It appeared, at the end of the epochal 1931 horror movie Frankenstein, that the monster had perished in a burning windmill. But that was before the runaway success of the movie dictated a sequel. In Bride of Frankenstein, we see that the monster (once again played by Boris Karloff) survived the conflagration, as did his half-mad creator (Colin Clive). This remarkable sequel, universally considered superior to the original, reunites other key players from the first film: director James Whale (whose life would later be chronicled in Gods and Monsters) and, of course, the inimitable Dwight Frye, as Frankenstein's bent-over assistant. Whale brought campy humor to the project, yet Bride is also somehow haunting, due in part to Karloff's nuanced performance. The monster, on the loose in the European countryside, learns to talk, and his encounter with a blind hermit is both comic and touching. (The episode was later spoofed in Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein.) A prologue depicts the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, being urged to produce a sequel by her husband Percy and Lord Byron. She's played by Elsa Lanchester, who reappears in the climactic scene as the man-made bride of the monster. Her lightning-bolt hair and reptilian movements put her into the horror-movie pantheon, despite being onscreen for only a few moments. But in many ways the film is stolen by Ernest Thesiger, as the fey Dr. Pretorious, who toasts the darker possibilities of science: "To a new world of gods and monsters!" Absolutely. --Robert Horton
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