Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bride of Frankenstein

Universal Pictures
Director: James Whale
Length: 75 min.
Country: USA
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 26 March, 2006

James Whale, for the follow-up to his 1931 Frankenstein decided to go for dark comedy as opposed to straight, serious drama and scares. It turned out just as poorly as the original.

The storyline is just as silly as its predecessor's and begins to feel overlong at 75 minutes. The monster somehow remained alive after being trapped under a wooden beam on the top floor of a windmill set ablaze and collapsed, and begins to wander the countryside, being misunderstood as always.

Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein gets an offer to help another fellow mad scientist out on a similar project (they were working together but separately all along, it turns out), and jumps on it, once again leaving his bride-to-be in the dust. [Spoiler Alert] By the end, the young doctor is able to escape responsibility the second time 'round in another forced and inappropriate happy ending, weakening this film in the exact same way the first one was weakened (you can actually see that the downer ending was filmed and initially included - that's Dr. Frankenstein against the wall in the exploding bell tower). [End Spoiler Alert]

The film also fails at its attempts at comedy, which in this film is either unfunny in its extreme over-the-top nature, or off-putting (sure do love those necrophilia jokes, or wait, no, I don't). The film adds the nails-on-chalkboard character of Minnie, servant to the Frankensteins, played by Una O'Connor to a volume of 11 but given no actually funny lines to work with. I caught my eyes rolling involuntarily whenever she would reappear throughout the film (she's in many scenes - far too many). The scene in which Dr. Pretorious reveals his miniature humans is another particularly eye-rolling and very overlong (it went even longer in an early cut) exercise in unfunny "comedy," though the special effects were quite good, which leads us to ways in which the film works.

Karloff again gives a great performance as the monster - though the decision to have him talk was a giant mistake - and his sweetly homoerotic relationship with the blind hermit is perhaps the only sequence that can be considered an overall success, though it veers a little too far into camp at times. The special effects are top-notch throughout, and the production design (they finally figured out how to smooth out the backdrops) and cinematography are as great as they were in the first film and once again create a wonderfully creepy atmosphere.

But again, as strong as these aspects are, they can't overcome the many weaknesses, and, like its predecessor, I cannot recommend Bride of Frankenstein.


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