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Bride of Frankenstein: Classic Monster Collection

If James Whale regarded his 1931 Frankenstein to be a tongue-in-cheek joke, such didn't stop it from becoming a box-office smash. But movie audiences and Universal Studios (who made a pile of money from Whale's creepy Gothic excursion) were much bigger fans of the film than Whale may have been, and it took four years and quite a bit of prodding to get the British theater director back behind the camera to further the story of Dr. Henry Frankenstein and his misfit monster. Moreover, when Whale returned to the subject, he made it clear that it would only be on his terms, allowing 1935's Bride of Frankenstein to not only become the most popular of all the Universal horror films, but the most liberated, brimming with Whale's unusual wit. Nonetheless, Whale took pains to credit Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, whose existence is all but overlooked in the original film, whereas the sequel opens with Shelly, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelly, and Lord Byron, in their Swiss villa not long after that fateful night that she first told the Frankenstein story. After some urging by Byron, Mary (played by Elsa Lanchester, who also plays the Bride in the final scene), continues her sordid tale, where we discover that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his creation (Boris Karloff) aren't actually dead (despite the conclusion to Frankenstein, which implies otherwise), but that the doctor is recuperating with his fianceé while the creature roams the countryside in search of food. Henry Frankenstein knows that he should abandon his quest for forbidden knowledge, but his Faust meets with a Mephistopheles — Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger), a former instructor who also has experimented with the artificial creation of life and wants to join forces with his wayward pupil in search of nature's deepest secrets. As the scientists and the monster proceed towards their inevitable reunion, Whale returns to Shelly's novel to re-incorporate the famous scene between the creature and the blind hermit, along with the monster's acquisition of speech. He also adds a few wry touches of his own, in particular Lanchester's double-persona, the monster's gluttonous cigar smoking, and Pretorious's whimsical collection of miniature humans in glass enclosures. As Pretorious, Thesiger gives Bride of Frankenstein an extra, darker dimension that was lacking in the original, personifying the dangerous urges of his tormented student with a charming manner and also making for a delicious, devilish romp. Good transfer from an excellent source print with strong low-contrast detail, DD 1.0 audio (which is clear and easily understood). Extra content includes the 40-minute documentary "She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein," a commentary track by film historian Scott MacQueen, a still gallery, production notes, the original theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios and filmographies, and Web links.

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