January 21, 2010

The Bride Wore Bolts

Mrs. Monster” is prominently featured in the May 19, 1935 issue of the Delmarva Star newspaper of Wilmington, Delaware. Note that a large neck bolt has been painted in, making it clear that this is, indeed, the Bride of Frankenstein. On the same page, an ad for the film, screening at the Aldine, “where the big pictures play”, reads, “The Monster Talks! To hold you spellbound when he says ‘----!‘

In his column “The Movie Finger Writes”, critic "D. Mark Key" gives the film an enthusiastic review. “It is really grand entertainment” he says, and “a good sequel to its popular predecessor, a rare feat. Director James Whale, in other words, has done it again. Karloff — the Boris has become lost from the name — resumes his role of the Monster, and the make-up with which he out-Chaneyed Lon has lost none of its effectiveness.

In a spirited description of the action, Key writes, “The Monster harkens to the call of spring, grows gentle as a lamb at the sound of music — and believe it or not, yearns for a mate. And therein lies the story.

Singling out The Monster’s visit to the Blind Hermit’s hut, Key notes, “There he learns to say ‘Good’, ‘Bad’, ‘Friend’, ‘Smoke’ — a vocabulary adequate for romance… But this beautiful friendship is short-lived. Soon the poor Monster is among enemies again, hunted, beaten, bound in chains, and shot full of bullet holes.

With the intervention of the “sinister Dr. Pretorius, who has been creating life on a miniature scale”, Henry Frankenstein, “shaken by the results of dabbling in unholy sciences” is finally persuaded, “and the grand electrical experiment is again carried out in Frankenstein’s mysterious castle laboratory.

Careful not to print spoilers, Key writes, “How it ends we’ll let the film tell you, but it has a real bang-up climax”, adding, “The Bride of Frankenstein is actually more convincing, more gripping, more thrilling than the original. The production is elaborate, the photography exceptionally good and the musical score interesting. It’s an entertaining horror movie”.

Concluding on a humorous note, Key writes, “Please Mr. Laemmle, next year lets have ‘Frankenstein’s Baby’, followed by a series modelled on the Cohen and Kelly opi! ‘The Frankensteins at Putnam Hall’, ‘The Frankensteins in Africa’ and so on. Please?

Key’s review also carries a fascinating bit of information, revealing that producer Carl Laemmle had personally written to “leading parent-teacher associations, league of decency committees, other film reviewing organizations, and newspaper critics”, explaining that The Bride of Frankenstein was “a shocker picture, but it is a wholesome picture, unforgetably exciting and entertaining for those people, numbering millions, who like this type of story.” This was obviously pre-emptive action on the part of studio boss Laemmle who remembered the controversy, the censorship and the outright bannings that had plagued the 1931 original.

The Delmarva Star newspaper is no longer published. The Aldine theater, designed by famous cinema architect Thomas Lamb and originally listed as a Warner Brother’s Theater, was built in 1921 on Market Street in Wilmington as a Beaux-Arts style, 1800-seat house. Sold to the Loew’s chain in 1941, it eventually closed in 1970. It has since been partially demolished and repurposed for commercial use.

The Aldine Theater on Cinema Treasures.


Max the drunken severed head said...

Thanks for a fun look at a contemporary review of BOF!

Rick said...

Great post. It's certainly interesting that such a contemporaneous review would fall so in line with latter-day opinions on this great film. Either we've misjudged those old mainstream critics, or this particular one really had something on the ball.

Pierre Fournier said...

True, Rick, Key's review reads like a template for today's analysis of the film.

I've been reading a lot of contemporary reviews on BRIDE and most of them are very positive, although often condescending about the fantasy elements and the monsters, calling the script "hokum" and so on. There was a tendency to ridicule horror films.

Martin Powell said...

Luckily for me, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was the first Frankenstein film I ever saw. I still vividly remember sitting on the floor in front of our old b&w set and being mesmerized by it. Although I didn't realize it then, seeing that movie was a life-defining moment for me and Boris Karloff immediately became the most important celebrity in my young life. Now, Karloff continues to inspire me almost daily in my profession as a science fiction/mystery writer. Guess I haven't changed all that much.

rob! said...

"But it is a wholesome picture"

...wow, Carl Laemmle was really shoveling it that time, wasn't he?