Following on from the success of the original Frankenstein, this horror sequel Bride of Frankenstein is one of the most recognisable and parodied horror films of the Golden Era of Cinema. The 1930s is considered one of the great decades of horror films (along with the 1970s) and stars such as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were household names for playing archetypal horror characters such as Dracula, The Mummy and in this case Frankenstein’s monster. Due to the success of preview screenings of Frankenstein, the ending was altered to allow the character of Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) to survive and appear in Bride of Frankenstein.
Famous authors Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) are discussing the upcoming publication of Mary’s novel Frankenstein. Questioning the ending of the story, Mary reveals that there is more to the story and informs her two listeners that the Monster (Boris Karloff) and Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) have both survived the mill burning that ends the original story. She goes on to explain that despite wanting to wash his hands of the whole affair, he is lured and eventually coerced into making a mate for the monster with his former mentor Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger).
Bride of Frankenstein is one of the most iconic films of the 1930s. Everything from the now recognisable face of Frankenstein’s monster, to the burning torch and pitch-fork-carrying villagers, this is one of the films that helped to create the archetype of one of the most famous horror characters in history. The production values are surprisingly good for what is effectively a B-Movie, with huge sets portraying the forest, the burnt mill and Frankenstein’s castle. Like the original, Bride of Frankenstein is a cautionary tale for scientists not to play at being God, but there is a deeper level for the uneducated letting their fear lead them to deal with outsiders in a harsh and violent fashion and there’s even some heavy imagery to link the Monster’s persecution with that of Jesus Christ.
Bride of Frankenstein initially struggled with censorship issues. During the 1920s there were concerns with the character of Frankenstein referring to himself as God, while Dr. Pretorius was considered an overtly homosexual character. The Monster has a scene starring into the eyes of his as-yet-reanimated body, which were considered a form of necrophilia while the opening scenes with the Shelley’s and Byron were considered too risque because Mary Shelley exposed too much cleavage. In possibly the most absurd censorship issue however was from Japanese censors whom considered the representation of King Henry VIII being picked up by tweezers as offensive by “making a fool out of a King.” Strangely the obvious Christian imagery throughout, including the Monster being attached to a cross in a Christ-like pose were ignored almost entirely.
Bride of Frankenstein is very much of its time and the sometimes camp over-the-top acting may serve as off-putting to modern audiences. There is no denying though that the script and central narrative are as impacting and memorable today as the day it was released, leaving the legacy of Bride of Frankenstein intact as one of the greatest horror films of all time.