Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 1st, 2002
It’s hard to imagine, but in the 1930’s sequels were almost unheard of. If a work was considered to be a franchise, it was released in serial form before the main features. By today’s standards, Bride of Frankenstein would be no surprise. James Whale was reluctant to continue the Frankenstein saga as was the Monster himself, Boris Karloff. Universal was relentless and the world is the benefactor of its greed. Bride of Frankenstein not only lives up to its original but in many ways surpasses it. The sets are far more grand and the story was Universal’s most compelling. Whale would later admit that it was the only story that “had to be told”. Elsa Lanchester would become an icon with a measly 3 minutes of screen time; the image is forever embedded into the pop culture. This is without a doubt one of the best horror films of all time.
With the events of “Frankenstein” thought behind him, Henry retires to a married life. The Monster will not be so resigned to fate. Conscious of the hate he instills, he becomes eager for a mate of his own kind as a companion. Frankenstein is forced to embark on the mission to provide his unfortunate creation a bride.
The audio is a digital version of the original mono soundtrack. The audio is nicely preserved here. The crackle of the tesla coils comes through with little of the hiss or contact noise common to films of the era. Dialogue is always clear. The music shines here. Although a bit too shrill at times, this is one of Universal’s better scores.
There is an audio commentary by Scott McQueen who for some reason runs out of steam before the end of the picture. If ever a film contained a wealth of background information this one certainly did. Where is Tom Weaver or David Skaal when we need them?
Bride of Frankenstein is presented in the original theatrical release aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Unfortunately this print was a huge disappointment to me. It does not live up to the far superior print available on laserdisc. There is plenty of visual noise and print artifacts. The contrasts of blacks and whites are adequate and there are moments when the print is quite good but overall it is Universal’s weakest transfer to date.
David Skaal provides another original production called “She’s Alive”. Once again the feature is packed with interviews and bountiful historic information. The film includes bios, production notes and stills, trailers, and Universal web links. The menus are pretty much like the others of the series.
Boris Karloff insisted that it was a mistake to give the Monster the power of speech. Decades later even his daughter Sarah would remark that it was probably his greatest miscalculation. The Monster was infused with an entirely new life with his limited ability to speak. Who will ever forget his tortured pleas for a mate or his conversation with the blind hermit? Jack Pearce managed to vastly improve the already ingenious makeup for the Monster. Fortunately Universal didn’t take the Monster seriously when at the film’s end he declared, “We belong dead.”