Monster #6 - Bride of Frankenstein


United States, 1935

A Universal Pictures Production
75 mins, black & white, 1.37 : 1 aspect ratio

Director - James Whale
Screenplay - William Hurlbut
Story - based on premise suggested by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein (1818)
Cinematographer - John J. Mescall
Editor - Ted J. Kent
Music - Franz Waxman

Boris Karloff (The Monster), Colin Clive (Henry Frankenstein), Valerie Hobson (Elizabeth Frankenstein), Ernest Thesiger (Doctor Pretorius), Elsa Lanchester (Mary Shelly & the Monster's Bride), Una O'Connor (Minnie), Dwight Frye (Karl), E. E. Clive (Burgomaster)

SYNOPSIS - Contrary to what was believed (and shown at the end of Frankenstein), neither Henry Frankenstein nor his monster were killed and are still alive. Henry Frankenstein wants nothing more than to marry his fiancée Elizabeth and lead a quiet life away from his previous experiments, but when mad scientist Doctor Pretorius, who desperately wants Frankenstein to continue his work together with him, kidnaps Elizabeth, Henry Frankenstein agrees to help him create a new creature - a woman, and the companion the lonely Monster has been demanding. However, the "Bride" takes no liking to the Monster. Disillusioned, Frankenstein's creature allows his creator and his wife to escape, but blows up the laboratory with Pretorius, the Bride, and himself, uttering his famous last words: "We belong dead".

Some films on Denis Gifford's list were already undisputed classics back in 1977, and Bride of Frankenstein falls squarely into that category. I had never heard of Frankenstein's Bride, Gifford's monster number six, before seeing her image in Monsters of the Movies, but I found it extremely striking. I would only find out a few years later that Bride of Frankenstein is indeed a gothic horror delight, with eerie graveyards, creepy dungeons, spooky crypts and foreboding laboratory towers galore shrouded in fog and thunderstorms.

  If Frankenstein (1931) was already an atmospheric fright feast, Bride of Frankenstein turns it all up a few notches. The acting of Karloff as the Monster is menacingly sublime, Colin Clive adds hysterical depth to Henry Frankenstein's moral and personal dilemma, Ernest Thesiger is simply delightful as the sly and menacing Doctor Pretorius, and Elsa Lanchester is on point for the short but iconic sequences featuring the Bride.

A tight script is directed with panache, and the sets and camerawork make it all come to life.

The Monster is also developed further in this movie, quite in line with Shelley's original novel, and learns to speak, although limited to short phrases and 44 simple words. Karloff, interestingly, was absolutely opposed to giving the Monster a voice (Gifford, 1973).

The movie has been shown on TV and released multiple times on various media; my current copy comes from a 2013 Universal release of 8 classic horror movies on high-definition Bluray. Image quality ranges from extremely good to very good, and the sound holds up to the same quality standard. There are plenty of extras on the history of the individual movies, including notes on restauration.

On a purely personal note, Bride of Frankenstein was also the first movie featured in Monsters of the Movies that I was ever able to watch - thanks to an abridged Super8 version.

As mentioned by Gifford in his 1973 Pictorial History of Horror Movies, "home movies" were for quite some time the only way to access horror films. I happened to have access to an excellent Noris 322S sound projector, and at the age of 16 managed to buy a second-hand copy of the German dubbed home movie version originally produced by Universal 8 Films (Castle Films prior to 1977) at a very reasonable price (otherwise, home movies were generally rather expensive). Contained on one 400ft (120m) reel, it ran for roughly 18 minutes, or just under one quarter of the movies actual running time.

It thrilled my socks off, even in its cut-down version. And so, long before its 1985 release on Laserdisc (and VHS in the early 1990s), I got a taste of Bride of Frankenstein.


As for the critics at the time, Variety noted in its 1 January 1935 review that Bride of Frankenstein was "one of those rare instances where none can review it, or talk about it, without mentioning the cameraman, art director, and score composer in the same breath as the actors and director", and that "Karloff manages to invest the character with some subtleties of emotion that are surprisingly real and touching (...) Thesiger as Dr. Pretorious [is] a diabolic characterization if ever there was one (...) Lanchester handles two assignments, being first in a preamble as author Mary Shelley and then the created woman. In latter assignment she impresses quite highly".

Since its release, the film's reputation and standing as one of the best horror films ever made has persisted and even increased. Seen as an iconic example of gothic horror movies and often praised as James Whale's masterpiece, Bride of Frankenstein was added to the United States National Film Registry in 1998. As with Karloff's Monster itself, Jack Pierce's make-up for the Bride created a lasting iconic image.

Monster Factor:

Overall Movie Rating:


Bride of Frankenstein is possibly the classic Gothic horror movie. It has everything, and everything is in overdrive. The imagery and the atmosphere are astonishing and simply pull you in. It's one of those movies than can be watched over and over again without it getting old. It's compulsory viewing at its very best.


Denis Gifford on Bride of Frankenstein
in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973)

"Bride of Frankenstein remains the biggest-budgeted, best dressed, highest-polished, finest-finished horror film in history; a first-class Hollywood product made with all the artistry and technology a top studio normally lavished upon only its most commercial ventures. It was Whale's best work - and his last in the genre; he felt he could not top it. Chaney was forgotten; Karloff was king."


GIFFORD Denis (1973) Karloff: The Man, The Monster, The Movies, Film Fan Monthly


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The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
Their reproduction in this non-commercial review and research context is considered to be fair use
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All images from Monsters of the Movies (Carousel/Transworld) were scanned from my personal copy purchased in 1977
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Page created 7 April 2023
Last updated 2 September 2023

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