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To a new world of gods and monsters!—Dr. Pretorius
We belong dead.
The 1935 sequel to the 1931 film Frankenstein, this is widely considered to be the best of the old Universal Horror movies. Boris Karloff and Colin Clive reprise their roles as the monster and Dr. Henry Frankenstein, respectively, while Ernest Thesiger joins the proceedings as as Dr. Septimus Pretorius and Elsa Lanchester plays the titular Bride.
We begin in the home of Lord Byron, entertaining his friends Percy and Mary Shelley as a storm rages outside. At Byron's urging, Mary continues the story of Frankenstein, picking up about where the original film left off.
Henry Frankenstein just barely survives the collapsing windmill, but so does the monster. Shortly thereafter, Frankenstein receives a visit from his old mentor, Dr. Pretorius, who wants to join forces and continue Frankenstein's experiments to create life. In one of the movie's most memorable scenes, Pretorius shows Frankenstein a series of little people in jars, including a Mer Maid, a ballerina and a little devil. Pretorius can make people, but he can't get them up to normal size. Frankenstein, meanwhile, has created a giant. And so Pretorius proposes a plan: Frankenstein will provide the body, and Pretorius will provide the brain.
Meanwhile, the monster has several encounters with angry villagers and is eventually taken in by a kindly old blind hermit. The hermit teaches the monster to speak, and is the only friend he's ever had. Naturally, the villagers show up and drive the monster away, and he goes to a graveyard to find solitude among the dead. And whom should he happen to meet but Dr. Pretorius gathering parts for the new creature. Enticed by the possibility of having a friend, the monster forms an alliance with Pretorius.
Frankenstein, meanwhile, is getting cold feet about creating another monster. In a sequence reminiscent of the original novel, the creature and Pretorius kidnap Frankenstein's young bride, Elizabeth, and threaten to kill her unless he makes the monster a mate. It all leads up to an explosive conclusion in Frankenstein's laboratory, where the new monster has finally been born.
One thing to note: Although the monster is childlike and rather sympathetic, he still kills people -- a lot of people. Film historians put the original death count at 21, but it was edited down to 10 due to the censorship of the time. At one point the monster seems to break into an elderly couple's house and kill them just because. Like King Kong's tendency to eat people, the monster's violent nature is often glossed over to facilitate a "we are the REAL monsters" aesop.
The franchise was continued in Son of Frankenstein.
Bride of Frankenstein provides examples of:
- Answer Cut: See Inadvertent Entrance Cue, below.
- Axe Before Entering
- Beehive Hairdo: The Bride famously sports one of these.
- Blind and the Beast: Possibly the trope maker.
- Camp Gay: Dr. Pretorius, director James Whale reportedly told the actor to play him "like an over the top caricature of a bitchy and aging homosexual."
- Cassandra Truth: After witnessing the monster's return, Minnie attempts to tell about it but is just scoffed at.
- Call Back: Clive repeats his legendary "It's alive!" line (this time amended to "She's alive!").
- Catch Phrase: "It's my only weakness."
- Comic Relief: Minnie, to the point of annoyance.
- Creating Life
- Crucified Hero Shot: Shown when the villagers have caught and tied up the monster.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Dr. Pretorius could have become famous for his telephone-like invention in 1819. That is, if he cared about money at all, rather than playing God.
- Cute Monster Girl: Never in her career Elsa Lanchester did look so good.
- Damsel in Distress: Elizabeth
- Driven to Suicide: The monster, after realizing that no-one will ever love him.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Dr. Pretorius' henchmen Karl and his friend consider grave robbing to be worse than murdering.
- Grave Robbing
- Have a Gay Old Time: Minnie describes Dr. Pretorius as "a queer fellow".
- Which may have been deliberate -- see Camp Gay, above.
- Hostile Weather: Storm rages outside in the prologue, much to Lord Byron's joy.
"How beautifully dramatic!"
- Hulk Speak: How the monster speaks.
- Hysterical Woman: Minnie.
- I Am Not Shazam: Lord Byron himself actually calls the monster Frankenstein at one point, and Pretorius is quick to dub the new female monster "the bride of Frankenstein".
- Although perhaps he was using the word "of" in the same manner as in "Monster of Frankenstein"
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Elizabeth describes a vision of an evil apparition which will entangle Henry, and says she sees it drawing nearer -- nearer -- and the camera immediately cuts to the evil Dr. Pretorius knocking at the door.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Again.
- Instant Sedation
- It's Going Down: The castle at the end.
- Immune to Bullets
- Large Ham: Lord Byron in the opening.
- Lightning Can Do Anything
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Pretorius, who is revealed to have been The Man Behind the Man to Dr. Frankenstein.
- Manipulative Bastard: Pretorius to both Frankenstein and his monster.
- Mix-and-Match Man
- Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate: Pretorius
- Not Quite Dead: The monster.
- One-Scene Wonder: The titular bride.
- Owl Be Damned
- People Jars
- "Previously On...": Lord Byron brilliantly recaps the previous film's events as being the story that Mary Shelley wrote. Considering they mention that the novel hasn't even been published yet, this may make Byron something of a naive psychic.
- Psychopathic Manchild: The monster, due to him possessing the brain of a criminal. He murders several people but doesn't do it for any particular reason until the end when he kills Pretorious. He just doesn't understand his own actions or the world around him until hes taught some very basic ethics by the hermit.
- Rage Against the Reflection: After seeing his reflection on water, the monster splashes it angrily.
- Science Is Bad: Partially subverted. The reformed Dr. Frankenstein is forced by evil Mad Scientist Dr. Pretorius to return to his old ways. The twist: Early on, Pretorious shows us his collection of tiny humans in glass jars, practically announcing that he's Mephistopheles. To this, Frankenstein replies, horrified, "This isn't science!" Here, sane Science Is Good, and has standards, but Black Magic Is Bad.
- Science Marches On
- Screaming Woman
- Shadow Archetype: Dr. Pretorius is one to Dr. Frankenstein.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
- Smug Snake: Pretorious all the way.
- Suddenly Voiced: The monster learns to speak, although this was subsequently dropped for the next film.
- Taking You with Me: The monster to his bride and Dr. Pretorius.
- Title Drop
- Torches and Pitchforks: As usual.
- Tortured Abomination: The monster. He blows himself and his bride up with the comment, "we belong dead."
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Well, hot bride.
- You Look Familiar: Dwight Frye, who played Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant Fritz in the original film, appears here as Karl, a non-hunchbacked toady to Pretorius. The monster also kills him.