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Film / Bride of Frankenstein

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Henry Frankenstein: She's alive! ALIVE!
"To a new world of gods and monsters!"
Dr. Pretorius

Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 horror film directed by James Whale. A sequel to Whale's 1931 Frankenstein, it is widely considered to be the best of the classic 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 Dr. Septimus Pretorius and Elsa Lanchester plays the eponymous Bride.

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

Henry Frankenstein just barely survives the burning of the 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 with Frankenstein's experiments to create life. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, Pretorius shows to Frankenstein a series of miniature people in jars, including a mermaid, a ballerina and a little devil. It seems that Pretorius can make people, but 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 that is reminiscent of Shelley's 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, in fact. Film historians put the original death count at 21, but it was edited down to 10 due to The Hays Code restrictions of the time. At one point the Monster appears to break into an elderly couple's house and kill them just because. As with 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. In 2007, Dark Horse published an Alternate Continuity sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein: Pandora's Bride, which follows the Bride and Dr. Pretorius to Weimar Berlin to face off with a rogues' gallery of German Expressionist film characters.

The titular Bride of Frankenstein, despite her rather short screen time, has become a huge icon for classic horror movies and is one of the most widely merchandised of the Universal Horror monsters.

This film helped to promote the common misconception that Doctor Frankenstein's creature was himself named "Frankenstein", though it's certainly not the first instance of this misconception, which can be seen in political and movie related cartoons dating back long before this movie.

A remake of The Bride of Frankenstein set in the Universal Dark Universe was scheduled for a 2019 release, but is currently in Development Hell due to the poor performance of said movie universe's first film, The Mummy. Also of note is a haunted house at the 2020 and 2021 editions of Halloween Horror Nights named Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, which serves as a semi-official sequel to this film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The film resurrects the "bride" from the novel which was dropped in the first film.
  • Adipose Rex: Doctor Pretorius creates a series of homunculi, including one who's a lookalike for Henry VIII.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Unlike later portrayals of the character this version completely averts this. Henry feels guilty over the chaos that happened because of his creation and only agrees to make the bride because he was forced to by Pretorius.
  • Animal Motifs: Elsa Lanchester said that her spitting, hissing performance was inspired by the swans in Regent's Park, London. "They're really very nasty creatures," she said.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: The Dull Surprise 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.
  • Arc Words: Continued from the first film, "Sit down."
  • 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.
  • Ascended Extra: While Frankenstein does build a mate for the Creature in the novel, he destroys her before she can be animated. But the movie's eponymous bride is actually brought to life.
  • 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.
  • Attractive Zombie: The Bride is meant to be conventionally attractive, as she was built by the Doctor to be a suitable wife for his earlier creation. Just like her mate, she's assembled from stolen corpses.
  • 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 and soothes his own loneliness.
  • 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 / Depraved Homosexual: Dr. Pretorius, although with The Hays Code in effect by this point it's naturally not stated outright. James Whale (who was gay himself) reportedly told Ernest Thesiger 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.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Death of a Child: Once the Monster escapes from the jail, its victims are soon discovered around town, which includes a little girl.
  • Denser and Wackier: Bride of Frankenstein might very well be the first self-aware horror film, and while it's still a dark film with deep themes and genuine terror, it also contains a fair amount of Black Comedy. This was a huge change of pace from the original Frankenstein, which was straight horror. Director James Whale purposefully wanted to give the sequel a different tone to stand on its own.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Monster, after seeing his would-be mate's horrified reaction to him and realizing that no-one will ever love him, decides to destroy himself along with the Bride and Pretorius. ("We belong dead.")
  • Disney Villain Death: The Monster throws Karl off the castle roof to his death.
  • Dramatic Irony: During the reunion between the Monster and Frankenstein that Pretorious "arranged", Frankenstein is nothing short of shocked that his creation can now speak. Pretorious claims he personally taught the Monster language during his absence. But the audience knows Pretorious is lying through his teeth and taking credit that isn't his: he didn't teach the Monster to speak, the blind man did.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: At the beginning, Henry is diagnosed 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.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: In form of a prologue. The main story is told by Mary to her two friends during a dark and stormy night. An epilogue was filmed but later cut from the final film.
  • Foreshadowing: The homunculus king tries to get at the homunculus queen, but she apparently doesn't like him. Later, the monster's bride rejects him in a way parallel to the homunculus queen's distaste for her king.
  • Freudian Slip: When Henry bemoans if he can keep the new heart beating for long, Karl lets it slip that it was a "fresh" heart. This alerts Henry to suspect that Dr. Pretorius's methods are a little more unethical than he bargained for.
  • 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". This may have been deliberate innuendo, since the director actually intended for Dr. Pretorius to come across as gay — see Camp Gay, above. However, the term was not yet widely used in this connotation at the time this film was made, and if it was deliberate, then it is an anachronism as the earliest known use of the term in this context was in 1894, some years after the setting of the film.
  • 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!
  • Hulk Speak: How the Monster talks once the blind hermit teaches him to speak.note 
  • Hysterical Woman: Minnie is quick to scream and flail at surprising things. She's apparently somewhat known for this, as when she sees the monster firsthand and warns everyone, she's immediately brushed off as just another one of her hysterics.
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dr. Pretorius, as of forcing Henry into creating a bride for the monster. in the end, both the monster and the bride agree on it. Henry escapes with Elizabeth, and Pretorius is blown to bits by the flip of the lever, along with the Monster(I lied) and the bride.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 he presents to him. Once the Monster finishes his drink, it knocks him off 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.
  • I Warned You: Minnie tries to tell everyone the monster is still alive, everyone writes her off. She decides that this washes her hands of any responsibility for any deaths the monster creates.
  • Ironic Echo: In the first movie, when the monster first came to life, Henry's first command was "Sit down". When the monster and Henry cross paths for the first time since the previous movie, the former crossly commands the intimidated latter to "Sit down".
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The prologue opens this way.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The final note of the musical score, played just as the laboratory explodes, is a very powerful dissonant chord, made to be so loud that it would slightly shake the seats in the movie theater. Whale came up with this idea, and meant for it to suggest that the explosion was so massive that it even affected the real world. This element is, unfortunately, mostly lost when watching it on home video. Without meaning to, Whale had essentially come up with the concept of "theatre gimmicks" like Sensurround that would emerge 20 years later. Fast forward to the 21st century, and it's commonplace for movie theaters to have insanely powerful sound systems, with some even utilizing "butt-kicker" subwoofers under your seat to achieve the same effect.
  • 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film veers between horror and camp comedy and from plausible (if unlikely) cyberpunk science to outright fantasy. There's also a whiplash between this film and the more-serious initial Frankenstein (1931) film before it and Son of Frankenstein after it.
  • Never Learned to Talk: The Monster talks once the blind hermit teaches him how to speak, implying he didn't know how to rather than being physically unable to. Justified since he was only a few days old.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer promises "a lifetime of entertainment in two hours". The final edit ran 75 minutes.
  • No One Could Survive That!: The concerned woman in the beginning to her husband "Come home, Hans. Nothing could be left alive in that furnace.". Then both end up being killed by The Monster.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The lab's Self-Destruct Mechanism seems poorly secured.note 
  • Not Named in Opening Credits: Zig-zagged. Like with the preceding film, the titular monster (the Bride, in this case, though she is called "The Monster's Mate") is credited with a question mark. However, Elsa Lanchester, who played the Bride, also plays Mary Shelley in the prologue, so her name does appear in the credits.
  • 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".
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted from a franchise perspective as Dwight Frye plays a character named Fritz, which was the name of the character he played in the first Frankenstein film; the characters are different, however, given the first Fritz was Killed Off for Real by the Monster.
  • 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.
  • Post-Defeat Explosion Chain: Pretorius' tower comes down in a series of explosions when the Monster pulls a certain lever.
  • 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. He also describes a few scenes from the movie that weren't in the novel at all.
  • 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.
  • Redemption Equals Death: The monster, but not really.
  • Revised Ending: The well-known goof of Henry being present as the tower explodes was a simple matter of studio interference and budget constraints. As originally shot, Henry was to die at the end along with Pretorius, the monster, and the bride. But Universal demanded a happy ending, so Whale reshot the ending to show Henry escaping with Elizabeth. Notice that the contradictory scene where Henry is briefly seen is the one with the explosions and pyrotechnics going off. This was an expensive scene to shoot, and Whale wasn't given an adequate budget to reshoot it, so the original shot was retained.
  • Running Gag: Dr. Pretorius has a habit of referring to things as "my only weakness": gin, cigars, etc.
  • Science Is Good: Played with. 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 by having one be a devil and saying "There's a certain resemblance to me, don't you think? Or do I flatter myself?" To this, Frankenstein replies, horrified, "This isn't science!" Here, sane Science Is Good, and has standards, but Black Magic Is Bad. However, Pretorious' creations seem harmless enough (if a bit lecherous in the case of the king), and the brain he creates for the Bride is far less aggressive than the one the monster got. It's really the unscrupulous acts he's willing to perform to achieve his goals (including blackmail, kidnapping, and murder) that are evil, not the science itself.
  • Secondary Character Title: The Bride is only in the movie for the final five minutes.
  • 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 have become if he'd completely given in to the For Science!-method of thinking.
  • Sperm as People: Several homunculi (tiny people thought to come from sperm in the past) live in a jar.
  • Stock Footage: Footage from the first film is shown while Lord Byron is remembering the story.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Conveniently, a storm is rising up when one was needed to provide power for the creation of the Bride.
  • Suddenly Speaking: The Monster learns to speak, although this is dropped for the next film before being brought back sporadically in later entries.
  • Sudden Name Change: Maria's father was named Ludwig in the first film; now he's called Hans (and played by a different actor).
  • 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 townspeople have captured and imprisoned the Monster, the town mayor 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, the latter assures her that everything will be fine. Cue the Monster entering through the window.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: While many of the original posters (such as the one above) gave the film's title as The Bride of Frankenstein, the actual onscreen title omits the definite article.
  • Title Drop: After the bride is unraveled from her shrouds, Dr. Pretorius proudly declares "The Bride of Frankenstein!"
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Once the villagers learn that the Monster lives, the Burgomaster quickly organizes a hunting party to capture him.
  • Tortured Monster: The Monster. He blows himself, his Bride, and Dr. Pretorious to smithereens with the comment, "We belong dead."
  • Truer to the Text: Despite its Denser and Wackier nature, Bride incorporates key elements from the novel that were omitted from the first film, including the Monster's ability to speak and reason (albeit to a lesser degree), his brief friendship with a blind old man, his vendetta against Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's coerced creation of the Monster's mate.
  • Überwald: As with the original, this film is set in some quasi-Victorian, Middle European 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 of a corpse than her husband-to-be.
  • Villain's Dying Grace: Although it wasn't intended to end this way by James Whale (who wanted Dr. Frankenstein to die too and originally filmed it this way until Executive Meddling forced a change), the Monster, as he's about to blow up Pretorius, the Bride and himself, unexpectedly decides to show mercy to his creator and his own bride by giving them time to escape.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • We never hear again from the blind man who was ushered away from his burning hut.
    • The fate of the little people in the jars is also left unrevealed; they were presumably living creatures, but the (assumed) death of Pretorius in the finale leaves the question open as to who will take care of them.
  • 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 No Take Candle: The Monster speaks this way.
  • Zerg Rush: How the Monster gets captured by the villagers. Although strong enough to push a large boulder onto a couple of his pursuers, dozens more rush in and overwhelm him immediately afterward.