein, but thank goodness he did. While the first film (despite its reputation as a classic) is leaden, stagy, and muddled, the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is light on its feet, brisk, and full of wicked humor. Whale’s camp sensibility (which he had in spades) is expressed more clearly and more prominently, particularly in the comic histrionics of actress Una O’Connor (always a joy in any film) and in the arch prissiness of Dr. Pretorious as portrayed by camp stage legend Ernest Thesiger.
It is a rare gift to be adept at combining horror and comedy, but James Whale did it well and did it more than once. Though his The Invisible Man is not painted on as broad a canvas as Bride, it successfully mixes a grim subject with acutely mordant humor. Not one to whomp an audience over the head with a message or with scares, Whale’s horror often works in subtle and arcane ways, even if his humor is patently broad. I don’t think that Whale was trying to get anyone to jump out of their seat with fright with his films, but I am sure he felt that the idea of creating a monster and his (sexual?) mate out of corpses was enough to give most people a sleepless night or two. Moreover, the suggestion that the monsters would be sentient and possessed of the emotional capacity to be suicidal was simply beyond the pale.
With its 75-minute running time, cutting wit, beautiful cinematography, and performances that range from the Shakespearean to the vaudevillian, The Bride of Frankenstein is a film that I can watch again and again (and often do). It is one of those extraordinary films that transcends genre and period to provide fresh, untold pleasures year after year.