The Ninjabot

Week End Horror: The Bride of Frankenstein

Posted on September 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm by Jason Byard

Bride_of_frankensteinThe classics are considered classics for a reason. Now, admittedly, that isn’t saying much. In fact, it probably ranks fairly prominently on the list of the all time lamest bromides ever uttered by mortal men. But the wonderful thing that comes with such tired turns of phrase is that when something comes floating along that confirms their essential truth, cliché or no cliché, it’s a sight of insuperable majesty. And so it is with the Bride of Frankenstein. After almost 80 years of running on movie screens, serving as background noise for midnight shock theatre romps, moldering on the back shelves of video stores and being translated into glorious clarity on DVD and Blu-ray, James Whale’s 1935 work of uncompromising brilliance remains what it always was: The Mona Lisa of horror movies.

Now, naturally, there are would always have to be some pushback against so bold an assertion of primacy on the part of one film or another. But I would contend that, while obviously somewhat dated, Bride of Frankenstein still holds up as a masterpiece in the face of whatever came before it or after. The core reason for this is the unmitigated power in manages to imbue what would otherwise be just a humble tale of ghouls and goblins. I simply defy you find another horror movie firing on as many philosophical cylinders as this one.

There are of course the requisite moral quandaries that are a holdover from the Mary Shelley’s original work. The Enlightenment-era clash of ideals between the advocates of rationalism pushing for the heedless advance of science and reason and the romantic idealists clamoring against the notion that man should meddle in what was always heretofore perceived as God’s domain. That intellectual firmament is all still present, and indeed built upon, in the aftermath of the first film. But it is the film’s theme of persecution and loss that resonates most superbly and bitterly. It is the much praised performance of Boris Karloff that bring it home, naturally.

This time around the Monster is not some unfeeling automaton. He’s lonely, cast out and crushed to emotional smithereens. He’s every misunderstood teenage boy you’ve ever met. And as is true enough in the heads of those angry young is the reality with which the Monster must contend. Alone and beset on all sides he struggles against a world of wrong-headed traditionalist dolts out to destroy him for his non-conformity. A point which renders the films deft use of Christian imagery so poignant. The Monster is portrayed as such a Christ-like figure it’s stunning how much of this movie made it past the notoriously tight-assed censorship standards of the times. He seeks refuge amongst misfits and is (figuratively) crucified.

Bride of Frankenstein

Without question though, it is the scream heard round the world from Elsa Lanchester in the film’s climactic final meeting between the Monster and his prospective mate that seals Bride’s place in as the best horror film going. It’s the final crescendo of hopelessness that signals that the Monster, our (sort of) hero is, and will forever be, unredeemed. His quest for companionship is dashed. All that remains is one final hiss from his intended and to blow himself sky-high.

Now what, I beseech you, could be a more terrifying conclusion than that? Horror is about desperation. No, scratch that. Horror IS desperation. And distilled in its most pure form, it’s knowing that there can be no end to that feeling. Everything else along the way, the murders, the pitchfork-wielding townsfolk…it’s all really just window-dressing to get us to that final bit of pure nihilism. And THAT, dear friends, makes this little diddy the apex of what every proper horror film should aspire to. Like I said, it’s the Mona Lisa the macabre.

I highly recommend adding this to your Blu-ray collection, available at Amazon here.

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