The Bride of Frankenstein, Directed by James Whale
Universal Pictures, April 22, 1935 (US)
Screenplay: William Hurlbut, suggested by the Marry Shelley novel Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, and Ernest Thesiger
Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger): We shall drink to our partnership. Do you like gin? It is my only weakness.
I am a huge fan of horror movies. They are my only weakness. It is no wonder that I get excited when, on those increasingly rare occasions, a new horror release garners a general consensus of positive reviews. Just this past summer two such flicks that shall remain nameless garnered considerable hype and decent critical acclaim, but I left the theater on both occasions feeling duped and disappointed. Where was the fear? The creepiness? Even the camp? I was looking for something more. As a fan, I expected more.
Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester): It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror. The air itself is filled with monsters.
I am always in the mood for a good horror movie but different circumstances or times of the year scream horror more than others. Like in the fall on a stormy night—the kind of night that The Bride of Frankenstein begins and ends on, with lightning and thunder forecasting mayhem. During a snowstorm, The Shining is always a good choice. In late October with leaves rustling suspiciously along sidewalks, we will always fear the reaper despite Blue Oyster Cult imploring us otherwise in a song on a car radio in John Carpenter’s Halloween as Laurie Strode and Annie Brackett are driving together to their respective baby-sitting gigs, oblivious to the fact that the reaper himself (one Michael Myers) is tailing them from directly behind.
I just wish there were more new and great horror films to choose from on those perfect nights when the mood is just right and you want to turn off the lights, curl up with a blanket and some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the ride. The old standbys are wonderful, but the genre seems to have died a slow, torturous death in recent decades. Occasional attempts at revival are typically soulless retreads more concerned with cashing in quick on a big opening weekend haul rather than creating something with legs that might stand the test of time as a new classic. Where are Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius when we really need them? Surely, they could bring the dead horror genre back to life!
Dr. Pretorius: To a new world of gods and monsters.
Bravo to the likes of De Palma, Carpenter, Craven, Hooper, Scorsese, Friedkin, and Fincher for infusing quality into the genre, carrying the torch from greats like Hitchcock, Polanski, Romero, Corman, Tourneur, Fisher, and Whale. It isn’t as if horror has not been in the hands of great masters from the beginning. But what of the new generation of filmmakers?
The Monster (Boris Karloff): [seeing that Dr. Frankenstein isn’t busy at work] WOOORK!
I get that making money isn’t a bad thing. Heck, money is my only weakness.
Dr. Pretorius: Here, have a cigar … they’re my only weakness!
Was I being overly critical? Perhaps, but as a fan of the genre, I feel a duty to be critical to ensure sustainability of an important art form. And it is an art form. In The Bride of Frankenstein, you could take any number of stills of the gorgeously shot Dr. Pretorius alone and use it as a template for what the face of pure sinister evil should look like. What would cinema be without the beauty of diversity?
The Monster: We belong dead!
I understand that not everyone appreciates horror. That is perfectly fine. But many cinephiles tend to be snobbish towards horror’s importance, similar to how comedies or animated features are received—genres that are noticeably and routinely left out of Academy consideration in regards to the most prestigious awards. I've said it before: When it comes time to honor the top films of the year, a film like The Silence of the Lambs is by far the exception and not the rule.
For now, as I wait for the next Scream to reboot the genre, I and other fans like me will have to be content in revisiting the great horror films of old. Today, it is 1935 and The Bride of Frankenstein.