Universal Terror V: "Bride of Frankenstein"
In 1935, Universal Studios made their next horror spectacular, the sequel to Frankenstein titled Bride of Frankenstein. It is considered by many to be the greatest horror film ever produced by Universal. A prologue featuring Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton), and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) starts the film. The story picks up right at the end of Frankenstein, at the burning windmill. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is brought back to Frankenstein manor and the monster (Boris Karloff) climbs from the ashes of the windmill.
Henry is resting with his wife Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) when Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) arrives. Pretorius asks Henry to help him in his experiments. He takes Henry to his lab and shows him the tiny homonculi he has created. Pretorius explains to Henry his plan to create a female being, a mate for the monster.
Meanwhile, the monster is captured in the woods by the villagers. He is imprisoned, but he escapes back into the wilderness. The monster meets a blind hermit (O.P. Heggie) that takes him in. The blind man and the monster become friends. The blind man teaches the monster a few words. Two villagers spot the monster and attack him, forcing him to leave his friend. The monster flees into a graveyard. In a crypt the monster meets Dr. Pretorius, who was obtaining body parts for his experiments. Dr. Pretorius tells the monster he will make him a mate if he helps him in his task. The monster agrees.
Henry refuses to help Pretorius any further, so Pretorius has the monster kidnap Elizabeth. Henry agrees in order to save Elizabeth. The heart they have is useless, so Pretorius sends his assistant Karl (Dwight Frye) to get one. Karl kills a woman for her heart, but tells Henry he got it from a police morgue. The heart works, so Henry and Pretorius create the bride and animate her with electrical machinery at Henry's castle laboratory.
The bride (Elsa Lanchester) rejects the monster's advances and the monster becomes enraged. Elizabeth is released and the monster tells her and Frankenstein to leave. They flee the castle as the monster pulls a switch that causes the castle to explode. As he pulls the switch, the monster screams, "We belong dead!".
In 1932, Universal had planned to make a sequel to Frankenstein. The studio announced The Return of Frankenstein for the 1932-1933 season. James Whale turned down an offer to direct the project, opting to direct The Invisible Man instead.
Robert Florey wrote a script titled The New Adventures of Frankenstein in 1932. Producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. rejected the script. In 1933, Carl Laemmle, Jr. put Kurt Neuman in charge of making the Frankenstein sequel. Kurt Neuman was to develop the film as a project for Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Screenwriters Tom Reed, Phillip MacDonald, Edmund Pearson, and Lawrence G. Blochman all wrote treatments for the film. John L. Balderston wrote a screenplay that introduced the prologue with Mary Shelley. In Balderston's screenplay the "bride" is made from the over-sized head of a circus freak and body parts taken from female victims of a train wreck. A great deal of Balderston's material was rejected because it was deemed too gruesome.
In 1934, James Whale changed his mind about doing a sequel to Frankenstein. James Whale and R.C. Sheriff began writing an original Frankenstein sequel, but Sheriff left Hollywood to return to England. Whale then collaborated with John L. Balderston and playwright William Hurlburt on the script. James Whale modified characters in the script to fit the actors he envisioned portraying them. John L. Balderston was so angered by Whale's alterations that he wanted his name taken from the credits. Joseph Breen, administrator of the production code, detested the script. Breen demanded that rewrites be made. James Whale wrote Breen a letter assuring him that all necrophilia, bloodiness, and religious imagery would be removed from the script.
Universal studios wanted to reunite the cast of the original film, but some alterations were made. Dwight Frye was supposed to re-create the role of Fritz, but James Whale cast him as Karl. Seventeen year old Valerie Hobson replaced Mae Clarke as Elizabeth. James Whale wanted O.P. Heggie so badly for the blind hermit, he rescheduled the shoot of the film because Heggie needed to finish a movie for RKO.
Universal originally wanted Bela Lugosi to play Dr. Pretorius, but that idea was abandoned. James Whale wanted Claude Rains for the role, but he was assigned to The Mystery of Edwin Drood. James Whale then asked Ernest Thesiger to play Dr. Pretorius. Ernest Thesiger would improvise many of his lines on the set. Colin Clive and Boris Karloff returned as Henry Frankenstein and the monster. Whale wanted Brigette Helm, the actress who played the female android in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926), to play the bride, but she was unavailable. Phylis Brooks and Arletta Duncan were then considered for the role. James Whale chose Elsa Lanchester to play the title role. Elsa Lanchester had already been cast as Mary Shelley in the prologue.
Jack Pierce's make up for Karloff was very similar to the original make up in Frankenstein, accept for additional burn damage being added. The design for the bride was created by James Whale and Ernest Thesiger. The bride's design was based on queen Nefertiti of Egypt. Elsa Lanchester would later tell how she was transformed for the Bride of Frankenstein:
"It was actually my own frizzy, untidy hair. They brushed it and combed it and made four little braids, and they put a sort of little house on top--a wire cage really--and anchored it with pins. Then they added two white hair pieces, one at my upper temple, another at my lower temple. It took two hours to draw in the little scars and go over them in red."
Production for Bride of Frankenstein wrapped on March 7, 1935. It was ten days over schedule. The final cost of the film was $397,023 more than $100,000 over the original budget. The original length of Bride of Frankenstein was 92 minutes, but it was cut down to 75 minutes. The prologue was edited because Mary, Percy, and Lord Byron's tales were a little too bawdy. A court scene was deleted and an entire sub-plot with Karl having the monster murder his miserly aunt and uncle was removed.
Bride of Frankenstein is widely considered to be the greatest gothic horror film of all time. The film's script is full of comedy, tragedy, and pathos. James Whale's directorial skills have improved greatly since Frankenstein and it shows. Whale creates a world of horrible, yet lovable characters. Bride of Frankenstein is an intelligent and well crafted film, one of the greatest films of all time.