Bride of Frankenstein is the 1935 sequel to the 1931 film Frankenstein. It was directed by James Whale. It 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 her rather short screen time, has become a huge icon for classic horror movies and is one of the most commonly merchandised of the monsters of "Universal Horror".
This film helped to bring along the misconception that Doctor Frankenstein's monster was named "Frankenstein", though it's certainly not the first instance of this misconception. It 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.
This film provides examples of:
- 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.
- 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 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 / 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.
- 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.
- 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.")
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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: 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.
- 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 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 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.
- Though 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.
- Skunk Stripe: The Bride's hair features these.
- 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 Voiced: The Monster learns to speak, although this is dropped for subsequent films.
- 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 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, his Bride, and Dr. Pretorious to smithereens with the comment, "We belong dead."
- 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 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 No Take Candle: The Monster speaks this way.