Making The Bride Of Frankenstein

October 20, 2022

Mary Shelley published Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1818, and, in 1910, Edison made the first film adaptation. This was followed by the 1931 Universal Studios film, Frankenstein, one of the first talkies. Four years later, Bride of Frankenstein was released.

Source: (Pinterest/colorized).

In the original ending of the 1931 Frankenstein, Henry Frankenstein died, but Universal decided to make the ending happier, allowing him to survive. With Henry still alive, Universal set out to make a sequel, asking James Whale, the director of Frankenstein to direct it. Whale initially refused, but he used the situation to his advantage, convincing them to allow him to make One More River before the sequel. Because Whale didn’t think that the sequel would be successful, he decided to make it a “hoot.”

It Took A While To Get A Script

Several early treatments were created. Robert Florey wrote The New Adventures of Frankenstein—The Monster Lives which was rejected without comment in 1932. A second treatment, The Return of Frankenstein, was being filmed when Whale rejected it, saying, “it stinks to heaven.” Whale rejected the next version as well, and then, in 1934, John L. Balderston began working on another version that focused on an incident in the novel when the Monster demands a bride. Whale rejected his work, but the incident remained the focus of the final script. Finally, Whale hired William J. Hurlbut and Edmund Pearson, who combined elements from the other scripts to create what would become the film.

The Monster and Elizabeth. Source: (IMDb/colorized)


For Bride of Frankenstein, Boris Karloff reprised his role as the Monster, while Colin Clive reprised his role as Henry Frankenstein. Valerie Hobson replaced Mae Clarke as Elizabeth, Henry’s fiancée because of Clarke’s health issues. Before Whale cast Elsa Lanchester as the Bride, he had decided that the same actress should also play Mary Shelley to convey the theme that story, in particular horror, arises from the darker side of the imagination. In a nod to Frankenstein, Lanchester was only credited for playing the role of Mary Shelley, while the role of the Bride was credited to “?” just as the Monster was credited in the original.

The Plot

The film begins with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron praising Mary Shelley for her novel. Shelley reminds them of her intention to convey a lesson about the dangers of trying to play God. The film then returns to the end of Frankenstein, when the Monster is presumed to have died in a burning windmill, and Henry Frankenstein is being nursed back to life by Elizabeth. Meanwhile, the Monster roams the countryside, where he stumbles across a blind man, who teaches him some words and shares a meal with him. Eventually, the Monster encounters Dr. Pretorius, Henry Frankenstein’s mentor. Pretorious, played by Ernest Thesiger, tried to replicate Frankenstein’s work, but when he was unable to, he started to “grow” miniature humans (homunculi). He proposes a “new world of gods and monsters” and befriends the Monster. Pretorious plans to create an artificially grown brain to be used in the body to be animated by Frankenstein. Together, Pretorious and the Monster convince Frankenstein to make the Monster’s mate. However, the outcome is not what the Monster is expecting, as the Bride rejects him. With that rejection, he sends Frankenstein and his now-wife Elizabeth away but says to the Bride “You stay. We belong dead.”