‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ is a Gorgeous & Depressing Tale of Objectification
James Whale’s iconic sequel reaches near parody-level storytelling featuring female terror at the whims of the male ego.
NOTE: For the month of October, I’ll be watching and reviewing classic horror movies that I somehow never made it around to seeing. Bring on your commentary in the comments — and happy Halloween!
I’ve always loved Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Not just because it’s an essential cornerstone of horror, or because she conceived of it at age 18 — but because it explores one of the themes I will always eagerly, dreadfully show up for: humankind’s gleeful abuse of its own power, and the often dire consequences of such a reckless brand of self-aggrandizement.
I queued up The Bride of Frankenstein knowing I was in for more of the same, and that somehow we were about to patchwork-electrify a female counterpart into this mess too. I was a little surprised to make it halfway through the film with no glimpse of the Monster’s “bride,” but it didn’t take long after that for me to realize why: the film isn’t about her (though I read the title as referring to both her and Frankenstein’s actual bride, Elizabeth) — it’s about every twisted impulse and decision that brought her into being.
The film opens with a reenactment of mostly true events: Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton), and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) have stayed in on a stormy night to drink, write, and trade quips over Mary’s yet-to-be-published Frankenstein. (This is my ideal Saturday night. Where are these people, and when can we hang out?) They goad her into admitting that there’s more to her story.
After having been thrown from the mill by his own creation and left for dead, the body of Henry Frankenstein is taken back to his castle. His bride to be, Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson), experiences one shock after another — Henry actually survives the evening…