Always the Devil’s Advocate, enjoying his meal in the crypt, grinning like a skull, Dr. Pretorius finally gives in to his nature and offers, “Sometimes I have wondered whether life wouldn't be much more amusing if we were all devils.” And there is the poor devil himself, Boris Karloff waiting for his Bride. He “love dead, hate living”--and so fits right in with this midnight choir, warbling the little liebestod song with the giggling cadence of madmen.
James Whale becomes Frankenstein, piecing together dead things to pull his little graveyard prank, bringing Something to life just to kill it, to make us see ourselves dead, from the Shelleys and Byron to Elsa Lanchester, torn from her Romantic hearthside and mummified, hissing in her ceremental robes.
And of course the picture is never more alive than when Pretorius croons like a hag about how rotten it all is, and delicious--while the Monster’s attempts to crawl out of the grave and enjoy life make for ghastly comedy. It’s as though your closest companion, your loving old mother, even your beloved spouse, were nothing but middens, tossed on the common trash-heap--and all for the sake of a gag. And yes I suddenly laughed, like a dry sneeze, Whale tickling the ivories running inside me, all cold bone and hollow thumps.
And the spell must have been complete--or I am growing old--because I felt a catch in my throat as the Monster informed everyone, “We belong dead,” and threw the ubiquitous switch, and blew them all to Hell, giving Pretorius his fondest wish. Suddenly it seemed a tragedy, Karloff once more inviting us to peek inside and feel how lonely it must be, there beneath the clay and mortar of his makeup and the weight of his leaden boots.