I watched the Bride of Frankenstein from 1939 for the purpose of reviewing the cinematography. Specifically how the film inspired emotion through the use of contrast, lighting, and foreground/background to make their point. Because this film is black and white there was much use of contracting dark black and stark white clothing to emulate who were good guys and who were bad guys. The film had two scientists who created a monster; one was portrayed as the mad scientist while the other was remorseful and hesitate to continue the work. In this scene the mad scientist is wearing black, his white hair and eyebrows are un-kept and crazy looking to portray him as crazy. The second one is dressed in a tidy light colored suit, with a clean haircut and expressions to look meek while the other looks aggressive.
The film used a lot of up close shots on the actors, so their costumes and expressions could inspire the emotion desired and the background would be blurred so that it was devoid of any contribution to the scene. This image is the scientists assistant who kills a woman for money in order for the scientists to create a bride for Frankenstein. What kind of man would do such a thing . . . this up close image shows an unshaven man in tattered clothing and likely in need of dental work. The background has light directly behind the actor and is otherwise dark and offers nothing to the scene.
The experiments are performed in a dark and dreary cellar with stone walls and no windows. Here they use light to make metal shine and create flashes of light as sparks to appear as streams of electricity pulsing through the machines that have smoke rising from them. This is a mad science lab in full operation and of course it is happening during a storm with thunder and lightning striking outside.
No wonder this film is a classic; for a film shot in 1939 they made extremely effective use of the techniques available to them.