The scene is a mere YouTube search away these days, despite the efforts of the Golden Age-era censoring bodies.
It begins with Lugosi finding Francis cowering from a violent fight she witnesses by the Seine; Francis has no name beyond her credit as “Streetwalker,” so it’s clear how things are going to go for her. The doctor whisks her away to his lab, where the notorious scene unfolds: bound to crossed beams and standing in torn underwear, the woman screams as Mirakle, aproned like the sadists of “Hostel,” takes a nonconsensual blood sample. “We shall know,” he proclaims, “if you are to be the Bride of Science!” He then deems her blood “rotten,” tainted by a life of sin. As she succumbs to her wounds, he drops to his knees before her body and wrings his hands together as if in prayer. It’s a foul religious image, as perverse and sublime as that of Shelley Winters’ pre-death prayers in “The Night of the Hunter.”
David J. Skal’s cultural history tome “The Monster Show” chronicles the pearl-clutching reactions to the scene, the most damaging of which came from those who had the power to stamp it out of the film entirely, like the New York State Censor Board. Skal writes of the board’s judgments:
‘Reel 2 — eliminate all distinct views (5) of the girl bound and tied to cross beams… all views of her writhing in agony — all views of Doctor standing over her, holding her arm while he tortures her. Eliminate all sounds of girl and loud cries and moans of agony and fear, and accompanying dialogue…”
Ultimately, Arlene Francis’ role in the film was decimated, even cut from Universal’s 1936 rerelease four years later. So much for poetry.