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14 Reanimated Facts About The Bride Of Frankenstein

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Arguably one of the most popular horror sequels ever made, The Bride of Frankenstein has been cited as James Whale’s masterpiece, Boris Karloff’s finest hour, and the crown jewel of Universal’s monster series. Here’s what every movie buff should know about the 1935 classic.

1. AT FIRST, JAMES WHALE DIDN’T WANT TO DO THE MOVIE.

In 1931, Universal released what’s often viewed as the definitive film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff in a breakout performance, the movie was a colossal success. Critics at The New York Times praised it as one of the year’s greatest films. At the box office, Frankenstein exceeded all expectations—grossing an astounding $12 million against a $262,000 budget.

Naturally, Universal wasted no time in planning a sequel. Before 1931 came to a close, Robert Floreywho’d later write a short story that would become Universal's The Wolf Man—submitted a seven-page story outline for a follow-up movie called The New Adventures of Frankenstein: The Monster Lives. Although Florey’s ideas were flatly dismissed, Universal was determined to churn out a second film.

For his part, Whale believed that he was done with the franchise. “I squeezed the idea dry with the original picture and never want to work on it again,” he told a friend. Eventually, though, the auteur agreed to direct The Bride of Frankenstein on the condition that he be given a greater degree of creative control this time around. The studio agreed.

2. REJECTED PLOT CONCEPTS INVOLVED EVERYTHING FROM DEATH-RAYS TO CIRCUS LIONS.

During pre-production, numerous story outlines were entertained. One scriptwriter came up with a bizarre plot in which Dr. and Mrs. Frankenstein change their names and go into hiding as circus performers. When the monster finds them, he angrily petitions the doctor for a mate, but ends up getting eaten by some trained lions instead. Another idea called for Dr. Frankenstein to murder his own creation with a death-ray—at the League of Nations headquarters, no less!

3. ERNEST THESIGER BEAT OUT TWO HORROR LEGENDS FOR THE ROLE OF DR. PRETORIUS.

The true villain in The Bride of Frankenstein isn’t the monster, nor is it his would-be wife or Dr. Henry Frankenstein himself. Rather, it’s another crazed scientist who goes by the name of Dr. Pretorius. Universal A-listers Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi were both considered for the role. But in the end, Whale cast Ernest Thesiger, a brilliant character actor who’d previously worked with the director on such films as The Old Dark House (1932) and The Ghoul (1933).

4. LOOK CLOSELY AND YOU’LL NOTICE THAT THE MONSTER’S WOUNDS APPEAR TO HEAL.

In the original Frankenstein’s thrilling climax, the monster seems to meet its demise inside of a windmill that’s caught fire. So when we first see the creature in Bride, the big brute is riddled with obvious burns. Also, a lot of his hair has obviously been singed off. For subsequent scenes, however, makeup artist Jack Pierce incrementally toned down the burns and replaced some of the hair. This created the illusion that the monster was slowly recovering from its injuries over the course of the film.

5. PRETORIUS’S MINIATURE MERMAID WAS AN OLYMPIC MEDALIST.

While trying to enlist Henry’s aid, the twisted doctor shows off some of his own creations—namely, a quintet of tiny people that are kept in glass bottles. There’s a miniature queen; a gluttonous king, clearly modeled after Henry VIII; a ballerina; a drowsy archbishop; and even a bearded figure whom Pretorius introduces as “the very devil” himself. Finally, he unveils a Lilliputian mermaid, as portrayed by Josephine McKim. In real life, McKim was an accomplished swimmer who competed at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. Overall, she won three medals for the U.S., including two golds.

6. BORIS KARLOFF OBJECTED TO GIVING THE MONSTER ANY DIALOGUE.

Although the creature had been a mute in the first movie, Whale decided that the reanimated corpse ought to pick up some basic language skills during the sequel. Both Karloff and the studio disagreed quite strongly, but in the end, Whale got his way. Sara Karloff—the actor’s daughter—explained her father’s reservations in the DVD documentary She’s Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein. “He felt it would take away from [his performance in the original film] and I think he was wrong,” she said. “History, cinema history, has proven him wrong.”

7. AT ONE POINT, THE BLIND MAN PLAYS “AVE MARIA” ON HIS VIOLIN.

In a scene that Mel Brooks would lovingly spoof almost 40 years later, the monster befriends a sage-like violinist who lives alone in the woods and happens to be blind. Classical music fans will no doubt recognize the tune that the character is playing when Karloff’s creature first makes his acquaintance. The melody comes from “Ave Maria,” a famous prayer composed by Franz Schubert in 1825. Later on, when the monster and his only friend tearfully join hands, the theme can again be heard in the background.   

8. MARILYN HARRIS (THE “DROWNED GIRL” FROM THE FIRST MOVIE) MAKES A BRIEF APPEARANCE.

Marilyn Harris’s character in the original Frankenstein was a little girl with a tragically short lifespan. In that film, the sweet-tempered child invited the monster to play with her by a lakeside. Failing to predict the consequences of his actions, the creature unintentionally killed his new pal by tossing her into the water. Universal horror fans hadn’t seen the last of Harris, however. As The Bride of Frankenstein DVD commentary points out, she briefly shows up in the sequel. Forty-five minutes in, the actress can be seen leading a group of rural school kids who run away in terror when the monster approaches.   

9. THE BRIDE’S FAMOUS HAIRDO WAS SUPPORTED BY A WIRE CAGE.

Elsa Lanchester was double-cast in this movie. During the prologue, she portrays a young Mary Shelley. Then, toward the climax, she makes an electrifying entrance as the intended bride of Frankenstein’s monster. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the creature is her wild, streaky coiffure. The look—which was inspired by the Egyptian queen Nefertiti—has become every bit as iconic as the widow’s peak that Bela Lugosi so confidently rocked as Count Dracula. Over the years, it’s been duplicated in several horror-comedies, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Hotel Transylvania.

Lanchester’s unusual ‘do wasn’t a wig, by the way—her actual hair was used to create the look. “I had it lifted up from my face, all the way around; then they placed a cage on my head and combed my own hair over that cage. Then they put the gray-streak hairpieces in afterwards,” she explained in an interview.

10. THE BRIDE’S VOCALIZATIONS WERE PARTLY INSPIRED BY SOME ANGRY BIRDS.

In London, Lanchester used to take frequent strolls through The Regent’s Park with her husband. Here, the young couple would regularly encounter some ill-tempered swans. “They’re really very nasty creatures, always hissing at you,” Lanchester later recalled. While portraying the female monster in Bride, she imitated those threatening birdcalls onscreen. “I used the memory of that hiss,” Lanchester said. “The sound men, in one or two cases, ran the hisses and screams backwards to add to the strangeness.”

11. PART OF THE ENDING WAS HASTILY RE-SHOT.

Originally, Henry Frankenstein (played by Colin Clive) was going to die in the climactic explosion along with the monster, its hissing mate, and Pretorius. However, after the sequence had already been filmed, Universal insisted that Whale go back and change it. Feeling that Bride should end on a somewhat happy note, the studio wanted Henry to survive the blast, and Whale grudgingly agreed.

Just a few days before the movie opened on April 22, 1935, some additional shots of Henry and his wife, Elizabeth, dashing away from the castle were filmed. This created a blooper in the final cut: If you pause the above clip at 2:15, you can clearly see Henry hugging the inside wall—after he’s already left the premises—just a few seconds before the whole building collapses.

12. THE MOVIE WAS BANNED IN MULTIPLE COUNTRIES.

With its high body count, religious imagery, and sexual undertones, The Bride of Frankenstein did not endear itself to certain viewers—or to certain governments, for that matter. The film was banned outright in Trinidad, Hungary, and Palestine. In China, censors insisted that four key scenes be cut from the movie before it could be legally shown within the country’s borders. Not to be outdone, the Swedish censorship board implemented a staggering 25 cuts, dramatically reducing Bride’s runtime.

13. THIS WAS THE ONLY ENTRY IN UNIVERSAL’S FRANKENSTEIN SERIES TO RECEIVE AN OSCAR NOD.

The Bride of Frankenstein received an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Recording, although it lost the award to Naughty Marietta, an MGM movie musical starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

14. IT’S NEIL GAIMAN’S FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE.

“It’s a lot of people’s favorite horror film," said bestselling author Neil Gaiman of The Bride of Frankenstein. "Dammit, it’s my favorite horror film.” In the above clip, Gaiman recalls staying up late as a boy to catch both Frankenstein and its 1935 sequel in a televised double-feature. What did he think? “Frankenstein was a huge disappointment to me,” Gaiman admitted, but he fell in love with the atmospheric Bride and remains a fan to this day. He is especially fond of the climax, which he cites as his favorite “two to three minutes of film, ever.” Another celebrity admirer is Guillermo del Toro, who, in a 2008 conversation with Rotten Tomatoes, ranked The Bride of Frankenstein as one of his top five films.

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
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Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
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In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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