When the director calls the script for a sequel to his original masterpiece a load of crap, you know you can’t be on to a good thing. However, that’s exactly what James Whale said when he first read the screenplay for the sequel to his iconic Frankenstein. Now, continue reading the history books and you’ll discover that Whale was extremely unwilling to go ahead with the picture unless it was done under his terms. Which is great and a wonderful sense of understanding that a job is only as good as the effort you put into it. Good for you Whale.
The problem is, for me, Bride is a bit of a mess. Broad strokes of comedy sit uneasily next to scenes of pathos and horror. After the Monster (Boris Karloff) brutally kills two people, the murders are immediately followed by a scene in which a villager spies and, subsequently, runs from the Monster in a way that would have made Benny Hill blush.
There’s also scenes that make no real sense as to their belonging. Responding to an invitation from Dr Pretorious, his ex-mentor, Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is introduced to the doctor’s new experiment. Pretorious, played with camp glee by Ernest Thesiger, joyfully pulls jar after jar out of his bag. Each one containing a miniature person, ranging from Henry VIII to the Devil. It’s all so completely bewildering, you wonder what it’s relevance could be. In the end, it just seemed to be a long preface to Pretorious saying ‘You know what? We should make another creature! How awesome would that be?’. Well, words to that effect anyway.
The film does have its good points. The titular monsters played by Karloff and Elsa Lanchester are skillfully done. Lanchester plays the Bride with twitchy limbs and hype-screaming, making her seem almost reptilian. It’s a shame that the Bride’s arrival and departure is so short.
Bride could really have done with a bit of trimming, which is unusual for a film that is only 70 minutes long. It takes at least nine minutes to get to the actual as we have to make do with a bizarre conversation between Shelley, Byron and Shelley as they discuss the events of the first film. It’s truly a lesson in overacting and I cringed through most of it.
So, when Whale made the big call about the script all those years ago, it’s a shame he didn’t stand by his guns a bit longer.