Monster flicks were all the rage back in the day weren’t they? Dracula...Frankenstein’s Monster...that creature from the Black Lagoon. All of them were at the forefront of horror cinematography. As the years go by...society's taste in horror changes. Frankenstein’s Monster (zombie?) doesn’t scare little children anymore as much as home invasions and school shootings. The fact is...old horror films rarely age well in the fear department. That isn’t a slight against how movies were made back then, rather it is an indictment on the human condition. Cultural arts evolve depending on the conditions around us.
As viewers from a different generation than when Bride of Frankenstein came out, it can feel like you are watching a different world. The acting is over the top, the scares are minimal, and the plot seems to drag. When critics say that a film has aged well...what does that even mean? Just like artwork or anything that an individual analyzes...it is more about the combination of parts rather than their individual pieces. Bride of Frankenstein doesn’t bring scares and realism to the table...so what exactly does it bring?
The film is a perfect transition from Frankenstein. If you haven’t seen the original I suggest watching it before this film, although you can still understand what is going on. The Monster survives a burning tower and is now being hunted by all of the villagers. Henry Frankenstein, thought to be dead, is alive and seemingly in a much better place mentally. A new villain, Dr. Pretorius, is introduced in this film. Delightfully mad, this doctor coerces Henry Frankenstein into creating a wife for the lonely Monster.
The first 50 minutes of the film focuses on The Monsters need for companionship, which feels refreshing considering all the horrible people we see in modern horror films. The first stages of the film also focus on the villages relationship with The Monster. There is something very primitive, yet exciting, about watching a bunch of villagers with pitchforks and torches. There is also an evolution taking place in The Monster. His intelligence and humanity is more in line with a typical human, which increases the amount of sympathy and compassion you have for his hardship with the people around him. Don’t get me wrong...Frankenstein’s Monster can kill with the best of them, but you are forced to ask yourself who the monster really is.
It is the last 20 or so minutes of this film that really shine. We finally get to see the creation of The Bride! While she doesn’t have a ton of screen time, something about watching her shriek and stare is horrifying yet incredibly rewarding. Still, it is disappointing that we didn’t get to see more of her.
Bride of Frankenstein excels in storytelling to the point that complex themes such as morality, religion, and love are brought to the forefront. While you are not scared one bit in the traditional sense, you are scared by the emotions of the characters and the resolution for both Frankenstein's Monster and The Bride. Over the top acting, slow pacing, and a lack of “horror” will turn many people away, but just remember that this film is more important than how it plays in the present. A great story that asks questions of its viewers never ages badly...and Bride of Frankenstein is a perfect example of that.
If you liked Bride of Frankenstein, you might also like Frankenstein.