Bride of Frankenstein

Infobox Film
name = Bride of Frankenstein

image_size = 200px
caption = theatrical poster
director = James Whale
producer = Carl Laemmle Jr.
writer = Mary Shelley "(novel)"
William Hurlbut "(screenplay and adaptation)"
John L. Balderston "(adaptation)"
starring = Boris Karloff
Colin Clive
Valerie Hobson
Ernest Thesiger
Elsa Lanchester
Una O'Connor
music = Franz Waxman
cinematography = John J. Mescall
editing = Ted Kent
distributor = Universal Pictures
released = April 22, fy|1935 "(US)"
runtime = 75 minutes
country = FilmUS
language = English
budget = US$393,750
gross =
preceded_by = "Frankenstein" (fy|1931)
followed_by = "Son of Frankenstein" (fy|1939)
amg_id = 1:7091
imdb_id = 0026138

"Bride of Frankenstein" (advertised as "The Bride of Frankenstein") is a fy|1935 science fiction/horror film. The movie is the first sequel to the influential film "Frankenstein" (1931). "Bride of Frankenstein" was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester as his Mate and Mary Shelley, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Septimus Pretorius.

The film immediately follows the events of the first film and is rooted in the original novel. A subplot from the latter half of the book involves the Monster promising to leave Frankenstein, and the human race, alone if Frankenstein will create a mate for him. Frankenstein creates the female monster, but never brings it to life, deciding instead to destroy it.

"Bride of Frankenstein" was released to great critical and popular success. In the decades since its release, the film's reputation has grown and it is hailed as director James Whale's masterpiece. Some modern film scholars, noting the homosexuality of James Whale and others in the production, have found a gay sensibility in the film.


The film opens with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) on a stormy night. Byron and Shelley praise Mary extravagantly for her creation of the story of Frankenstein and his monster. Mary, reminding them that her intention in writing the tale was to impart a moral lesson, advises that she has more of the story to tell. The scene shifts to the moments following the events at the end of "Frankenstein".

Villagers gathered around the burning windmill cheer the apparent death of the Monster (Karloff). Their joy is tempered by the realization that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is also apparently dead. Hans (Reginald Barlow), father of the young girl the creature drowned, wants to see the Monster's blackened bones. He falls into a pit underneath the mill, where the Monster, having survived the fire, strangles him. Hauling himself from the pit, the Monster grabs Hans' wife (Mary Gordon) and casts her into the pit to her death. He next encounters Minnie (Una O'Connor), who flees in terror.

Henry is returned to his ancestral castle home. His fiancée Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) has his body brought inside. Minnie arrives at the castle and tries to sound the alarm about the Monster but she is not believed. Elizabeth mourns Henry's death on the night before their scheduled wedding, but he moves and she realizes that he still lives.

Elizabeth nurses Henry back to health. He has repented his creation but still believes he may be destined to unlock the secret of life and immortality. A hysterical Elizabeth cries that she sees death coming for Henry, foreshadowing the appearance at the castle door of Doctor Septimus Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), Henry's former mentor. Pretorius entreats Henry to accompany him to see the results of his own experiments in "playing God." At Pretorius' rooms, he shows Henry several homunculi he had created, including a miniature queen, king, archbishop, devil, ballerina and mermaid. Pretorius wishes to combine his skills with Henry's to create a mate for Frankenstein's monster. Doctor Pretorius offers a toast to their joint venture; "To a new world of gods and monsters!"

The Monster lurches through the woods and saves a young shepherdess from drowning; however, her screams upon seeing him alert two passing hunters, who shoot and injure the creature. The hunters raise an angry mob that sets out in pursuit of the Monster. They capture him and truss him to a pole. The mob hauls the Monster to a dungeon and chains him. Left alone, the creature easily breaks his chains and escapes.

That night the Monster encounters a gypsy family. In trying to steal the meat they are roasting, he burns his hand in their campfire. Following the sound of a violin playing "Ave Maria", the Monster encounters an old blind hermit (O. P. Heggie), who thanks God for sending him a friend. He teaches the monster how to speak such words as "friend" and "good," and shares a meal with him. Sadly, two lost hunters stumble onto the cottage and recognize the Monster. He attacks them and accidentally burns down the cottage as the hunters lead the hermit away.

As another angry mob searches the countryside, the creature takes refuge in an underground crypt. There he spies on Pretorius and his cronies Karl (Dwight Frye) and Ludwig (Ted Billings) breaking open a grave. The henchmen depart; Pretorius stays behind to enjoy a light supper. The Monster approaches him ("Oh hello, I thought I was alone!") and Pretorius reveals his plan to make the Monster a mate.

Henry and Elizabeth are now married and Pretorius calls on Henry, ready for him to do his part of their "grand collaboration." Henry refuses and Pretorius calls in the Monster, who demands Henry's help. Henry again refuses. Pretorius orders the Monster out. As Pretorius closes the door he utters "Now" to the Monster. As part of a pre-conceived plan, the creature kidnaps Elizabeth. Pretorius assures her safe return once Henry agrees to participate.

Henry, beaten, returns to his tower laboratory to complete the creation of the Monster's mate. In spite of himself, Henry grows excited over his work. After being reassured of Elizabeth's safety (after talking to her on an anachronistic telephone), Henry completes with Pretorius the assembly of the female's body.

As a storm rages, the final preparations are made to bring the Monster's mate to life. Her bandage-wrapped body is raised through the roof. Lightning strikes a kite, sending electricity through the female's form. Henry and Pretorius lower her and realize their success. "She's alive! Alive!" Henry cries. They remove her bandages and help her to stand. "The bride of Frankenstein!" Doctor Pretorius declares.

The excited Monster sees his mate. He reaches out to her. "Friend?" he asks. The bride, screaming, rejects him. The creature tries again and the bride again rejects him in terror. "She hate me! Like others", the Monster says dejectedly. As Elizabeth races to Henry's side, the Monster rampages through the laboratory. "Go! You live!", he tells Henry and Elizabeth. To Pretorius and the bride he says "You stay. We belong dead." Henry and Elizabeth flee. The Monster, shedding a tear as his bride hisses at him, pulls a lever causing the laboratory and tower to be destroyed.


The studio had considered the idea of making a sequel to "Frankenstein" as early as the preview screenings of the film, following the changing of the original ending to allow for Henry Frankenstein's survival. Screenwriter Robert Florey wrote a treatment entitled "The New Adventures of Frankenstein – The Monster Lives!" but it was rejected early in 1932. Universal staff writer Tom Reed wrote a treatment under the title "The Return of Frankenstein". Following its acceptance in 1933, Reed wrote a full script that was submitted to the Hayes office for review. The script passed the Hays office review but James Whale, who by then had been attached to direct, opined that it " [stank] to high heaven". L. G. Blochman and Philip MacDonald were next assigned to the script but Whale found their work unsatisfactory as well. In 1934, Whale had John L. Balderston set to work on yet another version. It was Balderston who decided to return to an incident from the novel in which the creature demands a mate and who created the Mary Shelley prologue. After several months, Whale was still not satisfied with Balderston's work and handed the project to playwright William J. Hurlbut and Edmund Pearson. The final script, combining elements of a number of these versions, was submitted for Hays office review in November 1934. [cite book | last =Curtis | first =James | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters | publisher =Faber and Faber |date=1998 | location =Boston | pages =234-6 | isbn =0571192858 ]

Colin Clive and Boris Karloff reprised their roles from "Frankenstein" as creator and creation, respectively. Dwight Frye also returned for the sequel to play the doctor's assistant Karl, having played the hunchback Fritz in the original. Sources report that Bela Lugosi and Claude Rains were considered, with varying degrees of seriousness, for the role of Frankenstein's mentor Pretorius; [cite book | last =Lennig | first =Arthur | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi | publisher =University Press of Kentucky |date=1993 | location = | pages =92 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0813122732] others report that the role was created specifically for Ernest Thesiger. [cite book | last =Skal | first =David J. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror | publisher =Penguin Books |date=1993 | location = | pages =185 | isbn = 0140240020] Replacing Mae Clarke as Henry Frankenstein's love interest Elizabeth was Valerie Hobson. Early in production, director Whale decided that the same actress cast to play the Bride should also play Mary Shelley in the film's prologue. Elsa Lanchester, who had accompanied husband Charles Laughton to Hollywood, had met with only moderate success while Laughton achieved fame in several films (including Whale's own "The Old Dark House") and won an Academy Award for his role in "The Private Life of Henry VIII". Lanchester had returned alone to London when Whale contacted her to offer her the dual role.Curtis p. 243-4]

Universal makeup artist Jack Pierce paid special attention to the Monster's appearance in this film. He altered his 1931 design to display the after-effects of the mill fire, adding scars and shortening the Monster's hair. [Curtis p. 237] Pierce also co-created the Bride's makeup, with strong input from Whale, especially regarding the Bride's iconic hair style.

Kenneth Strickfaden created and maintained the laboratory equipment. The man behind the special photographic effects in "Bride of Frankenstein" was John P. Fulton, head of the special effects department at Universal Studios at the time. [cite book | last =Picart | first =Carolyn Joan | authorlink = | coauthors =Frank Smoot, Jayne Blodgett | title =The Frankenstein Film Sourcebook | publisher =Greenwood Press |date=2001 | location = | pages =39 | isbn =0313313504 ]

The film went into production with a projected budget of US$293,750 which was almost exactly the budget of the original, and an estimated 36 day shooting schedule. [Curtis p. 241] Shooting was completed on March 7, 1935, ten days over schedule and approximately $100,000 over budget. [Curtis p. 249]

Boris Karloff is credited simply as KARLOFF, which was Universal's custom during the height of his career. Elsa Lanchester is credited for the role of Mary Shelley, but in a nod to the earlier film, the monster's bride is credited only as "?" just as Boris Karloff had been in the opening credits of the first film.


* Boris Karloff - The Monster (as Karloff)
* Colin Clive - Baron Henry von Frankenstein
* Valerie Hobson - Elizabeth von Frankenstein
* Ernest Thesiger - Dr. Pretorius
* Elsa Lanchester - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley / The Monster's Mate
* Gavin Gordon - Lord Byron
* Douglas Walton - Percy Shelley
* Una O'Connor - Minnie - Housekeeper
* E. E. Clive - Burgomaster
* Lucien Prival - Albert - Butler
* O. P. Heggie - Hermit
* Dwight Frye - Karl
* Reginald Barlow - Hans
* Mary Gordon - Hans' Wife
* Anne Darling - Shepherdess (as Ann Darling)


"Bride of Frankenstein" was subjected to censorship, during production by the Hays office, and following its release by local and national censorship boards. Joseph I. Breen, lead censor for the Hays office, objected to lines of dialogue in the original submitted script in which Henry Frankenstein and his work were compared to that of God. He would continue to object to such dialogue in revised scripts [Skal p. 187-91] and to a planned shot of the Monster rushing through a graveyard to a figure of a crucified Jesus and attempting to "rescue" the figure from the cross. [Curtis p. 247] The censor's office, upon reviewing the film in March 1935, required a number of cuts. Whale agreed to delete a sequence in which Dwight Frye kills his uncle and blames the Monster [Curtis p. 250] and shots of Elsa Lanchester as Mary Shelley in which Breen felt too much of her breasts were visible. Curiously, despite his earlier objection, Breen offered no objection to the cruciform imagery throughout the film — including a scene with the Monster lashed Christ-like to a pole — nor to the presentation of Pretorius as a coded homosexual. [Skal p. 187-91] "Bride of Frankenstein" was approved by the Production Code office on April 15, 1935. [Curtis p. 250]

Following its release with the Code seal of approval, the film was challenged by the censorship board in the state of Ohio, was voluntarily withdrawn by Universal from Sweden because of the extensive cuts demanded and was rejected outright by Trinidad, Palestine and Hungary. One unusual objection, from Japanese censors, was that the scene in which Pretorius chases his miniature Henry VIII with tweezers constituted "making a fool out of a king." [Skal p. 187-91]


The film was profitable for Universal. A 1943 report showed that as of that time the film had earned approximately US$2 million for the studio, roughly double its initial costs. [Curtis p. 251] It was nominated for one Academy Award, for Best Sound Recording. [cite web | title =Bride of Frankenstein Awards | publisher =Allmovie | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-09] "Bride of Frankenstein" was critically praised upon its release, although some reviewers did their opinions based on the film's being in the horror genre. The "New York World-Telegram" called the film "good entertainment of its kind." The "New York Post" described it as "a grotesque, gruesome tale which, of its kind, is swell." The "Hollywood Reporter" similarly called the film "a joy for those who can appreciate it." [Curtis pp. 250-1] "Variety" did not so qualify its review. " [It is] one of those rare instances where none can review it, or talk about it, without mentioning the cameraman, art director, and score composer in the same breath as the actors and director." They also praised the cast, writing that "Karloff manages to invest the character with some subtleties of emotion that are surprisingly real and touching [...] Thesiger as Dr Pretorious [is] a diabolic characterization if ever there was one [...] Lanchester handles two assignments, being first in a preamble as author Mary Shelley and then the created woman. In latter assignment she impresses quite highly". [cite news | last =Variety staff | title = Bride of Frankenstein | publisher =Variety | date = 1935-01-01 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-06]

In another unqualified review, "Time" wrote that the film had "a vitality that makes their efforts fully the equal of the original picture....Screenwriters Hurlbut & Balderston and Director James Whale have given it the macabre intensity proper to all good horror pieces, but have substituted a queer kind of mechanistic pathos for the sheer evil that was "Frankenstein"." [cite news | title = The New Pictures | publisher = TIME | date =1935-04-29 | url =,9171,754638-2,00.html | accessdate = 2008-01-06] The "Oakland Tribune" concurred it was "a fantasy produced on a rather magnificent scale, with excellent stagecraft and fine photographic effects". [cite news | last =Soanes | first =Wood | title = Frankenstein stalks again in Roxie play | publisher = Oakland Tribune | date =1935-05-25] While the "Winnipeg Free Press" thought that the electrical equipment might have been better suited to Buck Rogers, nonetheless the reviewer praised the film as "exciting and sometimes morbidly gruesome," declaring that "All who enjoyed "Frankenstein" will welcome his "Bride" as a worthy successor." [cite news | title = Lyceum screens "Monster" sequel | publisher = Winnipeg Free Press | date =1935-05-24]

The film's reputation has persisted and grown in the decades since its release. In 1998, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry, having been determined to be "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." [cite news | title ='Easy Rider' now listed on National Film Registry | publisher =CNN | date =1998-11-17 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-06] [cite web | title =Films Selected to The National Film Registry, Library of Congress 1989-2007 | publisher =Library of Congress | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-08] Frequently identified as James Whale's masterpiece, [cite news | last =Graham | first =Bob | title = `Bride' Is as Lovely as Ever | publisher = San Francisco Chronicle | date =1998-10-09 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-08] the film is lauded as "the finest of all gothic horror movies." [cite news | last =French | first =Philip | title = Films of the Day: The Bride of Frankenstein | publisher=The Observer | date =2007-12-02] "Time" rated "Bride of Frankenstein" in its "ALL-TIME 100 Movies," with critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel overruling the magazine's original review to declare the film "one of those rare sequels that is infinitely superior to its source." [cite news | last =Corliss | first =Richard | coauthors =Richard Schickel | title = ALL-TIME 100 Movies | publisher = TIME | date = | url =,23220,bride_of_frankenstein,00.html | accessdate = 2008-01-06] 100% of the thirty-eight reviews on "Rotten Tomatoes" are positive, with an average rating of 8.9/10. [cite web | title = Bride of Frankenstein | publisher = Rotten Tomatoes | url = | accessdate=2008-01-10]

Homosexual interpretations

In the decades since its release, modern film scholars have noted the possible gay reading of the film. Director James Whale was openly gay and a number of the creative people associated with the cast, including Ernest Thesiger and Colin Clive,cite journal
last =Morris
first =Gary
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Sexual Subversion: The Bride of Frankenstein
journal =Bright Lights Film Journal
volume =
issue =19
pages =
publisher =
location =
date =July 1997
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2008-01-07
] were alleged to be gay or bisexual. Although Whale's biographer rejects the notion that Whale would have identified with the Monster from a homosexual perspective, [Curtis p. 144] scholars have identified a gay sensibility suffused through the film, especially a camp sensibility, [Skal p. 184] especially embodied in the character of Pretorius and his relationship with Henry.

Gay film historian Vito Russo, in considering Pretorius, stops short of identifying the character as gay, instead referring to him as "sissified" [cite book
last =Russo
first =Vito
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (revised edition)
publisher =HarperCollins
date =1987
location =New York
pages =50
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =0060961325
] ("sissy" itself being Hollywood code for "homosexual"). Pretorius serves as a "gay Mephistopheles," [Skal p. 185] a figure of seduction and temptation, going so far as to pull Frankenstein away from his bride on their wedding night to engage in the unnatural act of non-procreative life. A novelisation of the film published in England made the implication clear, having Pretorius say to Frankenstein "'Be fruitful and multiply.' Let us obey the Biblical injunction: you of course, have the choice of natural means; but as for me, I am afraid that there is no course open to me but the scientific way." [Egremont, Michael, quoted in Skal p. 189]

The Monster, whose affections for the male hermit and the female Bride he discusses with identical language ("friend") has been read as sexually "unsettled" and bisexual. "He has no innate understanding that the male-female bond he is to forge with the bride is assumed to be the primary one or that it carries a different sexual valence from his relationships with [Pretorius and the hermit] : all affective relationships are as easily 'friendships' as 'marriages'." [cite book
last =Gelder
first =Ken
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =The Horror Reader
publisher =Routledge
date =2000
location =New York
pages =132
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =041521355X
] Indeed, his relationship with the hermit has been interpreted as a same-sex marriage that heterosexual society will not tolerate: "No mistake — this is a marriage, and a viable one....But Whale reminds us quickly that society does not approve. The monster — the outsider — is driven from his scene of domestic pleasure by two gun-toting rubes who happen upon this startling alliance and quickly, instinctively, proceed to destroy it."

ee also

* "The Bride"
* "Gods and Monsters"
* Boris Karloff filmography


External links

* [ "Bride of Frankenstein"] at Rotten Tomatoes

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