Now this is a classic Universal monster film! Bride of Frankenstein manages to do almost everything right, mixing a ton of classical horror elements like murder, mayhem, mad scientists, love, storms, and grave robbing.
The opening scene comes out of nowhere, with Mary Shelley (author of the original novel) being characterized. She and two male friends discuss the original – footage and all – basically giving viewers a refresher of what happened in the first film (which was released 4 years prior to this sequel). Shelley then tells the two men that that wasn’t the end of the story, but rather just the beginning, and Bride of Frankenstein is off, picking up directly where the first film ends: in the burning windmill.
Karloff, who I loved in the original, is even better in this sequel, portraying the natural progression of his monster character through speaking simple phrases. Unlike in the first film, the monster is sympathetic as he searches for friendship through the unknown mountainside, and the audience wants him to come out on top. This is a complete 180 from the original, and really helps push this film to the classic status it has rightfully earned.
The only negative of Bride of Frankenstein is the lack of the titular character. The entire film builds to the creation of this new female monster, made as a companion for Karloff’s monster. When she is finally brought to life, she receives a mere 5-7 minutes of screen time before “The End” pops onto the screen. The bride is intriguing as hell, and her story begs to be told. Instead, Karloff’s monster is the focus, which should’ve been the point of the original. Hopefully Son of Frankenstein elaborates on the bride monster, and she gets the story she deserves.
Rather than a sequel, I’d argue that Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are two halves of one whole film. The sequel makes the original better, and the original makes the sequel possible. However you cut it, Bride of Frankenstein is a much better film than its predecessor, and an absolute horror classic.