Following up on my last post, reviews are still coming in for the French theatrical re-release of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. It’s fascinating to read new, contemporary critics discussing these classics. Here’s a sampling, in rough translation:
The daily Libération mentions “the return of two magnificent films by James Whale… with Boris Karloff as the unsettling cadaveric Creature”. Annie Copperman of Les Échos enthusiastically notes the release of the two classics starring “the legendary Boris Karloff”.
On écranlarge.com (“the big screen”) Francis Moury reviews both films. Of Frankenstein, Moury says it is “remarkable in its dramatic power and beauty. It is the undeniable matrix for the entire filmography on this theme...”
About James Whale’s direction, Moury writes, “The scene, in the final chase, where the Creator and Creature momentarily eye each other suspiciously is an example of admirable dramatic economy… Whale had a feeling for beauty and tragedy… A refined aesthete, here, he attains the level of authentic visionary genius.”
Of the performances, Moury calls Karloff’s interpretation “unsettling”, Colin Clive’s Frankenstein is “feverish… nervous and original”, Dwight Frye “imbues the character of the sadistic hunchback and body snatcher with a virulence that is very modern and surprisingly violent” and Edward van Sloan plays his part with “finesse”, but the other roles are “conventional and uninteresting”.
Reviewing Bride of Frankenstein. Moury calls it “the absolute masterpiece of the entire Universal cycle” and a work of “authentic surrealism”. The script’s symbolism “makes the Creature an emblem of human suffering, a sort of deformed and cursed Christ figure… (who) attains the noblest stage of conscience, that of sacrifice freely consented... (resulting in) final, salutary and redemptive destruction.”
On the cultural site evene.fr (“The Event”), Adrien Gombaud reviews Frankenstein and Daphné Cabaille covers Bride of Frankenstein. Gombaud writes, “Frankenstein’s creature returns this week… with his waxen face, half-closed eyelids, and immense hands as cold as death… A mute hero in a talking film, Karloff’s Monster is a being out of phase, derelict, arms reaching for the sky, a lost body looking for a soul.”
Gombaud singles out the Monster’s confrontation with Elizabeth: “A scene of sublime ambiguity where (The Monster) abandons the creator’s fiancée, overturned on a bed in her bright wedding gown. The window is open, The Monster has fled. There remains an aura of fear and poetry.”
Daphné Cabaille, discussing Bride of Frankenstein, notes “the usual gothic apparatus of chandeliers, crypts, satanic bonfires, disquieting shadows and lugubrious landscapes” and enjoys Whale’s “very British humor” illustrated by the “diabolical and cynical Doctor Pretorius” and the “colorful” servant, Minnie, adding, “Humor and horror, as it turns out, play well together.”
Boris Karloff’s performance is called “sober and profound”. The evene.fr reviews are accompanied by video clips: The Monster’s tragic lakeside encounter with little Maria, and the Bride of Frankenstein trailer.
In an article called “The Return of Frankenstein”, Jacky Bornet of France3 calls the two films “Indispensable to all who love the cinema (and) unforgettable in their stunning beauty.” Boris Karloff’s performance is “breathtaking”, and “the makeup created by Jack Pierce for Karloff is the foundation of one of the cinema’s most famous icons”. The Bride of Frankenstein, Bornet writes, “uses parody while respecting the codes of the horror film... (Whale) creates one of the most beautiful fantasy films ever made. Its charm is imperishable.”
“Imperishable” means “enduring forever”. Some 75 years after they were made, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, it seems, have lost none of their magic and their power to enthrall.
Image at top is Carlotta Films’ die-cut pressbook for the new French theatrical release.
The posters are from previous French re-releases. The one at left is the poster for the 1946 edition. See it larger here.