I love everything about Halloween. I believe in dressing in costumes, haunted houses, corn mazes, and watching as many scary movies as possible during the month of October. So when our friend Tiffany invited my husband (Rick) and I to see Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein at our local Art Center, naturally we accepted.
These two films from the 30s are classics, and a lot of old movies are worth seeing just because so many of their tropes were used and used again and were abandoned years ago. It’s a glimpse into movie-making past and shows how far we’ve come.
In both movies, overacting abounds. In the first, it’s present not just when Henry (not Victor, notably–the movies are only loosely based on the book) Frankenstein is giving his famous cries of “It’s alive! ALIVE!” but also in every other character in the movie. In the opening scene the gravedigger not only spits into his palms and rubs his hands together before hoisting his shovel, but also lights a match on his shoe in a most exaggerated fashion. Much of the premise of Bride of Frankenstein seems to be “let’s add more wacky characters to this one!”
The acting standout in both films is Boris Karloff–there’s a reason we remember him as a genius. Through unwieldy prosthetics and pounds of makeup, he still manages to create the most empathetic character in either film.
Perhaps the most jarring aspect of watching these films back to back is that they dovetail poorly. The second movie begins exactly where the first ended (with a little introductory framing from Mary Shelley and Lord Byron), but several of the actors have changed. The portly Burgomaster with crazy hair from the first movie is replaced by a tiny Burgomaster with a huge mustache. Elizabeth (Henry’s fiancee) is played by two very different actresses.
I found Bride of Frankenstein to be the more entertaining film, although I’m not sure it’s a better movie. The first movie had some issues with choppiness, but had moments of true creepiness. The second felt like it had more action and moved at a quicker pace, but the aforementioned quirky characters were distracting.
At 71 and 75 minutes, neither of these movies are a big time investment, and they are both classic monster films. Screen them at home sometime, with Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and lots of popcorn handy to throw at the screen during the cheesy bits.