Although at times laughable now, back in 1931 James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic horror may well have been truly terrifying. Everybody knows the story; a mad scientist and his hunchbacked assistant rob some graves and, with the aid of a handy lightning bolt, create life in a giant, shambling monster, who eventually escapes his castle prison and is hunted down by a screaming mob with pitchforks and torches. This sense of inevitability is what lets the film down, and the limited effects available 70 years ago makes the film pale in comparison to however you can picture it in your imagination. Boris Karloff (replaced with a large ‘?’ in the opening credits for maximum levels of mystery) is brilliant as the monster, displaying childlike innocence in a giant, rigid, wordless performance that sees him throwing a young girl into a river to see if she’ll float, yet remains the victim in this tale.
The sequel picks up at the exact end of the first film, but is not encumbered by knowledge of the plot, or at least not for me, as all I knew was that at some point a female monster was created with a big black Marge Simpson hairdo with a white streak through it. The film uses a nice reminding device – the story is being told by original author Mary Shelley to her husband ad Lord Byron – which although takes you out of the film, adequately reminds of the climax of the previous picture. There are some cringe worthy scenes, most notably a blind man teaching the monster how to speak reminiscent of the worst scene of Terminator 2, with John Connor teaching Arnie how to be cool. The bizarre scene where Dr. Frankenstein’s former mentor Dr. Pretorius reveals the miniature people he has created in jars, including a king, a queen and a mermaid, is just insane, and Pretorius himself is a perfect combination of Doc Brown and Grand Moff Tarkin.
Frankenstein: Choose life 5/10
Bride of Frankenstein: Choose life 4/10