What makes a film timeless? Is it the fact that it itself has lasted through time or the fact that its elements are unchanging through the years? For instance, Shakespeare’s plays are timeless because they touch on the human nature we still exhibit, not because their verse remains the predominant style of today.
I kept asking myself this question during my screening of The Bride of Frankenstein, heralded by many to be one of the greatest horror films of all time. Is really a timeless film? Yes, it has lasted, but few films seem so dated. There is no such thing as subtlety in this motion picture, only an overdose of gothic-flavored melodrama, and I’m convinced that this Bride would be considered disastrous if made today.
Starting as a conversation between Mary Shelley, her husband, and Lord Byron (how Frankenstein was born), the female Shelley brags about how the story of the original film isn’t over. There’s a recap of that movie’s events, and then we pick up where we left off. Henry Frankenstein is getting better, and the monster didn’t die in the fire. Eventually, it is determined by Frankenstein’s peculiar mentor, Doctor Septimus Pretorius, that the only reasonable course of action is to give the monster a wife.
That monster, now gifted with speech by Boris Karloff, has to survive in the wilderness, depending on the kindness of strangers. He begins to develop emotionally, and by the time the film has ended, he’s making conscious choices. Yes, his lines are akin to cavemen (“Friend?” and “She hate me” factor into the finale), but there’s something tragic and sympathetic about him, as I said in the original’s review.
Everything else, and I do mean pretty much everything, is borderline ridiculous. The performances are stagey and emotive, to the point of comedy. The bride acts like a malfunctioning animatronic. Doctor Pretorius is an utterly devilish caricature. With a reputation like this film maintains, I was truly expecting at least another Dracula.
But alas, this film, as a film, is not as great as I heard. It bears very little resemblance to the human condition, save for in the monster (oddly), but… I now understand how it has stood the test of time.
All those criticisms I mentioned? Well, whether or not they were intentional, this is an extremely enjoyable motion picture.
The Bride of Frankenstein is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.
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