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Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein/James Whale


doctorxx
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I disagree...BRIDE is definitely the better of the two (at times, Frankenstein is painfully primitive), and I love Whale's SHOWBOAT far better than the overpraised MGM remake...but I also think THE OLD DARK HOUSE is another one of Whale's best. It's devilishly funny and droll.

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BRIDE is a great film, but I think FRANKENSTEIN is by far the more effective of the two. And it is far from primitive. The camerawork is remarkable, the sound recording is outstanding and the performances are very fine. Most of all, it is genuinely frightening. I have run this film for audiences and the tension during some sequences, especially the Monster's entrance, is excrutiating. The script also features many insightful passages. I'm actually glad my print does NOT include the restored portion of the Monster throwing little Maria into the lake. A clumsy deviation from an otherwise artful presentation.

 

BRIDE is a wonderful party. And I love it. But I think the original film is the more organic champion.

 

As for THE OLD DARK HOUSE, that is a film unlike any other. Quite amazing. My print was the one that was used for the Kino DVD and that's nothing to brag about. Hopefully some day Kino will pony up and pay for access to the Library of Congress print, which is simply glorious.

 

Whale's SHOW BOAT is another triumph. As discussed in another thread, Whale was one of those directors whose style is completely his own - unschooled. His off-center close-ups and quick cutting are very emotional. My favorite bit in SHOW BOAT is when Helen Morgan is singing "Bill" and the camera cuts to the scrubwoman sitting, wiping her tears with her apron. Talk about one picture being worth a thousand words. The emotions in this picture are real. And sometimes terrifying. A great picture.

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Though I love Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein is the greater film in many ways. Whale knew how to use the language of cinema to tell his story -- alot of it is in the marriage of text and image. The Gothic tradition of "monster" as Byronic hero comes through very clearly in Bride; images/sounds enhance the plot to an amazing degree -- e.g. the backlit cross and music in the hermit scene; even the gay (yes, it's there) subtext comes through clearly. Frankenstein is a good film; Bride is a work of art.

 

The "bride," of course, can mean many things, one of which is poor Valerie Hobson, who has her fiance stolen from her by a rather effeminate man, (Minnie: "He's a very queer-looking old gentleman,") a man who played Horace FEMM in Whale's earlier masterpiece, The Old Dark House. Even the film's opening -- Mary Shelley chatting with Shelley and Byron on a dark and stormy night -- enhances the woman's isolation. Notice how the two men tend to be on one shot, Mary alone in another. (Byron and Shelley where said to be lovers.) Bride of Frankenstein is one of the great surrealist, campy, artistic horror films ever made.

 

Whale's Show Boat is, I think, the greatest musical ever made, not just a bunch of theatrically presented musical numbers, but a carefully crafted movie. Here's a clip from the film, musical theater's greatest song, perhaps the most perfectly shot and performed song ever captured on film:

 

 

 

(RayF: Don't be too hard on the monster for the "Maria" scene in Frankenstein. It's a sign of his soft side. Having just seen Maria throwing flowers into the water, flowers which float, the monster sees Maria as a little flower who will also float.)

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> {quote:title=Swithin wrote:}{quote}

>

> (RayF: Don't be too hard on the monster for the "Maria" scene in Frankenstein. It's a sign of his soft side. Having just seen Maria throwing flowers into the water, flowers which float, the monster sees Maria as a little flower who will also float.)

Got that. I just wish it had been staged and shot a bit more carefully. And that odd cut to undercranked footage is really weird (which I have to assume is not an outtake since there is an optical dissolve to the wedding fest).

 

And I agree about BRIDE's cinematic sophistication. I merely prefer the original's organic attributes. And Karloff, in FRANKENSTEIN, is truly remarkable. If ever there were an Oscar-deserving performance...

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I think your concerns about the care in which Maria scene in Frankenstein was shot is a point that goes against your argument for the earlier being the better film. Whale's craft and art were evolving. I think that's part of why Bride is superior. Perhaps it's too bad the Maria scene was not in the sequel; it would probably have been shot more artfully.

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> {quote:title=Swithin wrote:}{quote}I think your concerns about the care in which Maria scene in Frankenstein was shot is a Whale's craft and art were evolving. I think that's part of why Bride is superior.

That's what I meant with my earlier comment about Frankenstein being "primitive"...Bride is technically and artistically superior.

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> {quote:title=RayFaiola wrote:}{quote}BRIDE is a great film, but I think FRANKENSTEIN is by far the more effective of the two. And it is far from primitive. The camerawork is remarkable, the sound recording is outstanding and the performances are very fine.

...and yet BRIDE is the one which garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Recording.

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. I'm actually glad my print does NOT include the restored portion of the Monster throwing little Maria into the lake. A clumsy deviation from an otherwise artful presentation.

 

Curious comment. You screen the movie for audiences and it is an edited version?

 

I remember the first time I saw this scene and it was a revelation.

 

Do you mean you prefer the scene not restored or the scene to be absent altogether?

 

 

 

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They never made 16mm prints with the restored scene and I only run sprockets for my gang.

 

I'm glad they restored the scene to the video editions, though I'm STILL not certain if it was actually in the general release prints. But it's obviously historic footage and, by virtue of the optical dissolve, was obviously in at least the premiere engagements.

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Do you think budget concerns might have something to do with the differences between the two movies in terms of quality? (in addition to Whale 'growing' on the job).

 

For example, the first Thin Man movie sometimes looks like it was done on the cheap. The second one looks to me like it was done under a larger budget. I'm NOT commenting on the quality of the storyline but just the 'look and feel' of the movie.

 

In both cases the studio knew they had a hit and put more money into production.

 

As for the Maria scene in Frankenstein; to me that is a key scene of the movie. I don't see how anyone could feel otherwise. We see that the monster is also just a child (Ok, one that needs a serious timeout!).

 

 

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If I remember correctly, Frankenstein did not have a background score. In the early 30's, when there was background music, it was just there and very primitive. The Bride had humor, stylistic set design, and a fast moving script. One thing I noticed in Frankenstein, which is no fault of the actor, is that Frankensteins' father (the Baron?) has this huge tumor on his neck. Once I noticed it it sort of gives me a weird feeling whenever I view the film. I guess there was no way to cover it up. Maybe I'm the only one who has noticed it.

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Prompted by the comments here, I have watched Bride of Frankenstein again, something I would not otherwise have done. It has only confirmed my original impression. It sure looks like it has a bigger budget, but aside from the excellent direction by Whale and similar lighting by Mescal, I find nothing to recommend it. The silliness, the reliance on plot contrivances that were hackneyed at birth, the tedious expository nature of much of the first part of the movie, the introduction of the evil genius as a motivating force, the plot inconsistencies and discontinuities, and ultimately, the utter ridiculousness of some scenes put it in the class of every other film that has followed from the original: derivative. Colin Clive and Boris Karloff make a game effort, but the only way I can see this in any worthwhile light is that James Whale intended it as an absurd parody of what he did before.

 

A few instances, not meant to be comprehensive:

 

Una O'Connor (obviously meant to supply the comic relief in place of Dwight Frye from Frankenstein), normally a superior comic character actress, comes off here as shrill and irritating.

 

The villagers overpower and tie the monster with rope to a pole. In the very next scene, it is able to easily rip apart iron chains, burst through oaken doors, and scatter the very people who had just overpowered it.

 

The two woodsmen who encounter the monster and the hermit think the monster has created the hermit, yet the next moment are seen rescuing him from the burning hut.

 

The monster recoils from the shot he receives after he drags the shepherdess from the pool, yet is unfazed by the numerous revolver shots he receives from the prison guard.

 

Frankenstein's wife is seen exiting the castle for the waiting carriage, yet moments later is back inside the castle preparing to leave it again, providing the opportunity for the monster to abduct her.

 

I laughed out loud when the monster, ushered in by Dr. Pretorious, says menacingly:

"Frankenstein. . . ."

 

How did Frankenstein's wife escape?

 

Where did the mob chasing the monster through the graveyard come from?

 

I know coincidences are rife in literature and film, but isn't it too much of one that has the monster and Dr. Pretorious meet in the same tomb? And such an expansive, well lit one, at that.

 

 

Frankenstein is a great film. It deals with profound and elemental matters of being, hubris, and its consequences. Sure it lacks in technical refinement in places, and has scenes that are silly. But it has great moments, the animation of the monster and its final, pitiful death, for instance. One of the surpassing scenes of the film is when the body of the little drowned girl is carried into town by her father. The mute tragedy of the pair is starkly juxtaposed to the joy of the villagers celebrating the impending marriage. As the father walks, the joy is extinguished, a vertical plane moving across the village, on one side joy, on the other horror. It is a symbol of how the actions of Frankenstein are sweeping back across his life to bring him misery and terror. One of the most magnificent tracking shots in all film. True evidence of Whale's genius.

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"Una O'Connor (obviously meant to supply the comic relief in place of Dwight Frye from Frankenstein), normally a superior comic character actress, comes off here as shrill and irritating."

 

She's the funniest thing in the movie.

 

 

"The villagers overpower and tie the monster with rope to a pole. In the very next scene, it is able to easily rip apart iron chains, burst through oaken doors, and scatter the very people who had just overpowered it."

 

 

When he's tied up with ropes his arms are in a position which gives him no leverage to break free. He has leverage with the chains...and it's not "the very people", it's only a few scattered about. They're not ganging up on him in force.

 

 

"The two woodsmen who encounter the monster and the hermit think the monster has created the hermit, yet the next moment are seen rescuing him from the burning hut."

 

 

Where did you get that idea? The hunters recognize the monster and are unaware the old man is blind. They do not think "the monster has created the hermit". That makes no sense....and of course they rescue the hermit from the burning hut because he's human.

 

 

"The monster recoils from the shot he receives after he drags the shepherdess from the pool, yet is unfazed by the numerous revolver shots he receives from the prison guard."

 

 

He recoils from the greater force of a shotgun shell....bullets fired by the guard are naturally smaller.

 

 

"Frankenstein's wife is seen exiting the castle for the waiting carriage, yet moments later is back inside the castle preparing to leave it again, providing the opportunity for the monster to abduct her."

 

 

You're right about that...continuity error. She exits through the door that Pretorious admits the monster through, yet a minute later she's in the foyer talking to Minnie before going to her room and primping before her mirror, just before the monster abducts her.

 

 

"I laughed out loud when the monster, ushered in by Dr. Pretorious, says menacingly:

"Frankenstein. . . ."

 

 

Well...he HAS learned to speak, and when he says the name it's with hatred. He's got good reason to despise Henry.

 

 

"How did Frankenstein's wife escape?"

 

 

Good question...the ending was changed and they obviously didn't get around to filming a reason for Elizabeth's escape. Originally, Karl was to have killed her and brought her heart back to be used in the female monster.

 

 

"Where did the mob chasing the monster through the graveyard come from?"

 

 

The village...duh. :)

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I'm not going to spend a lot more time on this, because obviously I'm not going to convince anyone who has an opinion, but here goes one more time:

 

>She's the funniest thing in the movie.

 

That's not saying much.

 

>When he's tied up with ropes his arms are in a position which gives him no leverage to break free. He has leverage with the chains...and it's not "the very people", it's only a few scattered about. They're not ganging up on him in force.

 

Well, I am not in a position to debate the foot pounds needed to snap rope and steel chains, I suggest if the monster is able to rip apart iron chains from around its neck, it can break rope with out much trouble, and resist being bound in the first place, for that matter.

 

If the village were able to get together to overpower him in the first place, they could just as easily do it again. In fact, easier, as they were all near by in town.

 

>Where did you get that idea?

 

By not paying attention to the movie. I was wrong with that one.

 

>He recoils from the greater force of a shotgun shell....bullets fired by the guard are naturally smaller.

 

It is not a shotgun, but a rifle. And it does not appear to be of a much greater bore than the revolver, not that they would have been scrupulous about that in the 30s. Still, it seems improbable that the monster could have ignored that many shots, or that the guard could have so easily missed as such close range.

 

>Well...he HAS learned to speak, and when he says the name it's with hatred. He's got good reason to despise Henry.

 

It's still ridiculous.

 

>The village...duh.

 

OK. I should have phrased it: My, that mob of people sure materialized quickly. It seems those villagers are on the prowl all the time. But if so, why weren't they on the ball when he first escaped so that they could prevent that little girls death?

 

 

In any case, these are just a few details. As I said before, the movie is just like any other knock-off of the original. It has hackneyed plot elements and a contrived storyline, contrived even by Hollywood standards. Well, maybe not. But I still don't buy it.

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Okay, it's a fantasy and isn't meant to depict reality ...ever hear of "suspension of disbelief"?

 

"obviously I'm not going to convince anyone who has an opinion"

 

Exactly...everyone has their own point-of-view, and no one needs to be convinced into another's opinion.

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Mr. Kreiger responded pretty well to most of yer gripes about Bride, (the factoid about Elizabeth's original fate is especially fascinating and something I had not heard before.)

 

As far as Frankenstein being the superior film of the two, uh no. It is the more problematic, plot hole laden and contrived of the two by far.

 

 

Gaffes in Frankenstein (1931)

 

 

1. Why does the woodsman assume the little girl has been murdered? From the evidence it would seem she drowned.

2. Why does the monster come to the house after escaping? He has no idea where Henry lives or where to find him.

3. Why does Henry lock Elizabeth in her bedroom?

4. The disembodied moan from the monster that clues everyone in to the fact that he is in the house during the wedding is a very weak plot device.

5. The comic relief end where the Baron and the bridesmaids toast to "The House of Frankenstein"" is a bit non sequitor.

6. Why do the villagers totally assume the girl has been murdered along with the woodsman? Again- no evidence.

 

 

And I am forgetting something about Edward Van Sloan's death that is also a gaffe. Combined with the cheap sets and lack of mood courtesy of the glaringly absent score Frankenstein rates no better than a *B* in my book whilke Bride (or all its various inconsistencies mostly due to some heavy editing) rates a solid *A*.

 

Oh, and *ERNEST THESINGER* is the funniest thing in the movie. (All respect to Kreiger's opinion and Una O'Connor.)

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Jan 12, 2012 8:47 AM

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Jan 12, 2012 8:50 AM

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> {quote:title=JonnyGeetar wrote:}{quote}

>

> Oh, and *ERNEST THESINGER* is the funniest thing in the movie. (All respect to Kreiger's opinion and Una O'Connor.)

>

Thanks, Johnny...and it's THESIGER . :)

 

I simply meant that Una is outwardly funny...Thesiger is very dryly funny.

 

 

Henry: "You mean?..."

Pretorious: "Yes...a woman. That should be really interesting".

 

 

1. The villagers assume Maria has been murdered because her father assumes the same thing. It's a small village...they'd likely assume anything. Odd though, because Maria and her father live next to a lake and one would think she's been used to being careful around the water. The censored version of the movie...minus the scene of the monster tossing her in...has often been said to make the implication worse because it goes from the lake to the village and then we see her father carrying her disheveled body. Older reviews and writings suggest that version implies she might also have been molested by the monster.

 

 

2. The monster might have picked up knowledge of where the Frankenstein Place (lol) is from simply listening to Henry talk at some point.

 

 

3. He locks her in because he knows the monster is in the house...and assumes a locked door will keep it out.

 

 

4. Yes it's a weak device...as is the gong sound that causes Fritz to drop the first brain. No real reason for it.

 

 

5. The line actually goes "Here's to a son to the house of Frankenstein". (Unintentionally prophetic, isn't it?)

 

 

6. What about Van Sloan's death? It's just odd that he practically places his neck up against the monster, making it easier to be strangled.

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While Una is funny it does border on making her scenes camp. Of course there is a very fine line there anytime humor is injected into a movie that is not a full blown comedy.

 

Take the many one-liners in Casablanca. e.g. Bogie's about the waters in Casablanca, or Rains getting his winning for gambling after closing down the joint for gambling.

 

Fine line there but I don't think it was crossed to the point where it impacts the overall quality of the movie.

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Jan 12, 2012 2:34 PM

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> {quote:title=jamesjazzguitar wrote:}{quote}

>

> Take the many one-liners in Casablanca. e.g. Bogie's about the waters in Casablanca, or Rains getting his winning for gambling after closing down the joint for gambling.

I LOVE that bit! :^0

 

Rains: "I am shocked! Shocked to find out that gambling is going on in this establishment!"

Employee (handing Rains the money): "Here are your winnings, sir.

Rains: "...oh, thank you very much!"

 

:)

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>BRIDE is definitely the better of the two (at times, Frankenstein is painfully primitive),

 

 

Interesting. I feel just the opposite way about it. Frankenstein is so realistic to me, it seems like a documentary or a docu-drama from the late 19th Century. When I lived in North Carolina years ago, I almost bought a house that was made out of those same types of big black granite blocks, like the old tower in the Frankenstein movie.

 

Nothing looked like a set. Everything looked like it was shot on location, and all that electric stuff was invented in the 19th Century. Old Tesla type stuff.

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"Bride of Frankenstein" is one of the best films ever made but "Frankenstein" contains more iconic moments- the creature reaching for the light, the killing of the little girl, the final fight in the windmill- both films are masterpieces of cinefantastique

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I have read reviews of BRIDE which either allude to a GAY or CAMP subtext or outright claim that it is fact. Aside from the facts that James Whale was gay and Pretorious is depicted as rather effeminate I just don't see it. What do you think about this??? Is there any truth to this claim or is it in the eye of the beholder? I don't recall anything of this kind written about FRANKENSTEIN or for that matter any of the other UNIVERSAL HORRORS, if you discount the so called LESBIAN scene in DRACULA'S DAUGHTER, so it appears to be a BRIDE thing.

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There certainly is, and it has so been written about many times over the years. No doubt due to the fact that Whale was gay, he put all sorts of suggestive things into several of his films, particularly BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE. There's a few other gay subtexts or metaphors than can be read into several of the Universals, including BRIDE, OLD DARK HOUSE (with androgynous characters and suggestive situations), DRACULA'S DAUGHTER, and even SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (it's been suggested that the relationship between Ygor and the Monster is an "unnatural" relationship...Ygor even says to Wolf regarding the monster "He is my friend. He...does things...for me."

 

Here's one terrific article just for BRIDE, which has been online for several years now:

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/19/19_bride1.html

 

Here's a great one covering several Universal horrors, also been online for several years now:

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/23/universalhorror.html

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