TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL, APRIL 22-25
You know there must have been electricity in the air when “The Bride of Frankenstein” opened in theaters on April 22, 1935. The superior sequel to Universal’s 1931 landmark horror film, “Frankenstein,” was advertised as “not for the young, the scared, the nervous.” The film is so startlingly effective and deliciously funny that no real cinema fan should consider skipping a chance to see it.
On Saturday, both newcomers and old fans alike have a chance to see “The Bride of Frankenstein” come alive in its big-screen glory at the TCM Classic Film Festival at Mann Chinese 6 in the Hollywood & Highland complex. The midnight screening (it ends at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday) will present the film with a newly restored soundtrack too, adding to the chilling tale of the patchwork man and his desire to find a mate.
The film represents a key moment in horror-film history. In 1931, the monster success of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” helped save Universal from bankruptcy and minted the fame of both Boris Karloff, the gentle-natured Brit who played the neck-bolted monster, and Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor who wore the cape of the vampire count.
“Frankenstein” had elevated its director, James Whale, to a spot among the studio’s top directors, but when he was offered the sequel, he declined — that is until the eager executives at Universal countered with an offer of complete artistic control.
For the fiollow-up film, Whale and his co-writer, John Balderston, went back to Mary Shelley’s original novel to a section in which the monster desired a mate. Elsa Lanchester, who plays the title role in “Bride,” also plays Shelley in the prologue, set in 1816 when her husband (Douglas Walton) and Lord Bryon (Gavin Gordon) get her to continue the gruesome tale of the Frankenstein’s monster.
Colin Clive returned as the maniacal Dr. Frankenstein; Valerie Hobson took over the role of his wife from Mae Clark; Dwight Frye was on hand as Frankenstein’s assistant, Karl; the wonderful Ernest Thesiger plays one of Frankenstein’s professors, Dr. Pretorius; and, of course, Karloff returns as the lumbering monster. This time, he has the ability to speak, thanks to the blind hermit (O.P. Heggie), who teaches him.
The movie endured in unexpected ways. Scenes from “Bride” were re-created for the acclaimed 1998 bio-pic on Whale, “Gods and Monsters,” and Mel Brooks had a field day sending it up in his 1974 hit “Young Frankenstein,” proving that it’s hard to keep a good monster down.
“Bride of Frankenstein” is just one of the selections at the first-ever TCM film festival that will be of keen interest to Hero Complex readers. There’s also “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Day of the Triffids,” “King Kong” and “Metropolis.” For a full list of films and ticket and venue information, the best place to starts is the festival homepage. Here’s a look at a promo for the four-day event.
— Susan King
RECENT AND RELATED
Photos: Los Angeles Times