Monday, March 7, 2011

To a new world of gods and monsters!

No 204 - The Bride of Frankenstein
Director - James Whale

There is not much I can say about this film that hasn't already been discussed in the amazing 'History of Horror with Mark Gatiss' - it was on tv a while ago. You missed it.... but its all on here in little sections. Not ideal, but its worth watching.

Episode 1 is about the 30's and the classic Univeral horror era - a genre and era which I know woefully little. So I sat down to enjoy this Universal classic and enjoy two of Universal Studio's classic monsters.

But before that we get an odd little recap. For those watching Bride who may not have seen the original film. So we get Keats (in the most ludicrous tights and with the most preposterous accent) recapping Mary Shelley's original story before she goes on with the new tale.

For a film of such short length (75 minutes), which includes a preamble recapping the last film, it moves with a surprising gentle pace.
Frankenstein is weary and weak. Bedridden as he prepares for his wedding. Meanwhile the monster is ambling around all grunty and confused. He is also the victim of a terrible curse, as who ever he gets close to WILL FALL OVER. This falling over will lead to one of two things. Drowning, or burning. Everyone seems to accidentally drown or burn themselves. Karloff is amazing, and you can see why this is the role which he is iconically known for - his monster flits between the wild, crazed, destructive force and the simpleton child. His hoots of pleasure seem joyfully ape like.

He just is Frankenstein's Monster.... His performance and the iconic make up from Jack Pierce has rippled through subculture to just utterly embody the character. Nobody will ever replace that. Not Johnny Lee Miller, Not Benedict Cumberbatch, Not Robert De Niro. It doesn't matter that Karloff doesn't really look like he's made out of dead people. His performance is incredible and his appearance is infamous.

I'm not even going to linger on the fact that the monster seems to learn a full grasp of perfect English in 2 or 3 days.... because it is a minor irk in an excellent portrayal.

So for most of the film he stumbles around and is persecuted - by comedy 'poor people' such as Una O'Connor's excellent Minnie. Who just seems to be in exactly the right place everytime so she can squeal and screech and be all chucklesome:

But noone is more chucklesome than Dr Pretorious. The saving grace of this film (for, with the exception of the Monster, all of the other characters are quite painfully dull) - Ernest Thesinger camps around with arched eyebrows, looking down his nose. He also gets the film's most preposterous moment as he showcases his collection of tiny homegrown people. The special effects are immense for 1935, but the scene is absurdly comic in a film that is largely serious (and at the time, I should imagine, quite scary).

The speech is in Italian, but deal with it - you're only staring at the little tiny people in jars anyway.

However.... the film's most surprising element is that the Bride herself doesn't actually appear until the final 5 minutes, which is pretty rude considering she is both titular and pretty big on the advertising...
However her performance in those final snatched moments manages to be both etherially creepy and depressingly pathetic.

It all builds up to a bleak as bleak ending that couldn't possibly leave the franchise open for a sequel....

....only.... it did