Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bride of Frankenstein

I think one can easily argue that movies from the 1920s and 1930s should be regarded differently from regular movies. In terms of the silent era, sound alone adds so much depth to a movie, and the lack of sound in the film itself lends to a completely different style of film. (It also creates a completely different "entertainment experience" as silent films were accompanied by live orchestras. The fact that no two silent film-watching experiences were exactly alike, and versions today can have different sound accompaniments, means that each experience is closer to a concert than a film, but this is not really important to what I'm talking about, so...)

Moreover, the fact that silent films were still being made in the 30s, after the advent of films with sound, and being made after the heyday of silent films means that they were inadvertently related to silent films. 

I want to make it clear that I'm not really talking about special effects or production values, but the style of filmmaking itself, a topic which I am woefully inadequate in discussing in terms of modern movies, let alone silent film. But, I can still talk about things that I like and things that I don't like.

So, Bride of Frankenstein kinda sucks. You might know a little bit about this movie just through cultural osmosis, and the image above is relatively iconic, even today. Like me, before watching this movie, you might go in there with a few preconceived notions. Mostly all of them would be wrong. I suspect (again, not qualified to say anything about these films and this time period) that this film was something of a watershed moment in terms of filmmaking, marketing and audience appeal.

Can't stress this enough: I don't know what I'm talking about, but assuming that there's a reason this movie is on quite a few "best of" lists this was either the first film to do certain things or exemplified them better than any films of this era. Before I saw this film, I was expecting it to be a horror film, and to maybe have a few memorable images. I was expecting this because even films of the silent era had some creepy or unique visuals:

Films in the 1930s with sound could even have some cool scenes:

And even Frankenstein was built to resemble a horror movie more than anything else. Many of the scenes in Frankenstein were designed to have a chilling effect on the audience:

Now, whether or not this can scare a modern audience is irrelevant; What matters is what the filmmakers tried to do with this scene. They turned off all sound, including footsteps, and just had the Monster follow Frankenstein's bride around. It was intended to be a creepy horror scene.

So, again, I don't think I'm expecting too much from Bride when other films of this era can be well-made or at least contain unique visuals. I contend that Cabinet and Metropolis still have merit even today. But Bride wasn't trying to make a good movie, they were trying to make a good movie-watching experience, and money.

I think the first Frankenstein movie had its heart in the right place. They wanted to make something scary. The makers of Bride wanted people to just have fun while watching the movie. There are scenes meant to frighten, scenes meant to astonish, and a lot of scenes meant to invoke humor.

With so many things going on in this movie, it wouldn't surprise you to know that it fails at most of them, all with the big hook "The Monster finally gets a bride!" that doesn't come to fruition until the final 10 minutes of the movie. They made this movie for people to essentially just have a good time, and titled it with a dumb schtick to get people interested in seeing it, but ultimately I don't think this film has much redeeming value.

But then, I don't know what I'm talking about, so there's that.

1) Well made? - Maybe the scene with the little people was impressive in 1930, but otherwise, not really.
2) Contributed?  - This movie might be the first all-ages blockbuster extravaganza, and again, the special effects might have been original in its time.
3) Good time? - Nooooo
 4) Watch again? - Noooooo
5) Worth it?  - Probably not. If you like horror movies like me you might be thinking that this could be part of a greater understanding of horror in general, but if you're familiar with the image of the Bride and her hair then you pretty much understand its contribution to the world of horror.
6) Who should watch this? - People born in the 1910s

No comments: