Caleb’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Love dead. Hate living."
Following up the iconic 1931 film, The Bride of Frankenstein takes the concept of a sequel and makes the very best out of it. Right from the opening scene, it strongly hints at its self-awareness and its brilliance as it sucks you right back in, as you'd naturally want to know more about what's happened to the Monster.
For those who may be seeing this for the first time, especially after viewing the 1931 classic, one shouldn't be surprised by the tonal change yet it's actually one of the brightest spots of this masterpiece. It's actually rather astonishing that James Whale was able to tackle all of the ideas from different directions all in just 75 minutes. At the end, I felt like I just watched a horror epic despite the runtime. It's often hilarious, terrifying, poignant and absolutely spellbinding all the same. Most of all, I'm also astonished this was made in 1935 as this tackled challenging ideas, especially for humanity in which they often think they're above it all. The Monster represents innocence yet is faced with hostility and terror at every turn; and the scene in the hut is an all-timer and encompasses most things this film wants to go for.
Boris Karloff capitalizes on his iconic performance in the original and is able to expand upon his character with ease. His speaking is certainly something to get used to, but it doesn't take too long. Almost instantly, you do buy him as the Monster from the previous film yet he's learning about the world around him in which he attempts to navigate. Performances in the film certainly should hint you at what this is trying to be, as they often range from earnest to over the top, but they all nail it down. Colin Clive is far more sympathetic this time around, and does a great job in capitalizing on his previous performance. Una O'Connor absolutely kills it here, as does Ernest Thesiger as the over-the-top Dr. Pretorius who conspires to lure Frankenstein back into his mad experiments. Briefly, as I've read that this has queer undertones, and I can definitely confirm that, especially with scenes between Frankenstein and Pretorius. It's also all earnest in the best ways.
Of course, one couldn't turn away from discussing the performances without the brief yet iconic performance from Elsa Lanchester who plays the part of Mary Shelley in the opening moments but then also takes the part of The Bride as we know her today. Her performance is criminally brief yet it is iconic all the same, with her immaculate beauty at full display. But then again, when you already have the epic 75 minutes of this masterpiece while ending it with her wonderful performance and the explosive climax, you really couldn't complain. This is as perfect as a film can get. Watch this movie, it's one everyone must see. Packs in as many ideas as one can imagine, yet it only eats up a little over an hour of your time. Essential in every sense of the word.