Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN – Franz Waxman


October 26, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Due to the tremendous commercial success of Frankenstein in 1931, Universal Studios was highly motivated to film a sequel. However, director James Whale was not interested preferring to pursue other projects, going on to make The Old Dark House in 1932 and The Invisible Man in 1933. Ultimately, he succumbed after four relentless years of badgering, and agreed to direct The Bride of Frankenstein for release in 1935. He brought in trusted screenwriters John Balderston and William Hurlbut to write the script for “The Return of Frankenstein” and he was given a budget of $300,000. Over time the story evolved leading it to be retitled “The Bride of Frankenstein”. Boris Karloff would reprise the role of the monster, while Colin Cleve would return as Henry Frankenstein. Joining them would be Valerie Hobson as Elizabeth, Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Pretorius, Elsa Lanchester as the Monster’s bride, Glavin Gordon as Lord Byron, Douglas Walton as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dwight Frye as Karl Glutz, and Una O’Connor as Minnie. The story opens on a stormy night with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron commending Mary Shelley on the success of her novel “Frankenstein”. She thanks them and then discloses that there was much more to be said regarding the story and we shift to the fiery ending of the first film. We discover that the monster and Henry Frankenstein have apparently survived. After recuperating, Henry meets with Dr. Pretorius who reveals his successful experiments creating homunculi. They decide to collaborate in the audacious creation of a mate for Frankenstein’s monster. After much intrigue they succeed in creating the monster’s bride only to see him shattered as she summarily rejects him. The monster is unable to bear this fate and in a fit of rage destroys the laboratory killing himself and his intended bride. The film was a commercial success earning $2 million or five times its production costs of $397,000. It was also critically praised yet secured only one Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Recording.

James Whale was impressed by Franz Waxman’s score for Liliom, and in a fortuitous meeting during a Christmas party in 1934, he offered him the scoring assignment. Waxman was only provided a 22-member orchestra, and so had to be resourceful, using an organ to double up on his instruments so as to enlarge its sound. He was tasked by the film’s narrative to speak to the grotesque, but also the loneliness, isolation and revulsion expressed by the characters. He chose to infuse his score with a versatile array of classical idioms including a graceful minuet, a pastorale, and a marcia funebre. It is worth noting that Waxman eschewed the traditional diatonic scale, instead composing the score using the whole tone scale, which has only six notes per octave. The choice was well-conceived as the whole tone scale imparts a feeling of restlessness to the music. But in my judgement, it was Waxman’s ability to speak to both the film’s horror and the comedy that served to elevate the score.

Waxman composed his score using classical leitmotifs, providing eight themes, each contrasting and very distinctive, so as to flesh out the story, setting, and actors. The Monster Theme offers a grotesque and dissonant flutter tongued horn declared five-note identity, which perfectly captured his frightful and repulsive monstrous appearance. The theme is malleable in that Waxman sometimes transmuted it into a horrific fanfare, but also a rousing marcia trionfale. A second theme associated with the Monster is the Agitation Theme, which supports his anger, alienation and agitation. True to its name, Waxman provides a classic agitato, which speaks to his fury and propels his rage. Juxtaposed to this is the Bride’s Theme, a softer, consonant and feminine lyrical three-note identity emoted by strings and woodwinds languidi with harp glissandi adornment. What I observe is both the Monster and Bride Themes do not emanate from them, serving as their personal identities, but instead emote the emotional reactions of those that see them. Despite his appearance, the Monster is a sympathetic character who longs for love, friendship and acceptance. The Bride is idealized in conception by those around her, hence the romantic auras of her theme, and yet she herself is not a sympathetic character. We se no tenderness, lovingness or empathy from her, only robotic animation and repellent shrieks. For our villain, Dr. Pretorious’ Theme offers a dark, woodwind rich misterioso, which perfectly captures his diabolical nature and sinister ambitions. Minnie’s Theme offers pure comedy, which embodies her innate silliness. The Vision Theme speaks to apparitions and Elizabeth’s fears. There is an eerie otherworldly feel to the notes, which sow fear and unease. The Chase Theme offers a kinetic, driving construct, which propels scenes of the Monster be hunted. Lastly, we have the Children’s Theme, a playful construct full of gentility and innocence, which speaks to the young school kids.

“Main Title” offers a score highlight where Waxman introduces his primary themes. It supports the roll of the opening credits that commences with an ascent by eerie strings and woodwinds from which arises horrific declarations of the Monster’s Theme by horns grottesche as the film’s title displays. At 0:26 horns sinistre emote the diabolical Pretorius’ Theme, followed by strings agitato launching another horn declaration of the Monster Theme. At 0:49 languorous strings romantico with dreamy harp glissandi introduce the Bride’s Theme. We conclude with dramatic power at 1:05 as the Vision Theme crescendos as the cast credits display. “Menuetto And Storm” reveals Mary Shelley narrating her story as an attentive Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron listen attentively while a thunderstorm batters the estate. Waxman supports the parlor ambiance with the elegant dance-like gentility of a classic minuet. At 2:21 an accelerando by trilling woodwinds and strings agitato with horns orribile carries us to a flashback of scenes of her dark tale Frankenstein, related in detail by Lord Byron. At 3:05 we return to the parlor with a gentile reprise of the minuet as the discussion continues. The mood darkens at 3:35 as Mary discloses that there was more to her tale and the men exhort her to complete the tale.

In “Monster Entrance” Mary’s storytelling returns us to the closing scene of the first film where we were led to believe that both Frankenstein and the Monster had perished. Villagers are jubilant that the Monster has been killed. A plaintive oboe supports a villager’s query regarding the monster’s death, as he demands truth of the Monster’s blackened bones as payment for the death of his daughter. At 0:31 tremolo strings and a descent motif support his fall through the floor into the flooded cistern below. At 0:42 a timpani strike and roll usher in the Agitation Theme from which arises declarations of the Monster’s Theme by horns furioso at 1:04 as the enraged Monster strangles and drowns the poor man. A diminuendo of anxiety and ascent motif caries the Monster upwards crowned by his horned declared theme as he kills the wife of the man he strangled. We conclude the scene at 1:49 as the Monster comes upon Minnie, who screams and flees for her life. Her flight is supported by her comedic Minnie’s Theme born by a flighty construct by piccolo and flute that is taken up by clarinet and bassoon. “Processional March” offers a grim marcia funebre as villagers carry Frankenstein, who they believe is dead, home. Drum strikes and strings agitato usher in at 1:12 repeating statements of the Monster Theme, declared by muted trumpets and tremolo strings agitato as Minnie raises the alarm that the Monster has survived. We conclude with a return of the Marcia Funebre, which builds to a dramatic climax as a devastated Elizabeth accepts Henry’s body.

“Strange Apparition” harp glissandi and organ emote the otherworldly Vision Theme as Elizabeth relates to Henry that she has been plagued by nightmares of a wraith coming for them. At 0:29 loud banging signal the arrival of Dr. Pretorius and we segue into “Pretorius’ Entrance” whose arrival is carried by his theme. Pretorius exhorts and convinces Henry to join him in continuing his experiments in creating life. He invites him to his laboratory and at 0:44 we segue into “You Will Need A Coat” where Pretorius escorts Frankenstein upstairs to his apartment. Pretorius’ Theme emoted by clarinet, flute and muted trumpet, countered by an ascending line by celli, bass, bassoon and bass clarinet. We conclude with a string misterioso and Pretorius’ Theme as the men toast to their new partnership. In “Bottle Sequence” Pretorius reveals one by one his homunculi creations to Frankenstein. Waxman was challenged to create an identity for each of the homunculi and to speak to both the wonder and comedy of the scene. I believe he succeeded on all counts. We open with the queen, which is supported with muted fanfare by horns regale and woodwinds gentile. At 0:19 flutter tongue horns, kindred comedic horns and pizzicato strings support the king, who is eating a mutton chop and blowing kisses to the queen. His music concludes on martial snare drums and trumpets regale. At 0:36 we segue into the Bishop carried by a religioso auras born by organ. At 0:43 what Pretorius describes as the Devil himself; a variant of Pretorius’ Theme is provided. A comedic interlude by playful woodwinds and faux horns regale supports the king’s escape and recapture. At 1:37 the ballerina is introduced with her dancing supported by Felix Mendelsohn’s Spring Song Opus 62, the only music to which she will dance. We conclude at 2:01 with the mermaid, which he supports with prancing strings, woodwinds gentile and tremolo strings.

The scene continues in “Female Monster Music” where Pretorius’ revels to Henry his audacious desire to create a mate for the monster. The Bride Theme supports the revelation. The music from 0:11 – 1:05 were dialed out of the film. We change scenes at 1:06 and segue into “Pastorale” where we see the monster on a stroll through the countryside. Waxman supports the scene with a classic pastorale born by woodwinds gentile, refulgent strings with harp glissandi adornment. The idyllic wonderment is broken at 1:52 atop an ascending crescendo as a shepherdess sees the Monster, screams and falls off a ledge into a pond. The music becomes agitated with discordant declarations of his theme as he jumps in and rescues the girl. A crescendo swells on his theme as he attempts to silence the screaming girl. At 2:25 two hunters arrive and a dramatic crescendo ascent on horns dramatico crests at 2:35 when one shoots the Monster in the arm. As the Monster flees, beleaguered declarations of his theme carry his progress. At 2:47 we segue into “Village” atop an accelerando as the hunters alert the Burgomaster of the Monster’s return. As the men assemble and head out, a transformed Monster Theme resounds as a rousing marcia trionfale, which propels the hunt forward. At 3:22 we segue into “Chase” where we see the Monster desperately fleeing for his life supported by his theme. As the hunting party draws near, snare drums propel the Chase Theme, swelling with intensity as they close in. We see the monster cornered with the men racing upwards to capture him. The Monster’s marcia trionfale initiates a crescendo furioso, which builds to a horrific climax as the Monster is swarmed and overpowered by the men.

“Crucifixion” and the subsequent cue offer a score highlight with astounding thematic interplay. the villagers are reveling in their capture and refulgent strings usher in the Monster fanfare to drive the scene. As the bound monster is hoisted aloft in a crucifixion display beleaguered declarations of his theme support his agony. A harp descent glissando carries the monster’s fall as he is toppled into the cart and is carried off to prison. At 0:21 a robust Monster Marcia Trionfale carries his transport back to town. Muted horns render a subdued Monster March with weakened calls of the Monster Theme as the villagers chain the monster in the dungeon. After the police have departed, we segue at 1:52 into “The Monster Breaks Out” atop the Agitation Theme as we see the Monster break his chains. At 2:14 spirited thematic interplay of the Chase Theme, the Monster Fanfare and the Monster Marica Trionfale reprises as the Monster breaks out of prison and flees for the countryside.

In “Fire In The Hut” there is a album-film discontinuity. In the film diegetic music of the hermit playing a violin entices the Monster to enter. As the two bond, Waxman bathes us in religioso tenderness on organ as the hermit thanks God for providing him a companion. This music is not provided on the album. The next day the blind hermit offers the monster the hospitality of his hut where he makes an effort to teach him speech and inculcate manners. The album cue opens with quivering woodwinds and the Monster Theme as two lost hunters arrive and discovery of the monster. As they try to shoot him, all Hell breaks loose resulting in the overturn of kindling, which is ignited by the hearth, setting the hermit’s hut afire. Interplay of the Monster and Agitation Theme propels the scene. At 0:33 we close on the Children’s Theme as a group of school children flee in horror from the monster. At 0:43 we segue into “Graveyard”, another score highlight, which feature just exceptional writing for the setting. The monster finds refuge in an old cemetery. Waxman speaks to the alienation of the monster by bathing us in auras of sadness as celeste, harp join with the Monster Theme on oboe doloroso. At 1:35 tension enters atop the Chase Theme, creating anxiety in the monster as he hears villagers approaching in the distance. As their sounds fade away, we return and close with celeste, and harp joining with the Monster Theme on oboe doloroso that speak to the monster’s plight and isolation.

“Dance Macabre” offers a wondrous score highlight, with some of Waxman’s finest writing. Pretorius and the monster meet in a graveyard crypt, converse and agree to pursue a shared goal – the creation of a mate for the monster. Waxman speaks to this unholy communion with organ attended by pizzicato strings, which offers a diabolical rendering of Pretorius’ Theme as a danza macabre. At 1:07 an ascent by flute and oboes take up the melodic line as the Monster and Pretorius bond. At 1:21 celli emote the Bride Theme, which joins with a contrapuntal twisted comedic rendering of the Pretorius Theme by bassoon with xylophone adornment. Yet there is more, as the Bride Theme shifts to strings languidi and muted trumpets emote a contrapuntal Monster Theme. We conclude with a final reprise of the Bride Theme, replete with harp glissandi. The conception of this music offers a testament to Waxman’s genius.

In “The Creation” we bear witness to the score’s longest and most complicated cue, a brilliant score highlight. Pretorius and the monster leverage Frankenstein’s assistance by kidnapping Elizabeth and holding her as ransom. Waxman sows unease and speaks to Frankenstein’s anxiety with a misterioso by tremolo strings agitato, which slowly crescendo as we see Karl murder a young woman to procure the bride’s heart. At 0:21 a drum roll initiates a pseudo cardiac cadence by drum, attended by violins agitato and writhing horns, which speaks to Frankenstein’s receipt of the prized heart. At 0:57 the Monster Theme on horns grottesche joins the drum cadence and a frenetic variant of Pretorius’ Theme as he drugs the Monster before proceeding. At 1:15 a yearning rendering of the Vision Theme enters as Pretorius allows Henry and Elizabeth to talk briefly. The steady cardiac drum cadence continues and at 2:07 as they move to insert the heart into the corpse a lush rendering of the Bride Theme by violins and violas supports their efforts. As the storm approaches Frankenstein orders the kites sent aloft and at 2:33 the Bride Theme with sparkling harp glissandi returns as he un-drapes the bride’s body and attached the electrodes to her head. At 4:18 the roof hatch opens dramatically and a descent motif carries the electrical conduits downwards to the bride. As the cardiac drum cadence continues, all the electrical machinery activates and awaits a charge as Waxman’s music swirls like a tempest, contesting with on screen mechanistic sounds of Frankenstein’s machines. At 5:58 repeating statements of the Bride Theme adorned with celeste resounds, swelling in grand anticipation as Frankenstein orders the bride hoisted aloft. At 6:49 the Monster Theme heralds the Monster’s arrival on the roof. The theme joins with strings furioso as a fight ensues with cymbal strikes supporting Karl being thrown to his death. A lightning bolt strikes and energizes the bride’s body supported by a grand statement of her theme, which culminates with a metallic effervescence. As Frankenstein and Pretorius remove the diffusion bands subtle strains of her theme sound on low woodwinds followed by an orchestral shriek at 8:02 as her eye bandages are removed, revealing her alive open eyes. As her bed is tilted upwards, she reaches out and the men stare in wonder as her now otherworldly theme carries the moment. A screen dissolve reveals her now standing tall in a resplendent white wedding gown. As she observes the room Pretorius declares at 8:52 “The Bride of Frankenstein” and celebratory bells embellish her sparkling theme, now rendered in a grand statement. A soft drum interlude supports the approach of the Monster with repeating statements of his theme carrying his progress. As they meet his theme, now tentative interplays with hers now rendered by apprehensive horns, closing with uncertainty as she recoils from him in horror.

“The Tower Explodes And Finale” reveals the Monster unable to bear this final rejection. He goes berserk intent on destroying everything. The Agitation Theme carries his fury, yet when Elizabeth arrives, he relents and allows Henry to escape with her. We build on an ascending crescendo feroce empowered by fierce repeating declarations of the Monster Theme with counters of the Bride Theme. The Monster pulls the power overload lever that initiates a cascade of violent explosions, which destroy the laboratory tower. A series of violent orchestral descents support the crumbling descent of the tower. At 1:52, as Henry and Elizabeth watch the tower collapse from an adjoining hill a refulgent rendering of the Bride’s Theme supports their embrace and the close of the film. At 2:17 we flow into the End Credits atop a final reprise of the dreamy Bride’s Theme. We conclude with a dramatic reprise of the Vision Theme as the cast credits display, and a Bride’s Theme coda, which ends in a glorious flourish.

I would like to thank Silva Screen Records for the long sought reconstruction and re-recording of Franz Waxman’s masterpiece, “The Bride of Frankenstein”. The sound quality is excellent and provides a wonderful listening experience. Waxman was limited by a 22-member orchestra in executing his vision. Thanks to the efforts of Tony Bremner and Soren Hyldgaard, the orchestra was expanded to a 68-members, which allows us for the first time to fully realize and appreciate Waxman’s intent. Waxman’s superb seminal score for The Bride of Frankenstein is as iconic as the movie itself. He composed eight themes, which are rendered in a multiplicity of forms, often in inspired interplay. His score has the epic sweep of a Wagnerian opera, yet its beauty, and its genius lies within its evocative strangeness, disquieting dissonance, haunting melodies and unusual timbres. So successful was Waxman’s effort that it earned him a studio contract, and set the standard for scoring the Horror genre for decades. Indeed, much of Waxman’s techniques have been interpolated into other films, most notably Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars (1938), and his approach for eerie castles firmly embedded into the collective consciousness of popular culture. What sets his effort here apart was his success, his brilliance in speaking to the complex elements of the film’s narrative; the horror, the grotesque, the sinister and the comedic. That he was able to succeed on all counts reveals genius. I believe this classic score to be one of the defining early efforts of the Golden Age and a testament to Waxman’s mastery of his craft. In my judgement this superb album is essential for collectors of film score art, and I highly recommend its purchase.

This classic score, one of the defining early efforts of the Golden Age and a testament to Waxman’s genius, is essential for collectors of the film score art. I have attached a YouTube link for those of you unfamiliar with this score: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iNL1iMM6jo&list=PL635SkRuFL0HqUzUlKWmRsLhg1Z0o2SUI

Buy the Bride of Frankenstein soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:24)
  • Prologue – Menuetto and Storm (3:52)
  • Monster Entrance (2:14)
  • Processional March (2:16)
  • A Strange Apparition/Pretorius’ Entrance/You Will Need A Coat (2:55)
  • Bottle Sequence (2:13)
  • Female Monster Music/Pastorale/Village/Chase (4:30)
  • Crucifixion/Monster Breaks Out (3:11)
  • Fire in the Hut/Graveyard (2:07)
  • Dance Macabre (2:09)
  • The Creation (10:14)
  • The Tower Explodes and Finale (3:10)
  • Suite from ‘The Invisible Ray’ (5:54)

Running Time: 46 minutes 09 seconds

Silva Screen SSD-1028 (1935/1993)

Music composed by Franz Waxman. Conducted by Kenneth Alwyn. Performed by The Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Franz Waxman and Clifford Vaughan. Album produced by Soren Hyldgaard.

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