Horror films don’t come any more classic than Bride of Frankenstein. Not only is this arguably the best of the Universal Monster pictures, but it features two of the most iconic monsters in cinema history.
Firstly we have Boris Karloff’s The Monster, who is both scary and sympathetic. Again he delivers the ultimate portrayal of Mary Shelly’s most famous creation. So strong is Karloff’s performance that unlike Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, his portrayal of The Monster hasn’t lost its relevance after all these years.
Elsa Lanchester is equally iconic as The Monster’s Bride, and while her role isn’t one that’s been reinterpreted endlessly like Karloff’s, it’s still one that has meaning for modern viewers. The Bride’s design might be a little silly, especially compared to Karloff’s bulky, mechanical look and acting, but its unarguably unique and impacting.
The film could have done with a little more screen time exploring the concept of The Bride and perhaps her perception of the world compared to The Monster’s and it’s a tad disappointing that the title character only appears briefly at the end. The story leading up to the animation of the Bride is hampered by a dull Frankenstein (Colin Clive) being pushed around by the much more interesting Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger). Along with this most of The Monster’s story is too similar to his escapades in the original Frankenstein (1931).
However the characterisations are what make this film shine, best exemplified by the genuinely touching interplay between The Monster and the old blind hermit (O.P. Heggie) who takes him in as a friend and gift from god. It’s very charming, seeing the hermit teach The Monster how to properly enjoy food, wine and bizarrely, a good smoke.
Bride of Frankenstein, for the most part, is a wonderful historical horror.