Bride of Frankenstein benefits from an immediate kickstart: The monster survived after a massive windmill was purposely set on fire at the end of the first film, falling into film’s most convenient water reservoir. Story is secondary to the monster’s immediate, effectual killing spree.
Bride has an energy about it that is infectious, a film that carries itself on a wicked sense of humor and a performance by Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius. That stands as the pinnacle of the mad scientist archetype. Colin Clive invented it with Dr. Frankenstein, Thesiger mastered it here.
The film’s secondary star is The Bride, making an indelible impact on horror history despite only five minutes of screen time and without a kill to her name. Sharp movements give her life, while a dead stare makes her an undead monster. She is made to be a mate to another monster growing in his humanity. Boris Karloff adds a voice to his memorable role with an additional emotional tug until he is wronged.
Then people end up going off cliffs. It is not an easy life when you’ve been pieced together.
At the helm again is James Whale, afforded more creative control to make an eccentric sequel vibrant with personality. Compared to the original, Bride’s wild laboratory storm sequence here is a marvel of off-kilter camera work, excessive sparks, and maddening stares. The foreboding nature is lost, replaced by a marvel of crooked genius that is more outright in entertainment value.
Between the chaos and a wonderful, shrieking Una O’Connor is a film able to emote. O.P. Heggie portrays a blind hermit as sorrowful as the monster that wanders into his cabin. Truthfully, the audience should feel little pity for the monster who just killed a small village of people, yet it is Heggie who elevates the sequence as he too searches for companionship. As convenient of a plot device as the scene may be, it is an endearing memory full of life’s little pleasures and character development of a creature whom audiences expect little more than grunts out of. A little booze and a cigar sedates any man, even the ones with undead brains.
The only sequel in Universal’s Monster box set is the recipient of its own disc and bountiful transfer. Bride keeps on giving from its AVC encode that works through the often thick grain structure while keeping the entirety on a consistent line. With the exception of the typical period soft focus, this is an incredibly sharp presentation throughout with hardly any dips or sags on the technical side.
Age barely plays a role either. The worst of the light damage comes around 50-minute mark as a scratch situates itself down the center of the frame. That will carry into a few edits, although it is so thin and the sequence is so intense, most will struggle to find it. The rest of the print imperfections are small specks of dirt, insignificant enough as to hold no negative impact.
Bride is spectacularly textured, the source clearly coming from near the camera negative, if not the negative itself. Close-ups of the Jack Pierce make-up, now scarred with burn marks, brings out small textures that previous home video could never render. The high resolution scan is the first time these elements are so striking in the home, and in some cases even visible. Each shot is wonderfully natural in terms of replicating film. Any errant tinkering is not apparent.
This is a film of light and how it is played with becomes integral. That calls on the gray scale which is impeccable, and free of crush. Brilliant whites are contrasted with rich black levels that sell rotten castle interiors. Visual effects are plentiful and do not impede any of these elements. In fact, the miniature people scene may carry better black levels than anywhere else in the transfer. This is one of the best in the set.
Immediate highs are pushed through via this DTS-HD mix, an active one in terms of materials. The score, which is almost constant, is fantastic. A slight hiss is maintained at certain peaks – certainly a means of maintaining fidelity – and the end result is a pitch perfect example of restored vintage audio.
Considering the original Frankenstein’s storm sequence, Bride’s sounds like a decades worth of technological sound innovation occurred between releases. Thunder is no longer jarring, and the scoring blends flawlessly within the chaotic weather.
Free of pops or dropped frames to worry about, Bride is an aural winner for those who appreciate the aged end of the Blu-ray audio experience. Dialogue has a notable crispness, and the impact from generations gone by has apparently been minimal.
Film preservationist Scott MacQueen heads up a commentary track to begin the slim extras. She’s Alive is the documentary attached to the bonuses, this one hosted by the awesome Joe Dante. An archive hosts 13-minutes worth of publications, posters, and photos to view. Trailers for each of the sequels are included, and a repeat from earlier in the set, Restoring the Classics, focuses on Universal’s 100th anniversary updates.
Note: This review is based on the UK version of the disc. Contents (video, audio, extras) aside from the menus, are identical to the US release.