Maids and Monsters

Ernest Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorius (OS) tempts Boris Karloff’s monster with a bottle of House of Lords Scotch Whisky in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. I mean, why waste good gin? I guess the publicity slogan for that beverage would have to be “Gets you drunk as a lord.” Although I actually like the House of Lords this week because they’re fucking with Brexit. The Brexiteers are outraged, a lot of people belatedly noticing that we have this antiquated branch of government and it isn’t democratic. Well, I guess that’s it’s purpose, to be undemocratic, to stop democracy propelling us off cliffs. I rather doubt it’s the best way of doing this, but the paralysis it produces, as with America’s three-branch system, CAN be a cause for gratitude sometimes.

Other things noticed in BRIDE: the movie is famously disrespectful to its original, recasting Elizabeth from an American blonde to a brunette English teenager, and dropping the stupid old Baron with the unsightly thing on his neck without explanation. Actor Frederick Kerr had died in the interim from causes unconnected with his unsightly neck-thing, and Pretorius congratulates Henry on having inherited the title, but the absence goes otherwise unremarked. One of my students suggested that at the end of the first film, where he’s drinking a toast to the house of Frankenstein, and all the maids are giggling — they’ve poisoned his champagne.


All the pretty, giggling maids have disappeared by the sequel too — replaced by screeching harridan Una O’Connor. Looks like Elizabeth has taken over running the household already…


But, despite playing fast and loose with what we would call “series continuity,” the sequel has one delicious call-back I hadn’t noticed before: once the monster learns to speak, his first words to his creator are a very emphatic “SIT – DOWN!” with a downward wave of the hands. Well, in FRANKENSTEIN, the first words we hear Henry speak to his creation are “Come in,” but the second are “Sit down,” with the exact same gesture. The monster is very purposely letting Henry know that the giant tar-spreader’s shoe is on the other foot now.

Another big-screen discovery: the monster’s decision to let Henry live at the end comes out of left field, a change of character seemingly unmotivated by anything. But it was not always thus: as Henry runs off into the night with Elizabeth, he can still be seen in the exploding lab, a startling feat of bilocation ~

(Pretorius and the Bride are on the right in white, the monster is scarcely visible between the two electrical towers, but Henry is vividly pressed against a wall screen left, about to be crushed along with everyone else by the falling roof.)

Henry is one lucky fellow — reanimated after a fatal fall in the first film, re-re-animated under slightly different circumstances in the second, and then saved from exploding by a last-minute reshoot. Universal appear to have been convinced their audience wanted Frankenstein to live. I’m not sure they were right (and I’m sure the crowd would have cheered if Karloff had found time to throttle Una O’Connor). Possibly a third film was already anticipated, for which a mad scientist would be required. Sadly, Colin Clive would have passed away by the time that happened, leaving his character to die as his father had done, vanishing between films, through a crack in the continuity.

3 Responses to “Maids and Monsters”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    Victor and Elizabeth had two sons: Ludwig and Wolf (Cedric Hardwicke and Basil Rathbone). Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is defined as a grandson of Henry, but Wolf’s son was named Peter and Ludwig only had a daughter, Elsa (who returns in the next movie, having inherited the title of Baroness). And since both those grandchildren had first-hand experience with the monster, neither they nor any presumed siblings would be likely to share Frederick’s initial skepticism that the original monster existed.

    Also, Frederick appears to be American-born. It’s conceivable that Peter or Elsa emigrated and raised a child shielded from the truth, but then he’d be the great-grandson of Henry.

    Maria Frankenstein, who met Jesse James, was a granddaughter despite her movie’s title. She conceivably had Frederick before the events in that film, leaving him with guardians who raised Frederick to deny his heritage (again, making him a great-grandson). A remote possibility is that she and Frederick were siblings, perhaps illegitimate children of either Wolf or Ludwig, who were quietly farmed out to America and raised in very different circumstances.

    Baron Boris Von Frankenstein was presumably the official modern heir (although voiced by Karloff and resembling the original monster, raising some disturbing questions about the Frankenstein household). He had a sister who married a salesman; their son was the schleppish Felix Flanken. But Baron Boris was in the animated “Mad Monster Party”, and we mustn’t be silly about this.

  2. Maybe Peter emigrated to America and changed his name to Frederick (or Froderick?). He has similar curls to the sprog in Son of… Or Wolf may have sired another child at a later date, after being cured of the desire to create offspring by less conventional means.

    One thing that still puzzles me, Columbo-style, me is why Victor and his level-headed friend Henry from Mary Shelley’s book become Henry and his level-headed rival Victor in the 1931 film.

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