(On Cable TV, July 2018) When they say that The Bride of Frankenstein is one of the best sequels ever made, they’re not kidding: Even if the original Frankenstein is not a bad movie, it’s so familiar that it can feel underwhelming. While the cultural impact of The Bride of Frankenstein is significant, much of the film feels fresher, more challenging and more imaginative than its predecessor. There are some brilliant special effects here and there, the story is far more morally ambiguous (I mean—the monster is likable, but he actually kills a young girl!) and it doesn’t merely go through the motions of the Shelley story like the first one does. There’s a clear articulation of a mad scientist rivalling Frankenstein, making the stakes ever more complex. This being said, I was surprised to find out that despite the iconic nature of the titular bride, she only shows up for a few moments—and her plot purpose seems to be to reject Frankenstein so that he’s motivated to go kill himself. Hmmm. Nonetheless, I had a much better time watching The Bride of Frankenstein than its predecessor, and its unusual nature is a significant part of it.
(On TV, July 2018) The great things about the handful of classic Universal Monster movies is that they’re iconic enough to be worth a watch at any time. The not-so-great thing about them is that they’re so iconic that they’ve been remade, ripped off, sequeled, and nodded at so often that we often know exactly what will happen even if we’ve never seen the movie. So it is that this 1931 version of Frankenstein is pretty much what we’d expect from a Frankenstein film. There’s Bela Lugosi in traditional makeup, there’s the mad scientist, there’s the lightning-powered machinery, there are the villagers … it’s extremely familiar and while it’s good, I don’t think there’s any surprise to it. I still enjoyed watching it, but I’m having trouble actually finding anything worthwhile to say about it.