Variations on a Theme, No. 2: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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Franz Waxman – Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir. James Whale)

Winner at the 1936 Academy Awards: Max Steiner, The Informer (1935, dir. John Ford)

The granddaddy of all horror film scores and possibly the first truly great score written for a sound film, Franz Waxman’s music for Bride of Frankenstein gives us the gravity of “Processional March” (1); the excitement of “Crucifixion/The Monster Breaks Out” (2), which accompanies the scenes when the townspeople capture the Frankenstein Monster, tie him to a cross and imprison him in a dungeon, only for the Monster to escape moments later; and “The Creation” (3), containing my favorite theme, the three-note leitmotif (starting at the 3:33 mark) associated with the Monster’s Mate, who has just been given life at this point in the film. (If you are familiar with musical theater, you will undoubtedly notice the similarity between the Bride’s leitmotif and “Bali Ha’i” from South Pacific.) As J. Hoberman wrote last year in a New York Times piece about classic horror films: “The meeting if not quite the mating of Karloff’s creature and Elsa Lanchester’s bride — crowned with a frizzy electric-shock coiffure and moving like a robot ballerina to Franz Waxman’s surging score — is not only the climax of the movie but also the high point of Universal monsterdom.”

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One thought on “Variations on a Theme, No. 2: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

  1. Pingback: Variations on a Theme, No. 9: Gods and Monsters (1998) | The Iron Cupcake

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