"To a new world of gods and monsters!"
Classic horror movie sequel, released by Universal Pictures in
1935. The film was directed by James Whale, with a screenplay by
William Hurlbut, based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel
"Frankenstein." John J. Mescall was the cinematographer, and Franz
Waxman provided the outstanding musical score. Jack Pierce provided
the makeup effects. The film's stars included:
The film starts with a sequence in which Percy Shelley and Lord Byron
praise Mary Shelley for her novel. Mary reveals that she had plans for
the story beyond the end of the novel and tells the poets about where
her new plotline would've gone. At that point, we're transported to a
point almost immediately after the end of 1931's "Frankenstein" film,
which was also directed by Whale and starred Karloff and Clive. Both the
Monster and Dr. Frankenstein are shown to have survived the terrible
fire in the windmill that ended the first movie. The Monster wanders
the countryside, attacking some people, being captured, escaping, and
meeting a blind hermit who befriends him and teaches him to speak.
Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein meets up with an old mentor, Dr. Pretorius, a
diabolical schemer who has discovered his own more mystical key to
creating life, though his people are grown from seeds, only a few inches
tall, and confined to glass jars.
Pretorius wants Frankenstein to make another creature, but he is
understandably reluctant. But Pretorius soon meets the Monster himself
and wins his aid when he tells the lonely creature that he and
Frankenstein will make him a mate. The Monster kidnaps Frankenstein's
fiancee, Elizabeth, and Frankenstein throws himself into the work of
creating a female monster to keep his own bride-to-be safe. At last, the
experiment is a success -- but the Bride is attracted to Dr.
Frankenstein and repulsed by the Monster. Exhorting Frankenstein and
Elizabeth to flee the laboratory, the Monster pulls a lever that
blows up the old castle, destroying himself, Pretorius, and the Bride.
The film is generally considered one of the lucky few sequels to be
better than its predecessor. Whale hadn't expected much from the sequel
and simply decided to enjoy himself while making it, a decision that
paid off both commercially and critically. Critics, normally dismissive
of horror movies, were often effusive in their praise for the film,
and its reputation has grown steadily over the years.
The film had four really important characters -- Frankenstein,
Pretorius, the Monster, and the Bride. And of those four, Frankenstein
is the least significant. Clive was a long-time alcoholic, and his
drinking had gotten worse since the first movie, but Whale liked Clive
and felt that his ability to fly into deranged hysterics was something
that no other actor would be able to provide.
Thesiger as Pretorius steals almost every scene he's in. James Whale
was an openly homosexual man, which has led to questionable theories
that he intended the Monster to be depicted as gay or at least
bisexual. But there's not a shred of doubt that Thesinger plays
Pretorius as a flaming, almost over-the-top stereotype. How much of this
may have been acting and how much was part of the actor's actual
personality is open to debate. Thesiger was rumored to be gay, despite
a marriage to a friend in 1917. Nevertheless, no matter how
flamboyant his behavior, Pretorius is hardly a figure of fun -- he has
a devious nature quite separate from his presumed sexuality and
compares himself at least once to the Devil himself.
The Monster gets a number of interesting developments in his own
personality. Most significantly, he gets an IQ upgrade and learns to
talk. Karloff himself was not very happy with this -- he felt that the
Monster worked better as a silent character. However, the more vocal
Monster gives us some truly wonderful moments -- learning to speak in
the hermit's hut, his conversation with Pretorius in the crypt, and
his heartbreakingly hopeful "Friend? Friend?" when he meets the
And of course, there's the Bride. Elsa Lanchester is in this film for
only a few minutes, but she earns her status as the title creature. Her
inhuman, bird-like movements, deranged shrieks and hisses, and
her iconic, electrified-Nefertiti bouffant have made her almost as
influential as Karloff's Monster. Lanchester's Bride is simultaneously
beautiful and repulsive. Frankenstein certainly did a better job of
piecing her body together, but the brain, grown by Pretorius, is clearly
more defective than the one in the Monster's head. Would she have
been able to become anything other than a pretty, hissing monster if
she'd survived? The world will never know.
"You stay. We belong dead."