A light shines in the window of Lord Byron's estate on a stormy dark night as thunder crackles. Inside the elegant drawing room of the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, in the early 1800s, three characters are lounging and talking together in an historical reconstruction: Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon), poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton) and his 19-year-old bride Mary Shelley. The memorable scene recreates a discussion the trio may have had. Before a roaring fire, Mary expresses her unusual fear of thunder and the dark.
Lord Byron: How beautifully dramatic. The crudest, savage exhibition of Nature at her worst without, and we three, we elegant three within. I should like to think that an irate Jehovah was pointing those arrows of lightning directly at my head, the unbowed head of George Gordon Lord Byron, England's greatest sinner. But I cannot flatter myself to that extent. Possibly those thunders are for dear Shelley - heaven's applause for England's greatest poet.
Shelley: What of my Mary?
Lord Byron: She is an angel.
Mary: You think so?
Lord Byron: Do you hear? Come, Mary. Come and watch the storm.
Mary: You know how lightning alarms me. Shelley darling, will you please light these candles for me?
Shelley: (laughing) Mary, darling.
Lord Byron: Astonishing creature.
Mary: I, Lord Byron?
Lord Byron: Frightened of thunder, fearful of the dark. And yet you have written a tale that sent my blood into icy creeps.
Mary: (giggling) Ha, ha, ha.
Lord Byron: Look at her Shelley. Can you believe that bland and lovely brow conceived of Frankenstein, a Monster created from cadavers out of rifled graves? Isn't it astonishing?
Mary: I don't know why you should think so. What do you expect? Such an audience needs something stronger than a pretty little love story. So why shouldn't I write of monsters?
Lord Byron: No wonder Murray's refused to publish the book. He says his reading public would be too shocked.
Mary: It will be published, I think.
Shelley: Then, darling, you will have much to answer for.
Mary defends her Frankenstein novel to her admirer . . .
Mary: The publishers did not see that my purpose was to write a moral lesson. The punishment that befell a mortal man who dared to emulate God.
Lord Byron: Well, whatever your purpose may have been, my dear, I take great relish in savoring each separate horror. I roll them over on my tongue.
Mary: Don't, Lord Byron. Don't remind me of it tonight.
The film dissolves and flashes back to moments from the first film, in order to summarize what happened, and includes a few additional shots created for the flashback. Bryon recalls . . .
Lord Byron: What a setting in that churchyard to begin with. The sobbing women, the first plod of earth on the coffin. That was a pretty chill. Frankenstein and the dwarf stealing the body out of its new-made grave, cutting the hanged man down from the gallows where he swung creaking in the wind.
The cunning of Frankenstein in his mountain laboratory, picking dead men apart and building up a human Monster, so fearful - so horrible that only a half-crazed brain could have devised. And then the murders. The little child drowned. Henry Frankenstein himself thrown from the top of the burning mill by the very Monster he had created. And it was these fragile white fingers that penned the nightmare.
Mary pricks herself while sewing, drawing blood and becoming squeamish at the sight.
Mary: Ah! You've made me prick myself, Byron.
Percy: There, there. I do think it a shame, Mary, to end your story quite so suddenly.
Mary contends that she has told only part of her story, and then explains that Frankenstein's Monster (Boris Karloff) did not perish, but actually survived the fire that destroyed the blazing old windmill in the first film.
Mary: That wasn't the end at all. Would you like to hear what happened after that? I feel like telling it. It's a perfect night for mystery and horror. The air itself is filled with monsters.
Lord Byron: I'm all ears. While heaven blasts the night without, open up your pits of hell.
Mary weaves her new tale of horror, providing a lead-in to the visualization of the film's story. The camera pulls back from the trio and dissolves into the sequel.
Mary: Well then, imagine yourselves standing by the wreckage of the mill. The fire is dying down. Soon, the bare skeleton of the building rolls over. The gaunt rafters against the sky.
The mill burns to the ground while peasants from the village cheer and endorse its destruction. Minnie (Una O'Connor), Dr. Frankenstein's high-strung, screeching housekeeper/chambermaid, exults . . .
Villager 1: Well, I must say, that's the best fire I ever saw in all me life.
Minnie: What are you cryin' for?
Villager 2: It's terrible.
Minnie: I know. But after all them murders and poor Mr Henry being brought home to die, I'm glad to see the monster roasted to death before my very eyes. It's too good for him. It's all the devil's work, and you'd better cross yourself quick before he gets you.
To restore order, the village's burgomaster (E. E. Clive) declares the Monster dead and encouragingly sends the mob home.
Burgomaster: Come along, come along. It's all over. Get back to your homes and go to sleep.
Minnie: There it goes again. It ain't burnt out at all. There's more yet. Isn't the monster dead yet?
Burgomaster: It's high time every decent man and wife was in bed.
Minnie: That's his insides caught at last. Insides is always the last to be consumed.
Burgomaster: Move on. You've had enough excitement for one night. This strange man you call a monster is dead.
Minnie: Monster, indeed!
Burgomaster: You may thank your lucky stars they sent for me to safeguard life and property.
Minnie: Why didn't you safeguard those drowned and murdered?
Burgomaster: Come, now. We want no rallying, no riots.
Minnie: Who's riotin'?
Burgomaster: Move on, move on. Good night all, and pleasant dreams.
Minnie: Ah, pleasant dreams yourself. Thinks he's everybody just because he's a burgomaster. Huh!
Believed to be mortally wounded after being thrown from the burning mill (his fall only partially cushioned by one of the mill blades), Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) lies on a stretcher. Fed up with Minnie's noisy contentiousness about everything, the burgomaster finally blurts . . .
Minnie: Poor Mr Henry. He was to have been married today to that lovely girl Elizabeth.
Burgomaster: Cover him up. Someone must break the news to the poor girl. Ride as fast as you can to the castle, and tell the old Baron Frankenstein we are bringing his son home.
Minnie: Oh, dear.
Burgomaster: Oh, shut up!
Hans (Reginald Barlow), the peasant father of the little girl the monster accidentally drowned, and his wife (Mary Gordon) linger at the site. Unsatisfied and vengeful, Hans is determined to view the Monster's remains.
Hans' Wife: Come home, Hans. The monster is dead now. Nothing could be left alive in that furnace. Why do you stay here?
Hans: I want to see with my own eyes.
Hans' Wife (pleads): Oh Hans, he must be dead. And dead or alive, nothing can bring our little Maria back to us.
Hans: If I can see his blackened bones, I can sleep at night.
Hans' Wife: Come back, Hans! You will be burned yourself! Maria drowned to death and you burned up! What should I do then?