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Film: Bride of Frankenstein
The most famous hairdo in movie history.

"To a new world of gods and monsters!"
Dr. Pretorius

"We belong dead."

The 1935 sequel to the 1931 film Frankenstein, this is widely considered to be the best of the old Universal Horror movies. Boris Karloff and Colin Clive reprise their roles as the monster and Dr. Henry Frankenstein, respectively, while Ernest Thesiger joins the proceedings as as Dr. Septimus Pretorius and Elsa Lanchester plays the eponymous Bride.

We begin in the home of Lord Byron, entertaining his friends Percy and Mary Shelley as a storm rages outside. At Byron's urging, Mary continues the story of Frankenstein, picking up about where the original film left off.

Henry Frankenstein just barely survives the collapsing windmill, but so does the monster. Shortly thereafter, Frankenstein receives a visit from his old mentor, Dr. Pretorius, who wants to join forces and continue Frankenstein's experiments to create life. In one of the movie's most memorable scenes, Pretorius shows Frankenstein a series of little people in jars, including a mermaid, a ballerina and a little devil. Pretorius can make people, but he can't get them up to normal size. Frankenstein, meanwhile, has created a giant. And so Pretorius proposes a plan: Frankenstein will provide the body, and Pretorius will provide the brain.

Meanwhile, the monster has several encounters with angry villagers and is eventually taken in by a kindly old blind hermit. The hermit teaches the monster to speak, and is the only friend he's ever had. Naturally, the villagers show up and drive the monster away, and he goes to a graveyard to find solitude among the dead. And whom should he happen to meet but Dr. Pretorius gathering parts for the new creature. Enticed by the possibility of having a friend, the monster forms an alliance with Pretorius.

Frankenstein, meanwhile, is getting cold feet about creating another monster. In a sequence reminiscent of the original novel, the creature and Pretorius kidnap Frankenstein's young bride, Elizabeth, and threaten to kill her unless he makes the monster a mate. It all leads up to an explosive conclusion in Frankenstein's laboratory, where the new monster has finally been born.

One thing to note: Although the monster is childlike and rather sympathetic, he still kills people — a lot of people. Film historians put the original death count at 21, but it was edited down to 10 due to the film content restrictions of the time. At one point the monster seems to break into an elderly couple's house and kill them just because. Like King Kong's tendency to eat people, the monster's violent nature is often glossed over to facilitate a "we are the REAL monsters" aesop.

The franchise was continued in Son of Frankenstein.

The Bride of Frankenstein, despite rather short screen time, is one of the eight Major Universal Monsters.

Bride of Frankenstein provides examples of:

  • Artifact Title: In Shelley's novel, "Frankenstein" was the name of the scientist, and the monster was nameless. This was also the case in the 1931 film. This film, titled Bride of Frankenstein despite the fact that the Bride is meant for the monster and not the scientist, is arguably the reason that the monster came to be named "Frankenstein" in popular culture.
  • As You Know: Used a lot in the opening scene of Byron and the Shelleys. First Byron describes himself, Percy and his wife Mary in great deal to them, and then goes on to recap the first film's events.
  • Axe Before Entering: After the Monster is chained up in Goldstadt's jail, he is quick to break his bonds and rip two doors off that stand in his way to freedom.
  • Beehive Hairdo: The Bride famously sports one of these, which also has two Skun Stripes on its sides.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Pretorius, whose need to create life in new ways drives the plot.
  • Blind and the Beast: After the Monster escapes from jail, he comes across a hut with violin music coming out of it. Inside it, he meets an old blind hermit, who welcomes him soothe his own loneliness. The film is possibly the trope maker.
  • Book Ends: The film opens with Mary Shelley, played by Elsa Lanchester, telling the story of Frankenstein. As she begins relating the sequel, she spreads her arms wide... and at the end of the film, the Bride of Frankenstein, also played by Lanchester, makes the same gesture.
  • Call Back: Clive repeats his legendary "It's alive!" line (this time amended to "She's alive!").
  • Camp Gay: Dr. Pretorius. Director James Whale reportedly told the actor to play him "like an over the top caricature of a bitchy and aging homosexual."
  • Cassandra Truth: After witnessing the monster's return, Minnie attempts to tell about it to one person but is just scoffed at. She then decides to shut up about it.
  • Catch Phrase: Dr. Pretorius tells about every vice that he has that "It's my only weakness."
  • Crucified Hero Shot: When the villagers have caught and tied up the Monster on to a pole, they momentarily raise him up, creating this effect.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Dr. Pretorius could have become famous for his telephone-like invention. That is, if he cared about money at all, rather than playing God.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Never in her career did Elsa Lanchester look so good.
  • Damsel in Distress: The Monster, on Dr. Pretorius' orders, kidnaps Elizabeth so that her husband will co-operate in making a bride for him.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Monster, after realizing that no-one will ever love him after seeing his bride-to-be's reaction to him, decides to destroy himself along with the tower.
  • Dr. Genericius: Dr. Pretorius, one of the earlier examples in cinema.
  • Dutch Angle: Used in a lot of shots in the scene where Henry and Dr. Pretorius prepare to install a new heart to the bride.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dr. Pretorius' henchmen Karl and Ludwig are appalled by their work on robbing graves. After one such deed, they agree that it is a terrible life for a murderer.
  • Fainting: Hans' wife faints when she sees her husband fall through the windmill's rubble, just after warning him that searching the place is dangerous.
  • Grave Robbing: Dr. Pretorius has his henchmen Ludwig and Karl dig up bodies for his and Henry's upcoming collabration.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Minnie describes Dr. Pretorius as "a queer fellow". Which may have been deliberate — see Camp Gay, above.
  • Heel Realization: While not outright stated, the Monster only decides to let Frankenstein and Elizabeth go and kill Pretorius when he sees how much Elizabeth loves Frankenstein, who he'd previously helped Pretorius separate.
  • Hostile Weather: Storm rages outside in the prologue, much to Lord Byron's joy.
    Byron: How beautifully dramatic!
  • Hulkspeak: How the Monster talks once the blind hermit teaches him to speak.
  • Hysterical Woman: Minnie is quick to scream and flail at surprising things.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Elizabeth describes a vision of an evil apparition which will entangle Henry, and says she sees it drawing nearer — nearer — and the camera immediately cuts to the evil Dr. Pretorius knocking at the door.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted again. Once the Monster escape from the jail, its victims are soon discovered around town, which includes a little girl.
  • Instant Sedation: When the Monster's pestering of Henry to finish his work proves to be a nuisance, Dr. Pretorius lures him aside with a promise of booze, and puts a sedative into a glass that presents to him. Once the Monster finishes his drink, it knock him off of his feet.
  • Inventional Wisdom: At the end of the film, the enraged Monster is rampaging through the lab. As he approaches a very large wooden lever Dr. Pretorius shouts, "Don't touch that lever! You'll blow us all to atoms!" The question must be asked: if you were collecting all the supplies and fixtures you'd need to build your super high-tech lab, how far down the list would "a lever that will blow us all to atoms" be?
  • It's Going Down: The Monster flips a lever that destroys the tower housing the laboratory at the end.
  • Immune to Bullets: Villagers and policemen try to stop the Monster with bullets, to no avail.
  • Not Quite Dead: The Monster is thought to have died within the burning windmill, but he simply fell through to a cavern below.
  • Oh, Crap: Henry's reaction when he learns that the heart of a "young victim of sudden death" as he requested Karl to get was "A very fresh one" and a "police case".
  • People Jars: Dr. Praetorius shows off his work in creating life— little people (and a mermaid— "an experiment with seaweed") — in jars.
  • Previously On: Lord Byron brilliantly recaps the previous film's events as being the story that Mary Shelley wrote. Considering they mention that the novel hasn't even been published yet, this may make Byron something of a naive psychic.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The monster, due to him possessing the brain of a criminal. He murders several people but doesn't do it for any particular reason until the end when he kills Pretorious. He just doesn't understand his own actions or the world around him until he's taught some very basic ethics by the hermit.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: After seeing his reflection on water, the monster splashes it angrily.
  • Science Is Bad: Partially subverted. The reformed Dr. Frankenstein is forced by evil Mad Scientist Dr. Pretorius to return to his old ways. The twist: Early on, Pretorious shows us his collection of tiny humans in glass jars, practically announcing that he's Mephistopheles. To this, Frankenstein replies, horrified, "This isn't science!" Here, sane Science Is Good, and has standards, but Black Magic Is Bad.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Pretorius' tower comes down in a series of explosions when the Monster pulls a certain lever. Its actual purpose is never told.
  • Shadow Archetype: Dr. Pretorius is what Dr. Frankenstein would become if he were to give in to the For Science!-method of thinking.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The monster learns to speak, although this was subsequently dropped for the next film.
  • Taking You with Me: The Monster decides that he, his bride and Dr. Pretorius are better off dead, and after letting Henry and Elizabeth go, pulls the lever that destroys the tower.
    The Monster: We belong dead.
  • Title Drop: After the bride is unrvelled from her shrouds, Dr. Pretorius is proudly declares "The Bride of Frankenstein!"
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Once the villagers learn that the Monster lives, Burgomaster quickly organizes a hunting party to capture him.
  • Tortured Monster: The monster. He blows himself and his bride up with the comment, "we belong dead."


Werewolf of LondonUniversal HorrorDracula's Daughter
BreathlessDanny Peary Cult Movies ListA Clockwork Orange
Werewolf of LondonFranchise/Universal HorrorDracula's Daughter
Frankenstein (1931)Creator/UniversalSon of Frankenstein
Frankenstein (1931)Horror FilmsSon of Frankenstein
BreathlessRoger Ebert Great Movies ListThe Bridge on the River Kwai
42nd StreetNational Film RegistryThe Ox Bow Incident
Frankenstein's MonsterImageSource/Live-Action FilmsBlind and the Beast
Frankenstein (1931)Films of the 1930sSon of Frankenstein

alternative title(s): Bride Of Frankenstein
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