Bride of Frankenstein

I love the horror pictures Universal made in the 30's. I don't know why - horror is one of my least favorite genres overall- but I simply cannot resist them. Dracula was, I believe, the first one I saw. It was on late at night (Starting around 11 or 11:30, as I recall), when normal commercials have stopped and commercial breaks are filled with big-boobed women breathlessly reciting phone numbers, and ads for terrible phone ringtones. It made for a nice contrast with the film, which is all about repressed sexuality and hidden desires.

There are a few standard tropes in horror, and in this period in the 30's, they were explored one by one for what felt like the first time. Dracula was about the dangers of sex. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was about the duality of man, about the perversity hidden by a thin layer of civilisation. The Wolfman is about our fear of our animal nature, the Invisible Man about how much "others" looking at us influences us, and so on.

Frankenstein is of course a Faustian tale, about the hubris of trying to play God, about the dangers of science, too. There is another more literary strain too, though: both novel and movie are about the responsibility of a creator/author for his creation.

In the first movie, the big mistake Frankenstein makes is not just that he makes the monster, but also that he abandons it. The "monster" is not really evil, but he lacks education: because he was abandoned he has no restraint, no morals. He kills a little girl, not because he wants to, but because he doesn't know that she won't float, and the rest of the people are killed mostly out of fright and anger.

Interestingly enough, James Whale, who directed both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, tried to abandon his creature too after the first film. He wanted to do loftier things than horror, but eventually he was lured back, accepting to direct a sequel only if he could write it.

In the tale that he wrote, the monster gets not just one but two educators. The first one is a kind old blind man, who teaches him not only to talk but also what friendship is. The second teacher however, is the evil-minded Dr. Pretorius, who uses the monster to get Frankenstein to pick his work back up. Frankenstein resists, at first, but once he's convinced he plunges back into full-fledged obsession.

I'm afraid too much from my "return of the repressed" literature course is coming back here, I could go on and on about this film, about its handling of women, about Else Lanchester's performance(s), about the framing of the story, about how it could be analyzed in the context of queer cinema. I won;t though, because the most important thing that you can say about the film is that it's absolutely marvelous, thrilling and entertaining, better than the original, and a classic everyone should see. It will take only 75 minutes of your life, and nothing could be more worth it.

Incidentally, Gods and Monsters, Bill Condon's great film about James Whale, which features a re-creation of the set of Bride of Frankenstein, is on "Canvas" (a Belgian channel) tonight at 0:10. If you don't mind staying up late, it's worth checking out.

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