The wildest and most audacious of James Whale's 1930s horror movies, The Bride of Frankenstein is in nearly all ways superior to Whale's original Frankenstein four years earlier. While the first picture was made on a limited budget, Bride was given all the trappings of a big studio's most prestigious production, and, if the results lack the original's lean, claustrophobic mood, Whale's sly wit and gleeful enthusiasm more than make up for it. Brimming with subtle self-parody, Bride of Frankenstein offered Whale the opportunity to mock the clichés of horror films, along with amusing sideswipes at Hollywood romances, historical dramas, and even Christianity. As was his habit, Whale packed the film with amusing eccentrics, including Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorious, a gin-guzzling mad scientist who's even madder than Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive), Una O'Connor as Minnie the shrieking servant, and demented hunchback Dwight Frye. Blending effortlessly with Whale's offbeat humor, the cast gave the proceedings an unmistakably British humor and sensibility, even if the film was shot on a Hollywood backlot. Despite Whale's farcical humor, Boris Karloff still delivers a powerful performance as the Monster; the tortured creature is, if anything, even more humane and sympathetic than in the first film, and, while Karloff strongly objected to having the Monster speak, his gruff but heartfelt delivery of his simple dialogue makes his sad fate all the more effective. A young Elsa Lanchester is quite memorable as both the Monster's bizarre mate and Mary Shelley, who spins this tale as a lark for Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. Bride of Frankenstein is ultimately more spooky than scary, but its witty dialogue, top-notch cast, and superb sense of mood make it high entertainment no matter what genre you drop it into.
by Mark Deming review