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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/8/99

The Bride of Frankenstein
Classic Monster Collection - 1935 (1999) - Universal Studios

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

The Bride of Frankenstein: Classic Monster Collection Film Ratings: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/A

Specs and Features

75 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1 aspect ratio), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 51:05, at the start of chapter 12), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track with film historian Scott MacQueen, documentary She's Alive!: Creating The Bride Of Frankenstein (written, directed and produced by David J. Skal), poster and stills gallery, cast and crew bios, theatrical trailer, web-links, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), language: English (DD mono), subtitles: English and French, Close Captioned

"To a new world of gods and monsters..."

No film lover will ever erase from their mind, that madman yell Colin Clive brings forth during the birth of his newest creation, "She's alive!" Nor can you shake the image of the strangely beautiful Elsa Lanchester, in her mummy wraps and Nefertiti hair, being presented to the audience complete with wedding bell chimes in the background. Is it possible that The Bride Of Frankenstein is the best-made horror sequel of all-time? For some film scholars, it's the greatest sequel period (although I'm a Godfather 2 supporter on that one). Historians have poured over every aspect of this film since it was first released in 1935. There are plenty of studies of the camp-styled humor in the performances, the hidden meanings in that witty dialogue, breakdowns of the homosexual undercurrent (best illustrated online here), and Jack Pierce's ground breaking make-up, used to discern Frankenstein's Monster in this film from the last. It just goes to show how truly deep this "horror" film can be. It also makes this a huge DVD for everyone's collection. Of all the Universal Classic Monster Collection released so far, this is the best-presented film in the series. Let's see if I can properly put into words why I think that is.

First, let's talk about the story. The Bride of Frankenstein is a direct sequel to the first film. It opens with Lord Byron, Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley and Percy Shelley discussing the wonderful book Mary has written. Her modern Prometheus has captivated Byron, and he wants to know more -- so Mary tells him. The story picks up where the last film ends, at the burning windmill. The town's people are off to bring the body of Victor Frankenstein back to his castle, and are plenty satisfied that the Monster is dead. He isn't of course, and proceeds to slaughter the old couple from the first film, whose daughter Frankenstein's monster accidentally killed (by throwing her into the pond). Victor Frankenstein is also not dead, but emotionally, he's pretty much destroyed. Enter his old mentor Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger), a wicked, wicked man who has evil, evil plans. Meanwhile, Franky is running around an expressionistic hillside, hiding from bloodthirsty townspeople who want him locked up. Kind of ironic, if you think about it. Who is the real monster? The mob or the Monster? It's not a hard question to answer. The Monster is lonely, especially after his time spent with a blind hermit in the forest. While there, the Monster learns to respect fire, and grow a taste for fine cigars, a good glass of wine, and music. That friendship ends after two hunters come upon the hermit's home and "rescue" the hermit from the Monster's clutches. The Monster is on the run again, and soon meets up with Pretorious while he's hunting around for spare parts. The evil Dr. Pretorious' plans are starting to take shape, and now the last piece is in the puzzle, when the Monster is brought back for a little face to face with his creator.

The Bride Of Frankenstein is a more a character study than anything else, and it's the characters that make it work. The Monster isn't in the first act very much, aside from the windmill opening. He comes back into the story at the end of the first act, some 25 minutes into the film. He's been endowed with the power of speech, a new trait that Karloff didn't support, but it truly adds a new layer to the creature. It's also well integrated into the film, for he doesn't start to speak until after he meets the hermit -- leading us to believe that the hermit taught him, which is a nice touch indeed. The Bride herself isn't in much of the film, but she's magnetic enough to capture our memories. When she is finally unveiled, with her electroshocked hair and lightning white streaks, it's cinema magic.

Few films create such household images, and the Universal series of horror films are probably the most successful at achieving that honor. The Bride, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Invisible Man are all films with instantly recognizable creatures and imaged, and this DVD is exceptional in its presentation of some of those images. The picture quality is a bit on the grainy side (hell - it's 64 years old), but it's very digitally clean, and full of rich detail. The source print is in an incredibly well-preserved state. There are a few noticeable "fixes" here and there, but the picture quality is quite good. Sound-wise, the track is a straight mono. It's a very solid mix with no pops, drops, spits or cracks. It sounds very natural, and represents the Waxman score beautifully. I've never seen this film in better condition, and I'm excited to own this grand presentation.

The excitement gets even greater after you play around with the extras on board this remarkable DVD. Included here is another Skal-produced documentary, that dives deep into the lore, mystery and history of the making of this film. It runs about 39 minutes, and is a perfect length. Joe Dante hosts this one, and as a voice-over narrator, he does a wonderful job. On-camera, he shows that he reads quite well, but little more. The documentary features Karloff's daughter, Rick Baker on the make-up effects, and a host of loving film historians, who couldn't say enough about the film. The only thing that I found a problem with in the documentary, is that it has a few conflicting data notes when compared to Scott MacQueen's commentary track. Listen and watch to see if you catch them. I don't want to give them away, because the disc does such a good job presenting the film's history, that I feel it would be a shame to break anything down here. You should find everything out yourself on this disc.

Speaking of the commentary, its really well done. Right now, it's my favorite of the three Monster discs out now. MacQueen knows and loves this film, and he is really easy to listen to. MacQueen talks about the film and its history in chronological order, from the creation of the idea, to its development and production, all the while building off the info with more stuff about the actors, writers, James Whale, alternate drafts and censorship problems the film faced. It's was a long way from idea to screen, and MacQueen makes it fun to listen to. I hope he pops up on future installments of Universal Classics Monster DVDs. Other extras include a well-written production notes section, an informative cast and crew section, web access, and a badly-preserved trailer. It's all here on one disc, and is well worth the time and money spent on it. I can't wait for the next volume.

All my life I've loved monsters, and now I know why. This fine disc presents the making of a classic in a way that's as fun as it is enjoyable. You honestly feel like you're learning more about something you've loved your whole life. I can't think of a better way to watch this film than on DVD. Your movie collection will benefit by having this disc on your shelves.

Todd Doogan
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