Zachary Smith wrote:
Frankly, I prefer "Frankenstein" (1931) to Mary Shelly's original vision. The James Whale movie distills the concept down to its bare bones essence, thereby increasing the emotional impact dramatically. Yeah, the original source is more layered and philosophical but that actually dilutes the story compared to the movie and weighs it down. I think the Karloff portrayal of the "monster" is one of cinema's greatest performances and doubt it will ever be touched by any "chatty" thoughtful version of Frankenstein's creation.
I have to agree. I've yet to see a "faithful adaptation" of the original book that really worked well (I hear the made-for-TV Frankenstein The True Story TV version from 1974 starring Michael Sarrazin and Jane Seymour as the Bride is pretty good). That said, I've never been a particular fan of the book itself. This is a case where, in my opinion, the concept is stronger than the execution. In all fairness to Mary Shelley, of course, it was 1818 after all and no one had ever written a novel of this nature, so there were no rules by which to go by. And also as anyone who has tried to read Dickens, Austen, or any of the writers from even earlier times can attest, the style of writing used in the 19th century is an acquired taste, especially to those used to the likes of Stephen King. But even though Shelley's novel is considered both one of the first true SF novels and also the first true steampunk novel, in fact the original Karloff movie is the best representation of these themes, even if it diverged from the original story.
I also speak as one of the 10 people on the planet who truly dislikes The Bride of Frankenstein. Everyone else seems to think it's the better film than the 31 version, and I've seen it called the best horror movie ever. Myself, I think it served to establish more stereotypes about the Monster than even the Abbott & Costello movie, and one of the reasons I've never been a huge fan of Mel Brooks' otherwise-brilliant parody Young Frankenstein is that in my opinion they'd already made the parody, and that was Bride of Frankenstein. The 1931 film is by far the better Frankenstein film, and has never been equalled (though I consider the 1931 Dracula to be the superior HORROR film). I'm not against mixing horror and comedy, but there's a time and a place, and the second film of a series wasn't the time (sort of like if Star Trek II had been the comedy The Voyage Home - it might not have killed the series, but Voyage Home worked as a comedy precisely because it had followed 3 relatively serious films; a "comedy Frankenstein" would have been better served around film 4 or 5 in the series, if not even as late as 1948 when the A&C film was made).
Backing up Zachary's comment above, one of the biggest failings of Bride of Frankenstein - beyond the screeching old woman who was the Jar Jar Binks of her generation, and the pointless vignette about the miniature people - was the decision to make the Monster speak. Karloff was vehemently opposed back in the day (this is well documented) and I'm in full agreement with him. Once he started to speak, he lost all of his pathos and no amount of acting skill on Karloff's part could make it right. The so-called classic "blind man and the cabin" sequence is just painful to watch.