BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest
Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester
Director: James Whale
Audio: Dolby Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 75 minutes
Release Date: October 19, 1999
The Bride of Frankenstein shines
like a true gleaming gem amongst Universals vast library of classic horror films. It was also perhaps the crowning achievement for
legendary director James Whale. Above all,
its a film that violates conventional wisdom that a sequel can never surpass the
original. This one proves it can be done, no
matter how unlikely it may seem. Perhaps all
of Hollywood could take a few lessons from Whale on how this can be achieved:
Lesson Onetake a strong central character and develop him. Boris Karloff, who became a cultural icon when he
created the role of the monster in the first film, gets to take his creation further in
this film. He learns to speak, and through
his limited but strong vocabulary, he is able to give voice to the monsters
feelings, thoughts and intentions.
Lesson Twohave a solid story to tell. James Whale didnt need to do more of the
same for his sequel
fortunately for him, there were rich, sumptuous parts of Mary
Shelleys original novel that had been left completely unexplored in the first film. By tapping into those fresh waters, Whale had a
legitimate continuation to the first story.
Lesson Threebe more creative.
Whale initially didnt want to do the sequel, but finally agreed because
Universal gave him virtually unlimited freedom to do the picture his way. As such, what we see on screen is much more
personal and involved
particularly the touches reflecting Whales sense of
humor. Whale also was able to give this
picture more and better production values, which he used to further establish the mood and
atmosphere of his scenes.
Lesson Fourtake what was best from the original, and give the
audience more and better. The monster had
moments of pathos in the first film. Here,
he is given a lengthy, heartbreaking scene where he pairs up with a blind hermit
only man who hasnt run screaming from his hideousness. Its one of the most beautiful scenes in
movie history. And since weve seen the
creation sequence in the first one and know how it works, Whale really delivers the goods
in this picture by saving the sequence to the end, and making it louder and more frantic,
with better special effects and more interesting uses of camera work. Notice how the angles and shadows on the
mens faces in this scene look almost mad, or even evil.
Whale was able to accomplish all of these objectives and more with
this movie, proving once again that he was one of Hollywoods most visionary
directors. And if the look of the original
monster has become something of an icon, so too has the look of the bride (Lanchester),
with her electrified and streaked hair. Like
Karloffs image, Lanchesters has been copied and spoofed throughout cinema. And like Karloff, what she brought to the simple
role was more than just the make-up. Her
final hiss of rejection toward the monster is unforgettable.
Of course, the Frankenstein series
would continue on for years, but without the participation of Whale
and as such, none
ever came close to the creative apex of the first two films. All franchises eventually fall into the trap of
looking like self parody, but in this case, nothing could diminish the genius of a
terrific director in his prime, and the mark he left on cinema history.
Universal once again delivers a nice transfer for a vintage film from their collection. I find the overall quality of this disc to be slightly less than the original Frankenstein. The first film had some inconsistencies, but this one just seems a tad soft and slightly grainy throughout. Again, I emphasize slight. Safe to say, this is the best the Bride has ever looked, and possibly will ever look.
The mono soundtrack is clean, and virtually free of the distracting
surface noises usually associated with older films.
As with the first film, The
Bride of Frankenstein comes fully packed. There
is a commentary track by a film historian, a 45 minute documentary of the film, an archive
of publicity items and photos, production notes, cast and crew bios, and a trailer.
The Bride of Frankenstein is more than just another sequel it is the apex of Universals classic horror years. It is dark, eerie, yet funny and moving, with a terrific cast and a true master director at the controls. This is one no horror fan or film history buff should be without.