Starring: Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Colin Clive,
Director: James Whale
Picking up where the previous film left off, and also starring Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, this film opens with Elsa Lanchester as Mary Shelley sitting before a fire and letting the audience know that there’s more to the story. Believed dead at the end of the previous film, Frankenstein is not dead, but very much alive, and with the help of his creator’s associate, he plans on finding a mate for himself who is just like him.
Generally considered to be one of the few films where the sequel was perhaps even better than the original, the film once again has pathos as well as terror and laughs, and the monster is somewhat humanised by being taught some rudimentary language skills.
The film is often discussed for it’s interesting use of imagery. Frankenstein is quite obviously equated with Christ in some scenes, where the audience knows that he’s not a bad guy but he must be a sacrificial lamb. The imagery was so obvious in fact that it was largely censored and in some countries it was banned.
It has also been studied as a film that looks as relationships and sexuality. The director was openly gay and the film is quite camp, but some critics also focus on the way that the film is about men procreating without women, and the evil mad scientist here is a gay man. There are also creepy scenes of the monster clearly attracted to the dead body that will become his mate. I feel like while these things are worth noting and are interesting points, they didn’t feel like major themes of the film to me.
Karloff is always wonderful in these monster films, and here is does wonderfully once again in the role of the monster. He’s sort of hapless and lumbering, yet also relatable. But Elsa Lanchester steals the show as both Mary Shelley and as the Bride, with her beautiful face, eery characterisation and that famous giant hair do with the white stripe.
While it doesn’t have the outright terror of some other films or the gore that we’ve become accustomed to, the film shows that sometimes the monster wears a normal face, while the ugly are the scapegoats but perhaps have true hearts. However, the cynical know that nothing good can live in this world… this film has a dark and sad ending.
See It If: well worth seeing if you love old monster flicks or classic horror, it’s camp and has comedy and tragedy.