Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's a Girl Monster

We seem to have a little trend running of titular characters not actually being the crux of the film. We just had Fanny and ALEXANDER and now we have (Bride of) Frankenstein.

The actual bride of Frankenstein is Elizabeth, Dr. Frankenstein's new wife, of whom we see a bit but not enough to name a movie after her.

But, the "woman" we think of as the bride of Frankenstein (actually the bride of Frankenstein's monster), is only "alive" for four minutes of the seventy-five minute film (from the moment she twitches her finger until the fiery end), is not named in the film, and is not credited in the credits (a "?" stands in for the actress' name). IMDb tells us that the Monster's Bride is actually Elsa Lanchester who also plays Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and who gets more substantive screen time than the other two female main characters. But, while a reanimated woman is the goal of Doctor Pretorius, a bride for Frankenstein's monster is not the original plan. Frankenstein's monster is only brought in as a last ditch effort to blackmail Dr. Frankenstein to help since Pretorius doesn't so much know what the hell he's doing and can only create creepy miniature people.

There is an argument to be made for Mary Shelly being the bride of Frankenstein in many ways and I'm down with that but I think the film also needs a more superficial, obvious narrative that revolves around the actual bride of Frankenstein's monster--the lady with the hair needed to be created much earlier. This film is just Frankenstein part two which is fine but not what I was expecting.

Horror is, in general, not my thing. I'm a huge chicken when it comes to actually scary things and I have little tolerance for things that try to be scary but aren't. Bride attempts horror but never makes it there for me. I'm not scared of Frankenstein's monster (essentially because people jump in bodies of water out of fright rather than actual menace from the monster who really just wants to be friends); I'm not scared of Pretorius or his evil plot (the miniature people do much to undermine him for me); and I'm not scared of the reanimated woman and her hissing. Despite my lack of fright, the book tells us that the "plot relies heavily on sharp contrasts that make the spectator jump from terror to pathos or comedy." Having seen Young Frankenstein, this one is not as funny to me but I'd definitely list is as a comedy rather than a horror film.

The book also lists the movie's "portrayal of sexual relations, a portrayal that is considered by man to be at least potentially transgressive" by which it means "Shelly's myth: (pro-)creation as something achieved by men alone." Ok. Sure. But, that was Frankenstein, too (and every other portrayal of a mad (or otherwise actually) scientist). So, why a sequel?

I'm torn on this one. It's OK and as the source of one of the most iconic hairstyles to date, it's worth a watch but it didn't excite me at all.


  1. Good call on the Bride actually being Elizabeth!! Didn't even think of that. You know, this really struck me as a sequel that was made because the first one was popular, so they tried to replicate the same formula (so from what you tell me, perhaps it influenced Hangover 2?). Therefore way more Monster (I liked that he went by last name alone--KARLOFF) and not so much Bride o'. It did make me want to (finally) see Gods and Monsters, though. Wonder if it streams . . .

  2. Ha! And Hangover 3 apparently (in which they have to free Alan from a mental institution supposedly (where I'd just leave him)). But, yeah, the book said something about the studio wanting a sequel immediately because of the success of Frankenstein but it took Whale 4 years to agree.

    I know, from just checking to remind myself what G&M is, that it does not stream. Which sucks because now I want to watch it too.