October 18, 2007

Off With The Kites!

This is post is part of the Close-Up Blogathon run by Matt Zoller Seitz at The House Next Door.

Colin Clive, aureoled by a huge, glowing vacuum tube, calls for the kites to be released, and the raising of The Bride begins.

I had not planned on doing another Close-Up post, but stepping through Bride of Frankenstein’s creation sequence this week, I was transfixed by the gorgeous images.

Director James Whale made the best of a rare chance to revisit and improve upon the creation scene from the original picture. The lab has been upgraded, the crackling super-science machinery multiplied and augmented with extra gizmos. Broom handle switches are thrown with a deafening bang, a flash of magnesium and a shower of sparks. Go look: Shahn over at Six Martinis and the Seventh Art has posted screencaps showing some of the white-hot flares and the washed out, ghostly afterimages that punctuate the action.

The genius of the sequence is its busy, vertiginous montage, quick-cutting between weird angle shots of the intense scientists, their frenetic topside helpers, the forbidding mechanical devices, and the slab rushing upwards to meet the lightning, all of it backed by a musical soundtrack that pulsates like a heartbeat. The Bride’s creation sequence, edited by Whale and Ted Kent, would merit as close and careful an analysis as, say, the shower scene in Psycho.

I have isolated a handful of shots, all close-ups of the principals in the creation scene…

In a brief, unsettling moment, shadows transform half of Clive’s face into a death’s head skull.

Ernest Thesiger, rattled by electrical detonations, registers fear.

Stark lighting transforms Clive and Thesiger’s faces into grotesque masks, eyes punched out.

Skull clamps glistening in the torchlight, the impatient Monster (Boris Karloff) cranes to see his promised Bride cradled high overhead, waiting for the lightning to blast her to life.

Thesiger’s Pretorius, momentarily robbed of his frigid, pompous composure, creeps out in grimacing rapture as The Bride comes alive.

My other Close-Up Blogathon posts:

The Monster is introduced Into The Light.

The Short, Apocalyptic Life of The Bride of Frankenstein.


Monster-Maniac said...

Very nice work. Reminded me that I want to do a special post about Clive... If anyone could help, I'd be very grateful...

Anonymous said...

That profile shot of the Karloff Monster is stunning. He gazes heavenward in rapt anticipation of his betrothed, blissfully unaware of the impending rejection. Acchhh.....

Anonymous said...

These images show how Bride builds off of the look of the original film but realizes the creepy potential of hard shadow in close-up for maximum horror impact. Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Regan: Good luck with the Clive post. If there's anything I can do, just ask. Mail me at frankensteinia@gmail.com

Gakenstein, Thom: The Bride creation scene is a grand gesture, a maelstrom of powerful images and emotions, like grand opera. Fabulous, isnt it?

Monster-Maniac said...

Thank you, Pierre. I'll see these films with new eyes after reading what everyone here has written :)