By 1935, Universal Pictures had ensured a legacy by founding a dynasty of horror films that have since entered the realm of popular mythology. Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and an Invisible Man had proved to be potent box office draws. Along the way Universal had dabbled in Poe adaptations such as Murders in Rue Morgue (1932) and The Black Cat (1934). 1935 would see The Werewolf of London, The Raven, and what was to be the greatest horror film of all, The Bride of Frankenstein.
Although publicity releases and Daily Variety blurbs had heralded a Frankenstein sequel as early as 1933, it was not until late 1934 that James Whale, the director of the 1931 original, turned his attention to a sequel. Whale had also previously helmed The Invisible Man (1933) and The Old Dark House (1932), both successful horror films which also exhibited large doses of mordant humor.
The film began shooting on January 2, 1935, was completed on March 7th, and was previewed during the first week of April. Following previews the film was re-edited, trimming some scenes, eliminating some subplots, and even ading an additional scene that was not in the original script. Most dramatic, however, was the decision to add a "happy ending" by allowing Frankenstein and Elizabeth to escape from the exploding tower. Today we can only guess what the original version of The Bride of Frankenstein may have been like. The films was probably around 15 minutes longer than its release length of 75 minutes. Clues abound in the original script, stills from the film, and Franz Waxman's music.
Aside from any artistic consideration of what impact these changes may have had on the film (especially relevant in this age of motion picture restoration), the post-preview editing was to have a decided effect on Waxman's musical score. Nine of the seventeen musical sequences (several of which segue together) were casualties and suffered truncation. This recording resotres several of those cues to their original length, although for artistic reasons others have been recorded as they were heard in the final release version of the film.
Film studios often used a piano or organ to "double" instruments to make the orchestra sound larger than it was. Bride uses organ sonorities principally to achieve very specific sound coloring. While it has been said that Waxman planned to use an Ondes Martenot in the score, there are no such references in Waxman's original sketches or orchestrations (and Ondes Martenot is an electronic instrument similar in principle to a theramin but capable of determinate pitch. Waxman had used it in his score for the 1933 Liliom.) It seems unlikely that Universal, strapped for capital during this period, whould bow to the extravagance of importing such an instrument, even for Whale. For this recording Mr. Bremner has taken artistic license to discreetly use a synthesizer in several places. "Main Title" [mp3].
Franz Waxman's score provided a sophistication that was simply out of the ordinary and unrivaled in its time by the majority of film scores. It became a staple of Universal's music library and was reused for years in serials, westerns, and "B" films. Ironically, in many cases it is only possible to hear some of the Bride cues complete and with minimal sound effects in those films that tracked the score. In a conversation in the early sixties, Waxman lamented the fact that the Creation sequence, of which he was so justifiably proud, could be barely heard under the stum und drang sound effects of the film.
Waxman often employed leitmotives in his scores to quickly establish character identification. The motifs would often grow musically more complex as the film progressed, and different motifs were often combined contrapuntally. Bride uses only a few major themes: yet the score is musically so inventive that each successive treatment of a theme is fresh and interesting.
Nearly 58 years after it was made, The Bride of Frankenstein continues to be shown on television and has sold well on video cassette and laser disc. Even in today's age of "slice and dice" graphic horror, the first sight of the monster in the pool beneath the burned mill can still evoke chills. The Bride of Frankenstein is closer to Mary Shelley's conception than any other Frankenstein film. And like the novel, it has stood the test of time as a certifiable classic.
--RICHARD H. BUSH, from the liner notes
Bride Of Frankenstein Complete Score