Science continues to encroach on matters that we rightly used to leave to God. Sometimes that’s good for the world, but sometimes it is terrible.
Visionary director James Whale saw the problem clearly: science without ethics is a danger to humanity.
The film begins with Baron Von Frankenstein regretting the pain and destruction he has caused. And with his monster (Boris Karloff) still roaming the German countryside.
The monster is the victim of the story. He desperately needs love and care, but all he gets are screaming women and gun-wielding men.
Finally, he happens upon a small cabin in the middle of the woods. There the monster finds a blind man who is just as alone as he is.
The blind man welcomes the monster into his home and offers him everything he has been needing: food, wine, rest, and friendship. The monster feels the overwhelming joy of a desperate person finding kinship for the first time.
It’s possible that James Whale – a gay man – intended this scene to be a metaphor for the euphoria of finding your first boyfriend. Whether that’s true or not, it’s an incredibly beautiful little respite right in the middle of a dark, dark film.
The other plot certainly doesn’t have any heart; just horror with a dash of campy comedy.
The villain of the story is flamboyant mad scientist Dr. Pretorius. When we meet him, he has already managed to create human life in his laboratory. But his manufactured people are only eight inches tall and they live in glass jars.
To us, his experiments are ghoulish. To Dr. Pretorius, they are the inevitable march of scientific progress. The demented doctor blackmails the Baron into helping him create a full-sized woman as a mate for Frankenstein’s monster.
“Follow the lead of nature – or of God, if you like your Bible stories,” Pretorius cackles. “Be fruitful and multiply. Create a race; a man-made race upon the face of the Earth. Why not?”
Why not indeed. Science without ethics=horror.
“Bride of Frankenstein” is not a Christian movie. But it does offer an important warning that is more relevant than ever: if you are going to be an atheist, be a real atheist and believe in nothing. Do not make science your god. Or worse yet, yourself.
The final scene – where we meet the bride – is macabre and magnificent. The great Elsa Lanchester delivers the most memorable cameo in cinema history.
I don’t know where she came up with this, but Lanchester plays the bride like a confused bird, with darting head movements. She is perplexed about suddenly being reanimated, and she does NOT like it. The monster sums it up: “I love dead … hate living.”
Pretty grim, but no more grim than real life. Since “Bride of Frankenstein,” science has taken some dark turns. What we call food is the bodies of sentient mammals and birds – bred and fed to be unnaturally fat and immobile – who live their nightmarish lives in dirty cages. And all life on Earth is in danger from the nuclear war that may be just around the corner.
Science without ethics=horror.