Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 American science fiction horror film, and the first sequel to Universal Pictures' 1931 film Frankenstein. As with the first film, Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as the Monster. The sequel features Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of Mary Shelley and the titular character at the end of the film. Colin Clive reprises his role as Dr. Henry Frankenstein, and Ernest Thesiger plays the role of Dr. Septimus Pretorius.
Taking place immediately after the events of the earlier film, it is rooted in a subplot of the original Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Its plot follows a chastened Henry Frankenstein as he attempts to abandon his plans to create life, only to be tempted and finally coerced by his old mentor Dr. Pretorius, along with threats from the Monster, into constructing a mate for the Monster.
The preparation to film the sequel began shortly after the premiere of the first film, but script problems delayed the project. Principal photography began in January 1935, with creative personnel from the original returning in front of and behind the camera. Bride of Frankenstein was released to critical and popular acclaim, although it encountered difficulties with some state and national censorship boards. Since its release the film's reputation has grown, and it is now frequently considered one of the greatest sequels ever made; many fans and critics consider it to be an improvement on the original, and it has been hailed as Whale's masterpiece. In 1998, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, having been deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
On a stormy night, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron praise Mary Shelley for her story of Frankenstein and his Monster. She reminds them that her intention for writing the novel was to impart a moral lesson, the consequences of a mortal man who tries to play God. Mary says she has more of the story to tell. The scene shifts to the end of the 1931 Frankenstein, in 1899.
Villagers gathered around the burning windmill cheer the apparent death of the Monster. Hans, the father of the girl the creature drowned in the previous film, wants to see the Monster's bones. He falls into a flooded pit underneath the mill, where the Monster—having survived the fire—strangles him. Hauling himself from the pit, the Monster casts Hans' wife to her death. He next encounters Minnie, who flees in terror.
The body of Henry Frankenstein, who is thought to have died at the windmill, is returned to his fiancée Elizabeth at his ancestral castle home. Minnie arrives to sound the alarm about the Monster, but her warning goes unheeded. Elizabeth, seeing Henry move, realizes he is still alive. Nursed back to health by Elizabeth, Henry has renounced his creation, but still believes he may be destined to unlock the secret of life and immortality. A hysterical Elizabeth cries that she foresees death.
Henry visits the lab of his former mentor Doctor Septimus Pretorius, where Pretorius shows Henry several homunculi he has created. Pretorius wishes to work with Henry to create a mate for the Monster, with the proposed venture involving Pretorius growing an artificial brain while Henry gathers parts for the mate.
The Monster saves a young shepherdess from drowning. Her screams upon seeing him alert two hunters, who shoot and injure the Monster. The hunters raise a mob that sets out in pursuit. Captured and trussed to a pole, the Monster is hauled to a dungeon and chained. Left alone, he breaks his chains, overpowers the guards, and escapes into the woods.
That night, following the sound of a violin playing "Ave Maria," the Monster encounters an old blind hermit who thanks God for sending him a friend. He teaches the monster words like "friend" and "good" and shares a meal with him. Two lost hunters stumble upon the cottage and recognize the Monster. He attacks them and accidentally burns down the cottage as the hunters lead the hermit away.
Taking refuge from another angry mob in a crypt, the Monster spies Pretorius and his cronies Karl and Ludwig breaking open a grave. The henchmen depart as Pretorius stays to enjoy a light supper. The Monster approaches Pretorius and learns that Pretorius plans to create a mate for him.
Henry and Elizabeth, now married, are visited by Pretorius. When Henry expresses his refusal to assist with Pretorius' plans, Pretorius calls in the Monster, who demands Henry's help. Henry again refuses, and Pretorius orders the Monster out, secretly signaling him to kidnap Elizabeth. Pretorius guarantees her safe return upon Henry's participation. Henry returns to his tower laboratory where, despite himself, he grows excited over his work. After being assured of Elizabeth's safety, Henry completes the Bride's body.
A storm rages as final preparations are made to bring the Bride to life. Her bandage-wrapped body is raised through the roof, where electricity is harnessed from lightning to animate her. Henry and Pretorius lower her and, after realizing their success in bringing her to life, remove her bandages and help her to stand.
The Monster comes down the steps after killing Karl on the rooftop and sees his mate. The excited Monster reaches out to her and asks: "Friend?" The Bride, screaming, rejects him. The dejected Monster observes: "She hate me! Like others." As Elizabeth races to Henry's side, the Monster rampages through the laboratory. When Pretorius warns that the Monster's actions are about to destroy them all, the Monster pauses and tells Henry and Elizabeth: "Go! You live! Go!" To Pretorius and the Bride, he says: "You stay. We belong dead." While Henry and Elizabeth flee, the Monster looks at the Bride, sheds a tear, and pulls a lever to trigger the laboratory and tower's destruction.