Oh, Universal Monsters, how I love thee! And this is among the best of the bunch!
Sadly, the version we have now is incomplete; despite testing well, universal cut 15 mins (for time, not censorship reasons) shortly after the film previewed, and those scenes are now lost forever. This studio cut though, was still subject to censorship when it hit our shores.
Obviously, due to the era in which it was made, it is not as explicit or fast paced as we have come to expect; I'd even go as far as to say that there is a 'knack' to watching and appreciating movies from the 30's and 40's, in the same way that one needs to adopt a different frame of mind to watch say, kids films, each decade I think also requires its own frame of mind (think how different even 80's movies are than today's). But I digress.
I love this movie.
It's beautifully lit and shot, the acting is for the most part superb (Karloff, as always, is unfaultable in the role of the monster) and most of the makeup and special effects still stand up today - witness the scene with miniature people in the foreground, while full-sized actors walk around behind them; Today they would probably attempt to CGI the homunculi and it would look awfull.
It's probably (almost certainly) the first horror movie to use a device that would later become associated with postmodernism; The film opens with Mary Shelly talking about how the events of the first film were only the beginning. Shelly is played by Elsa Lanchester, who pulls double duty as The Bride (Credited in the roll simply as "?"). It also has some subtle (too subtle by today's standards - I expect many people miss it) homosexuality references, in the shape of Dr. Pretorius - Dr. Frankenstein's now disgraced former professor (we never learn of the reason for his 'disgrace') and his desire for men to be able to make life together.
The relationship between the Monster and the blind man is superb, and has a great "fairy tale" quality to it (although, in reality, it is from Shelly's original book), and I wish we could have spent more time with them, or have seen more of the hermit once the two parted company.
The creation sequence is a blast, using parts of the original machine, and a few new additions; as was his bent Dwight Frye steels every scene he's in as Karl, the Barons freakish, yet underplayed, assistant.
Finally, the bride herself, who in her (shockingly brief) time on screen is portrait brilliantly all twitching movements, frightened eyes and animalistic grunts and hisses.