Review Date: October 30, 1999
Released by: Universal
Release date: 1/30/2001
MSRP: $29.98 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
"To a new generation of Gods and Monsters!", uttered Dr. Pretorius, drinking to his partnership with Henry Frankenstein, a partnership that would eventually spawn the monsters would be mate. Upon the success of the original Frankenstein
, Universal began to monopolize on it by creating a sequel. With James Whale directing and Boris Karloff and Colin Clive reprising their roles from the original, Bride of Frankenstein
With a much larger budget and more time and experience behind James Whale, Bride of Frankenstein
is a technically superior film than the original. The sets are more dynamic and vast, the cinematography was greatly improved and the acting and story was much more tighter. With the addition of the Monster speaking, a whole new dimension of the character was opened and just made him all the more sympathetic. Universal has now released a Special Edition of Bride of Frankenstein
, the third in their "Classic Monster Collection" line. Lets take a look.
On a dark stormy night Mary Shelly (Elsa Lanchester) retells the tale of Frankenstein and his monster to the delight of her listeners hanging on her every word. Mary Shelly has told you of how Frankenstein's creation came to be, but the story has not yet ended. Picking up right where the original left off Frankenstein's monster (Boris Karloff) survives the inferno as the windmill burns to the ground. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), presumed dead after his confrontation with his creation, is taken home.
Henry, to the surprise of his fiancee Elizabeth, is still alive. Having learned his lesson from tampering with nature, Henry vows to end his dabbling in creating life. Elizabeth wants to go away with Henry, as she fears for his life after having premonitions of things to come. Upon receiving a visit by Frankenstein's one time mentor Dr. Pretorius, Henry is forced into continuing his work under a partnership. It's Dr. Pretorius's mad ambition to create a bride for Frankenstein's monster and create a man made race.
Meanwhile Frankenstein's monster once again roams the countryside looking for sanctuary from the angry villagers chasing him. After an encounter with Dr. Pretorius, the monster joins with him in forcing Henry Frankenstein to create a bride. Someone the monster can call friend and put an end to his lonely existence.
It seems redundant to talk about how great this film is, but I will anyway. It's hard if not impossible for a sequel to outdo the original and very few are even able to match up. This is probably because writers have a difficult time creating fresh ideas for the film so most sequels basically become rehash. From Bride of Frankenstein's
perspective, the same thing could have happened here. Instead, through the genius of James Whale, who took control of the screenplay, the film is full of creative moments and humor in addition to the already sympathetic monster story.
My favorite aspect of Bride of Frankenstein
is definitely the characters. They are colorful and diverse; I sometimes just find myself concentrating on the movements and expressions of the actors as they play their role that's how detailed the performances are. The characters are probably the biggest difference between Bride and the original. The original actors were certainly not as colorful and interesting as the ones in Bride. The performances from the actors are also much more dramatic. Probably my favorite actor in Bride is Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius. He gives such a great performance as the both sinister and funny doctor. Every time he enters, the scene is usually in some dramatic fashion, especially when Minnie first introduces him to Dr. Frankenstein. Of course, there's Boris Karloff once again playing "the monster". In Bride of Frankenstein
the monster is given the opportunity to speak, which opens new doors for the character. Karloff plays the role very reserved and keeps his speech primitive and limited, speaking in broken sentences very much like a child.
I believe Karloff's performance in Bride surpasses that of the original. In the original, Frankenstein the monster is pretty much just a presence and an intimidating one at that, but in Bride, the monster has much more personality. Another advantage that Bride of Frankenstein
has over the original is the fantastic musical score. It's one of the best scores I've ever heard. Each character has their own little bit that plays when they enter a scene and the score really enhances the performances and mood.
Bride of Frankenstein
is one of those films you discover something new each time you see it. I think it's James Whale's masterpiece and one of the staples of the genre.
For this special edition, Universal presents The Bride of Frankenstein
in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (the film was shot in 1.37:1) in glorious B&W. I must say I'm a tad disappointed with this transfer, which is the worst looking of the three currently released monster classics. This is not to say it's bad, just a bit disappointing as so far I've been impressed with the previous special editions of the Universal Classic Monster line. The transfer exhibits a fair amount of grain throughout the presentation and the overall image seems a bit dark.
The blacks are good and solid with hardly any grain or noise. Print damage is minimal; I didn't notice that many nicks, scars or blemishes, at least anything that I consider to be distracting. Contrast is generally good, but not as good as the presentations of Universal's previous DVDs of Frankenstein
or The Mummy
. Again my major complaint is the transfer is not as clean as I would have liked it to be. Otherwise it's pretty good. I do hope that Universal does a better job image wise with The Wolfman
. With consideration to the films age I give it a B.
Unlike Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein
has a wonderful musical score and is one of the aspects of the sequel that, in my opinion, makes it an overall better film than the original. The sound on this DVD is presented in Dolby Digital Mono 2.0. The score sounds great, I didn't hear much of any noise or popping.
It's clear that in terms of supplements no other Universal Classic Monster Special Edition will probably come close to the original Frankenstein
. That said, Bride of Frankenstein
has the same set of supplements that The Mummy
and the upcoming The Wolfman
has. These consist of a commentary by a noted film historian, a documentary, still gallery, trailer, production notes and cast and crew bios.
The commentary by Film Historian Scott Macqueen I found very hard to follow. He tries to convey a lot of information but he talks too fast. Some of the info I picked up was mainly of James Whale and how he influenced set designs. He also goes over the religious implications throughout the film and scenes that were deleted out of the film due to censorship. Towards the last half of the commentary there are many gaps. It seems Macqueen exhausted all he had to say during the first half of the film. A pretty good commentary, but nothing special.
The documentary titled, "She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein" is the best supplement on the disc. Written Directed and produced by David J. Skal and hosted by Joe Dante, the featurette is loaded with interviews. Among the film historians interviewed are Scott Macqueen (who did the commentary), Bob Madison, Paul M. Jenson and Gregory W. Mank. Joining in are Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris Karloff), makeup artist Rick Baker, Author of "Father of Frankenstein" Christopher Bram, Clive Barker and Bill Condon who directed the film "Gods and Monsters".
The documentary, like the ones on Universal's previous classic horror DVDs, is excellent and thorough. They talk about the film from pre-production on, covering the originals success, James Whales involvement in the sequel as well as Carl Laemmle Jr., who gave James Whale a lot of freedom in developing Bride of Frankenstein
. They also comment on the Bride of Frankenstein
and Elsa Lanchester. In addition to the supplements I mentioned there's also a preview trailer of the re-release of Frankenstein
in Boris Karloff and James Whale's cast and crew sections.
Once again Universal did a great job of giving the fans some great extras to learn more about the film. I hope all of Universal's Classic Monster Collection discs get this kind of treatment. If you're a fan of Bride of Frankenstein
this disc needs to be in your collection.
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - A-
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 18 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- "She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein" Documentary
- Feature Length Commentary with Film Historian Scott Macqueen
- Still Galleries
- Production Notes
- Cast and Filmaker's Bios
- Theatrical Trailer
- Preview Trailer for Frankenstein re-release (Hidden in Cast & Crew Bios)