The Bride of Frankenstein

The Bride of Frankenstein ★★★★½

                     “How beautifully dramatic!”

I thought I had seen this film before yet it greets me like a new acquaintance. It’s form fresh, it’s introduction notably unknown, and it embraces me with all the vim and vigour of a best friend yet known. Haven’t we met before? 

It all began at Villa Diodati where the thunder crashed and the rain lashed. Mary Shelley regaled her esteemed literary companions with the unofficial continuation of her seminal work. This now stands out as such a boldly meta-textual introduction to a story which needed no sequel but made space for itself with tantalising furore. Immediately, the promise of playfulness appears. 

Every action taken, every speech uttered and speaker who uttered it seems so quintessentially classic. Each character actor speaks in a cadence which was born and died in this burgeoning golden age of Hollywood. Lead billing reads simply as Karloff, only owing extra quirk to this rambunctiously peculiar picture. Additionally, billing for The Monster’s Mate is represented by the most alluring of question marks. Were you always so devilishly cheeky? 

If James Whale knew one thing, it was how to be arch, and boy, I ain’t talking about bridges! Whale tapped into the histrionic nature of performance on film. He was showcasing the first generation of film actors with freshly empowered voices owed to innovations in sound. The cast grace the picture with the theatricality of true thespians. Every player akin to a glorious animation. Did you perform so ostentatiously prior?

And so, this film I once knew who’s brief encounter left me amused and contented now returned with unrecognisable guile. Although taken by its appearance, I couldn’t help but linger more on what it said without saying anything explicitly. There are dark secrets swirling beneath the surface of this fable so craftily concocted by a man with many secrets. This feels like an allegory of isolation, prejudice and the desperate pursuit for acceptance. We do not give James Whale half the credit he deserves for Trojan-horsing a deeply sympathetic symbolism about queerness into the heart of cinema and science-fiction.

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