Sense of Wonder: Bride of Frankenstein goes back to the lab

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Biz Blog informs us that the long-discussed remake of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is back in development. Neil Burger (THE ILLUSIONIST) is slated to direct, from a script he is co-writing with Dirk Wittenborn. Few details about the project’s direction are available except that it will differ significantly from previous script that have been developed for the project, including a modern-day take set in New York City
I cannot say I am particularly thrilled by this prospect. As much as I am pleased to see Universal trying to revive its classic horror legacy, the results so far have been disappointing. The MUMMY movies made a ton of money, but they were basically RAIDERS rip-offs. VAN HELSING was overwrought and under-developed, wasting its monsters on a film that had more in common with Japanese anime than classic horror. THE WOLF MAN looks as though it might be good, and I have some hopes for THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
But Universal Studios’ BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is another matter; it’s one of those sacred films that should not be touched, except perhaps by a genius. Released in 1935, the original BRIDE dates from the Golden Age of black-and-white horror films. It was directed by James Whale, the most talented person working in the genre at that time, and it is generally regarded as superior to Whale’s earlier FRANKENSTEIN. In fact, Denis Gifford, in his wonderful book A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, calls BRIDE…

…the biggest-budgeted, best dressed, highest-polished, finest-finished horror film in history; a first-class Hollywood product made with all the artistry and technology a top studio normally lavished upon only its most commercial ventures. It was Whale’s best work – and his last in the genre; he felt he could not top it. With it he established himself as the master director of horror…

That is, frankly, a lot to live up to. Although I enjoyed THE ILLUSIONIST to some extent, it’s not the kind of film to convince me that Neil Burger should be let loose on what is, by almost universal consensus, one of the great classics of horror cinema. There is no reason to remake a film like this unless the filmmakers can bring a touch of genius to the project that in some way equals or surpasses the original. Guillermo Del Toro might be right for the project if he were not so busy. Right now, I’d cast my vote for Tomas Alfredson (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN).
NOTE: Commenting on the Risky Biz Blog’s announcement, Cinematical’s Monika Bartyzel opines that Helan Bonham Carter should play the Bride of Frankenstein in the remake. Ms. Bartyzel seems unaware that the actress already did play the role – in 1994’s MARY SHELLY’S FRANEKNSTEIN.

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