Welcome to the first article of this year’s Halloween series. Every Monday and Wednesday throughout October until Halloween day, Nerds and Beyond will be sharing our favorite Halloween-themed TV episodes and spooky movies. Today we are opening the time capsule and taking a deep-dive look into the horror classic, The Bride of Frankenstein.
The horror classic, first released in 1935, is the groundbreaking sequel to the film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. The story takes place right after the events of the first film. Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) recovers from his injuries from the mob attack and quickly falls under the control of his former mentor Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who wants to use Frankenstein’s expertise in creating life to build a whole new species of people. Meanwhile, the monster (Boris Karloff) goes on the run from the people who seek to destroy him after escaping the attack.
Despite the film being an iconic horror classic, it was well ahead of its time and wrapped in controversy. At the root is a theme of free will and a person’s right to choose, a plot for many modern stories, including the popular CW show Supernatural. At the forefront, you have two men taking life and death into their own hands in the hope of becoming living Gods as they create a sub-species of humans created and controlled by their desires. That’s where the bride comes into play. Cleverly enough, she doesn’t appear until the very end of the movie. But throughout the story, Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius want to create the perfect mate for Frankenstein’s monster, with traits they believe to be desirable. They look at the bride as if she is a livestock, and the only goal is the reproduction of offspring. The plan ultimately blows up in their face when the bride comes alive and meets the monster for the first time. The new creation screams, showcasing her distaste and fear of Frankenstein’s monster, proving that the basic fundamental right of humanity is our ability to think and choose for ourselves.
On the flip side, you have the monster experiencing the world for the first time. The misunderstood creature is hiding in the woods in fear of his life when he meets and befriends a blind hermit. The older man takes in the monster without question, showcasing that there is still kindness in a world full of cruelty. The hermit doesn’t know Frankenstein’s monster is an unholy creation. He recognizes someone needing help. Quickly a friendship develops, and the monster learns basic skills like speech and human needs and feelings. The monster understands that food will sustain his life. But he also becomes gluttonous in his desires. The monster realizes he is the only one of his kind and becomes lonely, wanting companionship leading him back to Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius. The monster meets his supposed bride but faces a harsh reality of life we don’t always get what we want. Despite our best efforts, not everyone will accept us.
Mary Shelley was only 18 years old when Frankenstein was published and her writing broke glass ceilings going against the grain of what people expected of her. In a way, the film is a love letter to her. The beginning of the film subtly expresses this. When the audience meets Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), she is sitting in her house having a conversation with her husband, and their male house guest asks how she can write about such ugly and horrifying things. Shelley replies: “An audience needs something stronger than a pretty little love story. So, why shouldn’t I write of monsters?”
Long with its controversial storytelling. The Bride of Frankenstein paved the way for the use of special effects. The film began doing what many others of its time were too afraid to do, exploring new and unique ways to tell the story. In 1935 there was no such thing as CGI; everything had to be done by hand, and filmmakers relied heavily on mirrors, object placement, and camera work.
One film moment that sticks out the most to me for its use of special effects is when Dr. Frankenstein visits Dr. Pretorius for the first time. Pretorius tells Frankenstein that he has also been experimenting on life. Pretorius walks over to his table, lifting a sheet revealing his groundbreaking work. Mason jars with miniature-sized people inside, moving and talking; one tries to escape. The characters appear smaller than a Barbie doll, while everything else stays in proportion to the room. The realism of this moment is hands down one of the best illusions I have ever seen.
The Bride of Frankenstein is rated PG for its use of disturbing imagery and violence.
I hope you enjoyed this recommendation and give The Bride of Frankenstein a watch. Check back all month long for more Nerds Gets Spooky articles exclusively at Nerds and Beyond.