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Before Empire Strikes Back, before Aliens, before Evil Dead II, here is the original “better than” sequel, which mines the source material for what is essential and pushes the magic a step further. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is not only superior to the original but it is also the culmination of James Whale‘s singular sardonic surrealism. This is the film that marks him as the forefather of quirky horror and delectable strangeness. Take this scene in which Doctor Pretorius (played with fervor by Ernest Thesiger) charms Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) into joining forces on a new experiment – a scene chock-full of fantastic dialogue, jarring expressionistic sets, and eye-popping (for the time) special effects, way ahead of its time in tone, subject, and wit, presaging a future full of fictional mad scientists and very real clone technology. A key scene in a fascinating movie whose wraparound story begins with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, who also plays the Bride) and which continues to self-reflexively play with the themes of creation throughout. Ballerinas in bottles, kings and popes the playthings of a twisted madman: of Gods and Monsters indeed!

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