Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Bride of Frankenstein: Classic Monster Collection (1935)
Studio Line: Universal Studios

One of the most popular horror classics of all time and an acclaimed sequel to the original Frankenstein. The legendary Boris Karloff reprises his role as the screen's most misunderstood monster who now longs for a mate of his own. Colin Clive is back as the overly ambitious Dr. Frankenstein, who creates the ill-fated bride (Elsa Lanchester). Directed by the original's James Whale (his last horror film) and featuring a haunted musical score, The Bride Of Frankenstein ranks as one of the finest films not only of the genre, but for all time.

Director: James Whale
Cast: Boris Karloff, Gavin Gordon, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester
Academy Awards: Nominated for Best Sound, 1936.
DVD: Standard 1.33:1; audio English Digital Mono; subtitles French; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 18 chapters; rated NR; 75 min.; $29.98; street date 10/19/99.
Supplements: Documentary "'She's Alive!' Creating the Bride of Frankenstien"; Audio Commentary with Film historian Scott MacQueen'; Production Stills; Production Notes; Cast/Crew Bios; Film Highlights; Theatrical Trailer; DVD-ROM Features.
Purchase: DVD | Score soundtrack - Franz Waxman

Picture/Sound/Extras: D/C+/B-

Few films have permeated the public consciousness as 1931's Frankenstein and its 1935 sequel The Bride of Frankenstein. At this point, actually, the two have become melded within the general view; many people think of scenes from Bride as having appeared in the original, such as the bit where the monster meets the blind hermit.

While Bride is generally thought of as the superior of the two films - it frequently appears in discussions of movies who offer sequels that surpass the originals - I think that while the two pictures are clearly quite similar, enough differences exist to make comparisons verge upon "apples-oranges" territory.

The acting in Bride definitely veers toward broader, campier acting than the more somber and straightforward work in the original. It also provides more action and thrills and humor; in Frankenstein, director James Whale used a fair amount of restraint, but he goes completely over the top in the sequel as he aims for the fences. The actors really deliver tremendously wide performances. Ernest Thesinger's wickedly ominous Dr. Pretorious and Una O'Connor's wild-eyed and shrieky Minnie seem most active, but everyone's pretty broad; even Clive appears to emote more strongly than he did during the first movie.

One other acting difference between the films comes from Victor's fiancee Elizabeth. In the first film, we saw blonde Mae Clarke in the role, but brunette Valerie Hobson appears in the sequel. (Apparently Clarke was too ill to star in Bride so the part was recast.) In keeping with the difference in the film's tenor, Hobson's much broader than the fairly subdued Clarke.

Both films clearly show some age, since film styles have changed so much over the intervening decades, but I found both to be very entertaining and effective. Karloff remains effective and engrossing as the monster, and Whale makes both stories come alive in exciting and dramatic ways. Despite the fact most people have an extreme familiarity with the stories, the executions works well and makes them both very compelling.

The DVD:

The Bride of Frankenstein appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVDs; because of those dimensions, the disc has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the film looks about the way you'd expect such an old movie to appear, that doesn't mean that I can discount the wide number of flaws and generally weak picture I found.

Sharpness appeared fairly soft overall during the film; it wasn't terribly fuzzy, but the movie seemed hazier than it should. I noticed no moiré effects or jagged edges, and Bride showed moderate examples of print flaws; I detected speckles, scratches and similar flaws but not to a tremendously significant degree. However, grain is a major problem during Bride; it's nearly omnipresent and it really has a negative impact upon the picture.

Black levels appeared somewhat mushy and gray, and shadow detail seemed too heavy and made the image somewhat difficult to watch at times. For an ancient film, the image looked decent on a subjective level, but it still seemed pretty weak in objective terms.

The monaural audio of Bride seemed on a par with other films of this era. The sound appeared pretty thin overall but it consistently remained listenable. Dialogue sounded clear and intelligible but could be tinny, and the effects seemed a bit harsh, although they sometimes packed a surprising punch, especially during scenes such as the Bride's "birth." Unlike the original, Bride offers a score - they became the norm in the four years between films - and while it sounded thin and flat, the quality seemed typical for the era. This track presented much less distortion than I heard in Frankenstein, but it provided much more background noise. It's also an acceptable soundtrack for a film of this age, but it's not as good as that of its predecessor.

As with all of the other DVDs in the "Universal Monsters" series, Bride offers a bunch of fine supplements. It leads off with an audio commentary from film historian Scott MacQueen. His track provides a wealth of information about the movie but doesn't seem quite up to the level of Rudy Behlmer's audio essay for the first film. This may be because the sequel's a tougher road to hoe; there's a lot more history behind the lead-up to Frankenstein so Behlmer had more territory to explore. Still, MacQueen does a nice job of discussing the actors and the production. I would have liked more analysis, since Bride is the deeper film of the two, but it's nonetheless a very worthwhile track.

We next find a good documentary called "She's Alive: Creating The Bride of Frankenstein". Hosted by filmmaker Joe Dante, this 39-minute piece resembles the program found on the first DVD and is also terrific. It lacks the historical scope of "The Frankenstein Files" but that's fine since the details of Bride don't offer themselves for the same broad coverage. Many of the same participants - a general mix of film historians and relatives of participants - appear here, plus folks like filmmakers Clive Barker. It's another very interesting program that sheds a lot of light on the production.

The Bride of Frankenstein archive works along same lines as that for the first film: it's a running video program that offers a mixture of posters, lobby cards and production photos accompanied by the soundtrack to the movie. This one runs a little more than 13 minutes.

The remainder of the Bride DVD also follows along lines similar to the Frankenstein disc. We get good biographies for eight actors and Whale. We also find some more excellent production notes plus a re-release trailer for the film. Good stuff!

It's been nearly 70 years since Frankenstein hit movie screens, and while it and its sequel - The Bride of Frankenstein - may not shock and terrify audiences like they did back then, they both remain very entertaining and compelling films. Universal did a great job of bringing Bride to DVD, although the visual material displayed some significant problems. Still, the picture doesn't seem inappropriate for films of its vintage, and it offers decent sound quality and some excellent supplements. Bride comes highly recommended.

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