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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

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.

This film provides examples of:

  • Animal Reaction Shot: The shot on an owl watching the monster drowning a man and his wife in the cavern below the windmill.
  • Answer Cut: Elizabeth describes a vision of an evil apparition which will entangle Henry, and says she sees it drawing nearer — nearer — and the camera cuts to the evil Dr. Pretorius knocking at the door.
  • 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 Skunk Stripes on its sides.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Pretorius, whose need to create life in new ways drives the plot.
  • Blatant Lies: Karl's "It was a ... Police case."
  • 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.
  • Bookends: 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."
  • Cardboard Prison: The town's prison was not built to withstand the forces of the Monster and hence he has little problems to remove himself from it.
  • 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."
  • Collapsing Lair: The fate of Pretorius' tower at the end. Henry and Elizabeth escape Just in Time.
  • Creating Life: A running theme through the Frankenstein franchise. Here it's Dr. Pretorius seeking to be a creator of life.
  • 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.
  • 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 his bride and creator.
  • Disney Death: Henry is thought to be dead in the beginning but turns out just fine after being taken home.
  • 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.
  • Evil Laugh: Dr. Pretorius has it.
  • 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.
  • Finger Twitching Revival: At the beginning, Henry is diagnoses dead by the villagers after the explosion, so they take his body home and place it on a table. Soon after, the maid cries out when his hand starts moving, then he comes to. Of course, as one of the main characters he had to have Plot Armor.
  • Framing Device: In form of a prologue. The main story is told by Mary to her two friends during a dark and stormy night.note 
  • 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.
  • He Went That Way: One of the villagers uses this phrase, unintentionally misdirecting the mob to look elsewhere while the monster is hiding in a crypt at the cemetery.
  • 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.note 
  • Hysterical Woman / Screaming Woman: Minnie is quick to scream and flail at surprising things.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Monster, on Dr. Pretorius' orders, kidnaps Elizabeth so that her husband will co-operate in making a bride for him.
  • 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?
  • Immediate Sequel: Bride picks up right where the original Frankenstein leaves off.
  • Immune to Bullets: Villagers and policemen try to stop the Monster with bullets, to no avail.
  • It's Going Down: The Monster flips a lever that destroys the tower housing the laboratory at the end.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The prologue opens this way.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Dr. Frankenstein has kites raised up in the air once a lightning starts to rage outside the tower. The bride is given life after one lightning bolt hits them.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Pretorius, who is revealed to have been The Man Behind the Man to Dr. Frankenstein.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Pretorius to both Frankenstein and his Monster, in order to get life created.
  • Manly Tears: The Monster sheds a Single Tear right before he pulls the lever.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer promises "a lifetime of entertainment in two hours". The final edit ran 75 minutes.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The lab's Self-Destruct Mechanism seems poorly secured.note 
  • Not Named in Opening Credits: Elsa Lanchester never receives on screen credit as "The Bride". The character is listed as being played by "?".
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • The Monster is thought to have died within the burning windmill, but he simply fell through to a cavern below.
    • Also Henry, dying his Disney Death.
  • 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".
  • Our Homunculi Are Different: Dr. Pretorius' little people (with different personalities) in jars. They aren't called homunculi, but are obviously supposed to be.
  • People Jars: Dr. Pretorius 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 Pretorius. 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.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The musical soundtrack for this film proved so popular, it was used again in the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials starring Buster Crabbe.
  • 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, Pretorius 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
  • Skunk Stripe: The bride's hair features these.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Conveniently, a storm is rising up when one was needed to provide power for the creation of the Bride.
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: On several occasions:
    • After the town people have captured and imprisoned the Monster, the town major downplays the situation to concerned citizens by saying "Go to your homes. Just an escaped lunatic. Quite harmless." Cue the Monster bolting through the prison gate onto the street. Everybody panics.
    • A similar situation at the Gypsy camp. The father assures everybody that the Monster is safe in jail, when suddenly the Monster stumbles into the camp.
    • When Minnie voices her concerns about leaving Elizabeth alone in her room, latter assures her that everything will be fine. Cue the Monster entering through the window.
  • Title Drop: After the bride is unraveled 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."
  • Überwald: Like the original, this movie is set in some Victorian never-never-land, not quite Germany, not quite Transylvania, not quite anywhere else between France and Russia.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The Monster's supposed wife was crafted with much more sophisticated methods, making her seem less a corpse than her husband-to-be.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never hear again from the blind man who was ushered away from his burning hut.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Monster, who is by turns sympathetic and pointlessly cruel.
  • World of Ham: Lord Byron from the prologue, as well as Henry, Dr. Pretorius, Karl and Minnie are playing for Large Ham.
  • The X of Y: The X being "Bride" and Y being "Frankenstein".
  • You Look Familiar: Dwight Frye, who played Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant Fritz in the original film, appears here as Karl, a non-hunchbacked toady to Pretorius. The monster also kills him.