Today I am continuing with the second of the Franks which I believe to be the greatest of the three films made in the 1930s. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) introduced us to the lighting haired mate of the monster and many other elements that will be clear to any fan of Young Frankenstein (1974).
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) was directed by James Whale. Whale was born in England and began producing plays while he was in a German POW camp during WWI. Whale had 23 directing credits including The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), Show Boat (1936), The Invisible Man (1933), Frankenstein (1931), Hell’s Angels (1930) (uncredited) working with Howard Hughes. A great quote of Whales is “A director must be pretty bad if he can’t get a thrill out of war, murder, robbery.”
The first actor that will discuss is Boris Karloff. Boris Karloff who was billed in this movie as just Karloff. I don’t think I will get much argument if I say he was the greatest Frank of them all. Although Peter Boyle was pretty good.
Karloff was a British actor that began stage work in Canada and then made his way to Hollywood. He made some silent films but had to maintain jobs such as ditch digger to survive. By 1931 Karloff was on his way with The Criminal Code (1931) and Five Star Final (1931), a film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Of course, the biggest role of all was that of the monster in Frankenstein (1931). Karloff was about 5 feet 11 inches. The costume that he wore for this role had 4-inch platforms and weighed 8 pounds each. Karloff’s costume was designed by Jack Pierce and was copyrighted by Universal Studios making it harder for other studios to copy the success of Frankenstein. Oddly Lon Chaney Sr, father of Wolf Man Lon Chaney Jr. Was offer the role of the monster but died before the filming. It was then offered to Bela Lugosi who turned it down because he didn’t want to be covered by makeup.
A year later, Karloff played Imhotep in The Mummy and the starring role in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). He played non-horror genres as well such as being gunned down in a bowling alley in Scarface (1932) and a religious soldier in The Lost Patrol (1934).
However, it seems that horror was his thing. Karloff played in four Frankenstein movies, the original, today’s movie, Son of Frankenstein (1939), that also featuring Lugosi, House of Frankenstein (1944), and the Frankenstein 1970 (1958 ) as the grandson of the original creator where he showed that the original Baron had given his own face to the monster.
Colin Clive was a British actor that had a very short career. You know him from the phrase “it’s alive, it’s alive.” Unfortunately, he drank himself to death at the age of 37. In these first two talkies Frankenstein’s he played Henry Frankenstein the creator of the monster.
Elsa Lanchester played the roles of Mary Shelley and The Monster’s Mate in Bride of Frankenstein. In the role of the bride, she had to wear her hair wired up and her eyes taped open. Lanchester was born in England. As a child, she studied at Isadora Duncan’s School in Paris.
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She began her movie career in 1927. In 1928 she did four films with Charles Laughton. They married the following year. Although they remained married until his death in 1962 it was widely noted that Laughton was a homosexual.
Lanchester was persistently dogged by her role in the bride even 40 years later. She liked to play quirky roles with a bit of humor. She did this in such films as The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Mary Poppins (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965), and Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968)
Una O’Connor plays the role of the housekeeper Minnie. O’Conner was an Irish actress that was consistently cast as comic relief. She had a very heavy Irish accent and a very animated face. She is outstanding in Invisible Man (1933), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). When watching Young Frankenstein (1974) you can see Cloris Leachman virtually channeling O’Conner from Bride of Frankenstein. (1935).
E.E. Clive was a Welch born actor that played the role of the Burgomaster. He started films late in life with one of his earliest role being in The Invisible Man (1933). He made almost 100 pictures in a very short career but he was generally typecast as a stiff butler or foreign aristocrat.
Two American actors had small uncredited parts in this movie. Walter Brennan played a neighbor and the great John Carradine played one of the hunters that stumbled into the monster at the Hermit’s Cottage.
Dwight Frye has a small part as Karl which is now the Igor character. He was closer to Renfield from Dracula (1931) a part he also played.
This movie begins with a couple of English dandies, Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) in a room trying to convince Mary Shelly (Elsa Lanchester) to tell them a story. If you didn’t know what was coming you might switch the movie off at this point.
Since Mary Shelley was the author of Frankenstein she reveals that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and the Monster (Boris Karloff) did not die.
The movie flashes back to the windmill fire from Frankenstein (1931). The mill collapses and it seems that the doctor and the monster are dead. The burgomeister (E.E. Clive) tells everyone to go home. Most do but the father of the little girl that was killed by the Monster wants to see the bodies. He goes into the ruins and falls through the floor where he finds the monster he is looking for. The monster is alive and well and kills the man and later knocks off his wife.
Minnie (Una O’Connor) also sees the monster alive but no one believes her. When she saw the monster she declared him alive and a bit later she saw Dr. F’s hand move and declared him alive too.
Frankenstein is trying to settle down after creating a monster and surviving the fire and spend time with his new bride (Valerie Hobson). However, his old college professor Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), shows up and wants him to keep working on monsters. When Dr. P talks to Minnie he says he needs to see Dr. F “a matter of grave importance”. See what they did there. Pretorius has been experimenting but has only been able to make tiny people by growing from kelp and such. Dr. P said he got the mermaid from kelp, so what did he use for the king, queen, ballerina. He created a satan so he must have used a jalapeño for that.
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Dr. F made his monster large so he could be sewn together more easily.
The people in the village find out that the monster is alive and they manage to capture him. After the monster is chained up the Burgomaster says “now he can get back to more important things”. I wonder what was more important that a 7-foot monster killing people around the village. So they chain the monster up like King Kong was chained in New York.
The monster escapes and goes int the woods. Shortly he hears a violin and wanders to the house of a blind hermit (O.P. Heggie) who praises God for a friend who just happens to be the spawn of hell. who teaches the monster to like violin music, cigars, bread, and wine. The sounds like a pretty good life. The two bachelors are living better than Felix Unger and Oscar Madison when two hunters come to the cabin and find the monster. One of these hunters is John Carradine, the father of Kung Fu AKA Kwai Chang Caine. During the fight, the cabin is burned, and you know how the monster feels about fire, so he runs away and is alone again.
The monster goes on a mini-rampage where he attacks crosses, looks into water, is misunderstood by shepherd girls. There is a whole bunch of symbolism and juxtapositions but you can watch the movie for all that. I do like when he attacks a gypsy family for their food. This reminds of the times when gypsy and monsters roamed the forests of Europe (at least in the movies) and the time, my mother, though gypsies were going to kidnap me in Germany. But that’s another story.
The monster hides in tombs. He sees a dead woman and gets an idea. Dr. Pretorius shows up to rob graves and runs into the monster. Dr. P then convinces the monster to kidnap Mrs. Dr. Frankenstein. Henry is forced to go back to the lab and make a mate for the monster. Dr. P makes another toast when the work begins – “To a new world of gods and monsters”
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When the mate (Elsa Lanchester again) is animated she has a shocking hairdo but immediately hates the monster hissing at him like a London swan.
The monster is so upset that he lets the Dr. And Mrs. go. The monster then pulls the exploding castle lever killing himself, Dr. Pretorius, and the mate. Or so it seems.
By 1939, in the Son of Frankenstein (1939), the monster is back.
Just a few notes before the summary. It makes me wonder why an exploding switch was present in the castle. It’s kind of like the gate in King Kong (1933).
In the first Frankenstein (1931) they used a ? for the actor playing the monster. This was a bit of publicity stunt as Karloff was not a well-known actor. By the time of the Bride Karloff was down to one name.
In this movie, they gave Elsa Lanchester credit as Mary Shelly but put down a ? for who was playing the monster’s mate, a nod to the previous movie.
I also wonder what the job announcement for Dr. F’s lab assistant looked like. You had to work at night, commit crimes, rob graves, fly kites, use advanced electrical equipment, make meteorological prognostications, and work with monsters and mad scientist. Probably minimum wage.
Finally, you need to watch this movie more than once. Watch it one time with the sound off and just watch the shadows in the background.
World-Famous Short Summary – Dr. tries to get his get his life back to normal after unleashing a giant green monster on the public. Has a few bumps before everything settles down.