IN THE SHADOWS: TORIN THATCHER

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torin-thatcher

Torin Thatcher as the evil magician Sokurah in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958).

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at the career of character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.

Today IN THE SHADOWS it’s Torin Thatcher, a character actor known mostly for his villainous roles.  I remember him most for his outstanding portrayal of the evil magician Sokurah in the classic fantasy film THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) which also features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best stop-motion special effects.

And when you watch a movie featuring Ray Harryhausen’s special effects, it’s usually those effects that you remember, not the actors in the film.  This is true with THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, with the exception of Torin Thatcher.  His work in 7TH VOYAGE is so strong you remember the magician Sokurah just as vividly as you do Harryhausen’s fantastic creatures.

Before he become an actor, Torin Thatcher was a school teacher.  How cool would that have been?  To have Sokurah the Magician as your teacher.  But seriously, I can only imagine how powerfully effective he must have been standing in a classroom teaching students.

Here now is a partial list of Torin Thatcher’s 150 film and TV credits:

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1927) – Solanio – Torin Thatcher’s first movie credit as Solanio in this silent short adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.

NORAH O’NEALE (1934) – Dr. Hackey – Thatcher’s first screen credit in a feature-length movie.  Early drama starring Lester Matthews, known to horror fans for his work in WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) and the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi classic THE RAVEN (1935).

SABOTEUR (1942) – uncredited appearance in this classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) – Bentley Drummle – small role in the classic David Lean version of the Charles Dickens tale starring John Mills, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson who played Elizabeth in the Boris Karloff classic THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and future Hammer Films stars from THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) Martita Hunt and Freda Jackson.

THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) – Policeman – Plays a policeman in this classic mystery from director Carol Reed (Oliver Reed’s uncle) with a script by Graham Greene.

THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1952) – Humble Bellows – Swashbuckling pirate adventure starring Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Siodmak, the director of SON OF DRACULA (1943).  Also memorable for featuring a young Christopher Lee in a supporting role.

THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952) – Johnson – classic drama starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, and Leo G. Carroll.

THE DESERT RATS (1953) – Col. Barney White – Robert Wise-directed war movie starring Richard Burton and James Mason.

THE ROBE (1953) – Sen. Gallio – Biblical tale  of Roman tribune with a conscience starring Richard Burton and Michael Rennie.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) – Mr. Myers – Billy Wilder-directed Agatha Christie tale starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester.  Also features veteran character actor Una O’Connor, also from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) – Sokurah the Magician – My favorite all-time Torin Thatcher role.  This classic fantasy adventures features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best special effects ever.  Who can ever forget his giant Cyclops?  In addition, it also features a rousing Bernard Herrmann score, one of my favorites.  The third outstanding element of this movie is Torin Thatcher’s performance as Sokurah.  It’s a rare occurrence indeed in a Ray Harryhausen movie for anything to be as memorable as his creature effects, but Torin Thatcher achieves this feat.  He’s just as memorable in this film as Harryhausen’s effects.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1957-59) – Constable Johnson – “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” (1957)/ Felix Edward Manbridge – “Relative Value” – appearances in two episodes of the classic Alfred Hitchcock TV series.

THRILLER (1961) – Jeremy Teal – “Well of Doom” – appearance in the classic horror anthology TV show hosted by Boris Karloff.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962) – Pendragon – Once again playing the villain in a fantasy adventure.  Thatcher is reunited with 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD director Nathan Juran and lead actor Kerwin Matthews who played Sinbad in 7TH VOYAGE and plays Jack here, but missing this time around is Ray Harryhausen and his fantastic creatures, resulting in inferior special effects.

GET SMART (1966) – Dr. Braam – “All In the Mind” (1966) – appearance in the classic Mel Brooks TV series starring Don Adams as Secret Agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99.

LOST IN SPACE (1966) – The Space Trader- “The Space Trader” (1966)- plays a villain in this Season 1 episode of the Irwin Allen science fiction adventure TV show.  Trades with the Robinson family, takes advantage of Dr. Smith’s greed and makes him his slave, only to be eventually outsmarted by the Robinson Robot.  Way to go, bubble headed booby!

STAR TREK (1967) – Marplon- “The Return of the Archons” (1967) – appearance in this Season 1 episode of the classic TV series chronicling the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy aboard the starship Enterprise.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968) – Sir John Turnbull – TV movie version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale, produced by Dan Curtis, the man behind DARK SHADOWS and THE NIGHT STALKER (1971).  Starring Jack Palance as a very sinister Mr. Hyde.

LAND OF THE GIANTS (1970) – Dr. Berger – “Nightmare” (1970) – appearance in this Irwin Allen fantasy TV show.

NIGHT GALLERY ( 1971) – Captain of the Lusitania – “Lone Survivor” (1971) – appearance in the horror anthology series by Rod Serling.

BRENDA STARR ( 1976) – Lassiter- Torin Thatcher’s last screen credit is in this TV movie adventure involving extortion, voodoo, and the supernatural.  Starring Jill St. John.

Thatcher passed away on March 4, 1981 at the age of 76 from cancer.

Torin Thatcher – January 15, 1905 – March 4, 1981.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS.  Join me next time when we look at the career of another classic character actor.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

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Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, available now in the February 2016 edition of THE OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION, on the third Universal Frankenstein movie, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

It’s my 150th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column.

Enjoy!

—Michael

son of frankenstein poster

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

Welcome to the 150th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column!

To celebrate, let’s look at the Universal Monster classic, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is the third film in the Universal Frankenstein series.  It marked the third and final time that Boris Karloff would play the Monster, and while Karloff’s presence in this one is still key, really, the biggest reason to see this movie is to watch Bela Lugosi play Ygor, arguably his second best film role after Dracula.

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN takes place several decades after the events of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).  Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) has died, and his adult son Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) returns home to his father’s estate along with his wife and young son, after being away for many years.

Wolf and his family are given the cold shoulder by the villagers, who remain scarred by memories of the Monster.  In fact, the local police inspector, Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill) even offers Frankenstein and his family protection from the villagers, an offer which the proud Wolf scoffs at.

While searching the ruins of his father’s laboratory, Wolf comes across old Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a man who had once been hung for the crime of stealing bodies but survived the hanging.  When Ygor learns that Wolf is a scientist like his father, he brings Wolf to an underground cave beneath the laboratory where he shows him the sleeping body of the Monster (Boris Karloff).

Intrigue, Wolf decides to bring his father’s creation back to full strength, which pleases Ygor, since he uses his “friend” the Monster to murder the members of the jury who had sent him to the gallows.

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is the most elaborate of the Universal Frankenstein series and it’s also the lengthiest, clocking in at 99 minutes.  While it can be a bit talky, it does a terrific job developing its characters, as the three new characters in this film, Wolf Frankenstein, Inspector Krogh, and Ygor are among the series’ best.  It was originally going to be shot in color, but the decision was made to film it in black and white when initial screen tests of the Monster in color failed to impress.

While SON OF FRANKENSTEIN has a lot going for it, it’s nowhere near as good as the first two films in the series, FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).  That being said, it’s the one film in the series that is closest in style to the Hammer Frankenstein movies which were to follow twenty years later, as it spends more time on characterizations and less on the Monster, and it features opulent sets.

Even though director Rowland V. Lee does an admirable job at the helm, the film really misses the direction of James Whale, who directed the first two Frankenstein movies.  Those films were paced better and possessed a chaotic energy about them that really captured the persona of the Monster, and in both those films, Karloff’s performance as the Monster stole the show.

Here in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, Karloff turns in his least effective performance as the Monster, mostly because he doesn’t have much to do. For reasons that are not explained, the Monster in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN no longer speaks.    One can infer that he may have suffered further brain damage in the explosion at the end of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which could have taken away his ability to speak.  Whatever the reason, without speech the Monster is a far less interesting character than when we last saw him in BRIDE.

Also, the Monster becomes a “patient” in this movie, spending lots of time lying on a lab table waiting to be energized by Doctor Frankenstein.  Unfortunately, this trend would continue as the series went on, with the Monster spending more and more time reclining on his back, rather than  moving around terrorizing people.  It’s also established for the first time in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN that the Monster cannot die, that Henry Frankenstein created him in such a way that he would live forever.  This would make it convenient for Universal to keep bringing the Monster back in subsequent movies.

Karloff’s best scene as the Monster in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is when he meets Wolf Frankenstein for the first time.  As he gets right in Wolf’s face, easily terrifying the man, he seems to be thinking back to the man who created both of them, Wolf’s father, Henry Frankenstein.

Ygor and Monster

Ygor (Bela Lugosi) and the Monster (Boris Karloff) are up to no good in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

But again, the best part of this movie is Bela Lugosi’s performance as Ygor.  He steals nearly every scene he’s in.  My favorite bits include his coughing on a jury member in a courtroom scene, and his answer to Wolf when asked if he killed their butler Benson:  “I scare him to death.  I don’t need to kill him to death!”  And then he laughs.  Of course, he’s also lying since the Monster did murder Benson.

Basil Rathbone is adequate as Wolf Frankenstein, though he does tend to ham it up a bit.  I definitely miss Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein.  Of course, the writers went with the “son” story-line rather than another Henry Frankenstein tale because Clive had sadly passed away shortly after making THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  

Lionel Atwill also has one of his best roles here as Inspector Krogh, the one-armed inspector spoofed so effectively by Kenneth Mars in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).  Krogh is a memorable character, with a great back story:  he has one arm because the Monster ripped it from its socket when he was a child.  Yikes!

atwill-rathbone-son-of-frankenstein

Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill) prepares to tell Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) the story of his childhood encounter with the Monster.

The screenplay by Willis Cooper is definitely talky, but it does tell a good story and does a terrific job developing its characters.  SON OF FRANKENSTEIN also features arguably the best music score of the series, by Frank Skinner.

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN  is a fine third film in the series, not as effective as the first two, but definitely better than the films which would follow it, and its cast, which features Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, and Lionel Atwill is second to none.

The biggest of the Universal Frankenstein movies, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is a well-made and worthy installment in the Frankenstein canon.

SHOCK SCENES: IT’S ALIVE!!!!!

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SHOCK SCENES:  IT’S ALIVE!!!!! Frankenstein - 8mm

By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to SHOCK SCENES, the column where we look at memorable scenes in horror movie history.

We’re celebrating a birthday today.

Sort of.

Today we celebrate the birth— and rebirth— of the Frankenstein Monster in the Universal Frankenstein series.

We’ll be looking at the various creation scenes in the Universal Frankenstein movies.  Technically, the Monster was only created once, in the first film, FRANKENSTEIN (1931) but Henry Frankenstein did such a good job creating life that his Monster in spite of the best efforts of angry villagers and exploding castles and laboratories just couldn’t seem to die.  So, while the Monster would be “killed” at the end of each movie, he’d be “revived” in subsequent films.

In today’s SHOCK SCENES column, we’ll look at the Monster’s various turns in the laboratory and compare how they all stack up.

By far, the best creation scene was the first, in James Whale’s classic FRANKENSTEIN.  Who can forget Colin Clive shrieking “It’s alive!!” as he watches his creation come to life.  The lab equipment by Ken Strickfaden (later used again in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) with its flashing lights and zip-zapping electrical sounds was strictly for show and had very little scientific relevance, but oh what a show!  It set the precedent for all the Frankenstein movies to come.

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) prepares to create life in FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) prepares to create life in FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

Even more memorable than the whirring electrodes and blinking lights was the everlasting dramatic image of the lab table with the unborn body of the Monster lying on it rising to the top of the towering ceiling of Frankenstein’s lab making its way through a giant opening high into the sky into the raging thunder and lightning.  Henry Frankenstein literally raises his unborn creation into the heavens to give it its life spark.

And when he brings the table back down to the ground, and we see the Monster’s hand moving and witness Henry Frankenstein’s reaction, “It’s alive!” it provides one of the most iconic scenes in horror movie history.

I can only imagine how terrified movie audiences were back in 1931 watching this story unfold for the first time of a dead body coming to life, and in that moment, seeing for the first time that the corpse on the table wasn’t a corpse anymore but a living being.  It must have been chilling.

The creation scene in FRANKENSTEIN is not only the best creation scene in the Universal series, but it’s also the best creation scene in any FRANKENSTEIN movie period!  Countless Frankenstein movies have been made since.  None have matched this scene, and few have come close.  The closest is Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) but that’s a story for another day.

James Whale’s sequel to FRANKENSTEIN, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) has the distinction of being the only Frankenstein film in the series in which the Frankenstein Monster (Boris Karloff) doesn’t spend any time on a laboratory table getting zapped with life-reviving electricity.

When the film opens, it’s revealed that the Monster survived the fire in the windmill at the end of FRANKENSTEIN, and so he’s already up and running when this movie begins.  There’s no need for him to receive a laboratory “pick me up.”

Of course, there is a creation scene in BRIDE, and it’s the climactic scene near the end where the Monster’s Bride (Elsa Lanchester) is finally brought to life.  As creation scenes go, it’s a good one, and the staging here by director James Whale is more elaborate than in FRANKENSTEIN, but as is often the case, bigger isn’t necessarily better.  And it is bigger, as the lab set is larger, and the sequence where the lab table rises through the roof is on a grander scale than the original and includes kites flying into the lightning-charged sky.

There’s a lot to like in this scene.  The dramatic electrical equipment is back again, and not only do you have Colin Clive back as Henry Frankenstein, but you also have Ernest Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorious, as well as Karloff’s Monster who’s in the lab to prompt Henry to keep working to make his bride.  Heck, Clive even gets to shout “She’s Alive!’

It’s a very good scene.  However, it’s nowhere near as shocking or dramatic as the creation scene in the original FRANKENSTEIN.

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) is the first film in the series in which the Monster (Boris Karloff) is viewed as a patient in need of ongoing medical treatment.  Ygor (Bela Lugosi) tells Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), the adult son of Henry Frankenstein, that the Monster is “sick” and “weak” and needs to be strong again.

Ygor (Bela Lugosi) and Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) examine their "patient", the Monster (Boris Karloff) in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

Ygor (Bela Lugosi) and Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) examine their “patient”, the Monster (Boris Karloff) in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

The Monster “died” at the end of THE BRIDE OF FRAKENSTEIN when the entire lab blew up, but as we learn in this movie, Henry Frankenstein and his electric rays were so successful at creating life that basically the Monster cannot die- or at least he’s more difficult to kill than ordinary human beings.  And so when we first see him in this film, he’s lying on a table in a semi-conscious state.  In fact, he spends a lot of time in this movie in a semi-conscious state which is why a large chunk of this film is less compelling than the two movies which preceded it.  The Monster isn’t up and running and scaring people until two thirds of the way into this one.

There really isn’t a creation scene in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN.  After some preliminary examinations, Basil Rathbone’s Wolf Frankenstein uses a much smaller assortment of electrical devices to attempt to bring the Monster back to full strength.  It’s all very undramatic. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is a very entertaining movie, the most elaborate of the entire series, but its “creation” scene is a dud and probably the least dramatic of the entire series.

The fourth film in the series THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942) saw Lon Chaney Jr. taking over the role of the Monster, replacing Boris Karloff.  Chaney played all four of the major movie monsters (the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Mummy) and played them well; however, his portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster was his least satisfying.

In THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, the Monster (Lon Chaney Jr.) is revived without the help of electrical equipment in a laboratory, as Ygor (Bela Lugosi) simply finds his friend buried in a Sulphur pit where he fell at the end of SON OF FRANKENSTEIN and he simply digs him out.

The more dramatic laboratory scenes come later.  Ygor takes the Monster to see Henry Frankenstein’s second son Ludwig (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), who’s a doctor who treats mental illness, but no, he doesn’t hold psychiatric sessions with the Monster in this one.  He does attempt to use his laboratory equipment to destroy the Monster, before changing his mind when he’s visited by the “ghost” of his father who inspires him to keep the Monster alive.

The more dramatic “creation” scene happens at the end of THE GHOST OF FRAKENSTEIN when the devious Dr. Bowmer (Lionel Atwill) conspires with Ygor to secretly transplant Ygor’s brain into the Monster in order to give the all-powerful creation a sinister mind to use on a world-conquering power trip.  Alas, the actual transplant occurs off-screen, and so visually this scene has little to offer, but in terms of story, it’s all rather dramatic and exciting.

The next film in the series, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) contains my second favorite creation scene in the entire series.  Again, the Monster doesn’t need a lab to bring him back to life.  This time around, Wolf Man Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) discovers the body of the Monster (Bela Lugosi) frozen in ice and simply digs him out.   The Monster doesn’t even have to be revived after being frozen for all those years, as he simply steps out of the ice and is feeling as right as rain.

The creation scene once again comes at the end of the movie, a pattern which would continue for the rest of the series.  This time around, Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles) agrees to use Dr. Frankenstein’s notes to put Larry Talbot out of his misery, a plan proposed by Talbot himself, as he’s seeking release from his werewolf curse.  So, they set up shop in Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein’s old laboratory from THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, and Mannering attempts to transfer Talbot’s energy (thus killing him) into the Monster, but Mannering, like all good scientists in these movies, becomes obsessed with the Monster and decides to pour all the electrical juices into the creature to bring him back to full strength.

The Monster (Bela Lugosi) regains his sight in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).

The Monster (Bela Lugosi) regains his sight in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).

When the Monster finally gains his strength, he smiles a sinister smile, and it’s a great moment for Lugosi’s Monster.  In the original script, the Monster was supposed to be blind, a side-effect of the brain transplant at the conclusion of THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, and it’s this moment when the Monster regains his sight, which is why he smiles.  All references to the Monster being blind were cut from the final print, but even so, Lugosi’s smile here is still very effective.

And what follows is the climactic battle between the Monster and the Wolf Man inside the laboratory.  It’s a great sequence, one of the best in the series.

Sadly, the Monster would take a huge step backwards in the next two films in the series, as would the creation scenes. HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) is significant because it added Dracula (John Carradine) to the mix, giving the movie three monsters, as the Frankenstein Monster (now played by Glenn Strange) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) returned.  It also marked the return of Boris Karloff to the series, although not as the Monster but as the evil Dr. Niemann, a protégé of Dr. Frankenstein, who is more insane and ruthless than any of the Dr. Frankensteins who appeared earlier.  Niemann is much closer in spirit to Dr. Pretorious from BRIDE and Peter Cushing’s interpretation of Baron Frankenstein in the Hammer movies.

Alas, the Monster spends the majority of this movie as an unconscious body, lying in wait for Niemann to restore his strength.  This occurs at the end of the movie, in a brief sequence, and the Monster is only on his feet long enough to be instantly chased and “killed” by the angry mob of torch wielding villagers who chase him into a pit of quicksand where he and Dr. Neimann sink to their deaths.

Ditto for the next film in the series, HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945).  All three monsters return again here, but once again the Frankenstein Monster is reduced to being a reclining patient and isn’t revived until the final seconds of the movie.  Very sad.

Ironically, it would take turning the series into a comedy with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) to return the monsters to prominence.  Bela Lugosi returned as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. was back as the Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange finally had much more to do as the Frankenstein Monster than just lie on a table— he even gets to talk!—and so in spite of the fact that this is a comedy, the monsters all fare well.

Likewise, the creation scene in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN is also a good one.  This time around, Dracula plans to put Lou Costello’s brain into the Monster.  With the electrical equipment whirring and buzzing, both Lou and the Monster are strapped to tables, but when Bud Abbot and Larry Talbot burst into the lab to the rescue, Talbot turns into the Wolf Man and instantly tangles with Dracula, while the Monster breaks from his binds and promptly tosses Dracula’s sexy female assistant out a window!

Seriously, this creation scene in spite of being played for laughs, is one of the more memorable scenes in the series.

Who knew that it would take Abbott and Costello to give the Universal Monsters a proper send off?  This would be the final film in the series.

So, there you have it.  A look at the creation scenes in the Universal Frankenstein movies.  By far, the original creation scene in FRANKENSTEIN is the best.  None that followed even come close, but if I had to rank the next couple, I’d go with the creation scene in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN second, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN third, and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN fourth.  The rest hardly warrant a blip.

Hope you enjoyed today’s column, and I look forward to seeing you again next time on a future installment of SHOCK SCENES.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

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Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Boris Karloff classic THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), published this month in the September 2015 HWA NEWSLETTER.

—Michael

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHTbride-of-frankenstein-movie-poster-1935

BY

MICHAEL ARRUDA

September.

Time to put the frivolous films of summer aside in favor of the horror movie heavyweights, time for one of the most critically acclaimed horror movies of all time, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

In the annals of mainstream cinema, there are very few horror movies which earn a four star rating. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is one of them.  Not only is it considered a better movie than its predecessor, FRANKENSTEIN (1931) but it’s widely viewed as the best FRANKENSTEIN movie ever filmed.  While it’s hard to argue against this assertion, I actually prefer FRANKENSTEIN over BRIDE since it’s a scarier film, but that doesn’t take away my appreciation for BRIDE.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN opens with a prologue in which Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, who also plays the titled Bride of Frankenstein later in the movie) tells her husband Percy Shelley and fellow Romantic poet Lord Byron that her story did not end with the Monster perishing inside the burning windmill.  There’s more to the tale, she says.

The action then segues to just after the conclusion of FRANKENSTEIN, with the villagers watching the windmill burn to the ground, and we quickly see that the Monster (Boris Karloff) has survived the fire and escapes.  Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) survives as well, and he resumes his plans to marry Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson), but these plans are interrupted when he’s visited by his old professor, Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) who tries to convince Henry to continue his experiments, but Henry is not interested.

Meanwhile, the Monster is loose in the countryside, inadvertently terrifying everyone he comes in contact with.  He’s hunted down and briefly chained in a prison before he escapes.  In the film’s most touching scene, he befriends a blind hermit (O.P. Heggie) who teaches the Monster how to speak and shows him considerable compassion, even prompting the Monster to shed a tear at one point.  But even this ends badly when two hunters happen upon the hermit’s cabin and “rescue” him from the Monster.

Eventually, the Monster crosses paths with Dr. Pretorious, who tells the Monster he wants to create a mate for him, but that he needs Henry Frankenstein’s help for the experiment to succeed.  The Monster agrees to work with Pretorious to compel Henry Frankenstein to make him a mate.

By far the best part of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is the development of the Frankenstein Monster.  The role is taken to a whole other level, and Boris Karloff delivers a brilliant performance.  This time around, the Monster is conscious of who he is and how he came to be.  When Pretorious asks him if he knows who he is and who Henry Frankenstein is, he answers, “Yes, I know.  Made me from dead.  I love dead.  Hate living.”

And of course the Monster learns how to talk in this movie, which is a huge development in the story and makes the Monster an entirely deeper character than he was in the first film.  Sure, it takes away some of his frightening brutality, but it also makes him much more interesting.

The look of the Monster is also unique in BRIDE, as make-up artist Jack Pierce singed the Monster’s hair and face to show that he had been burned in the windmill.

Colin Clive returns as Henry Frankenstein, and once again, he’s excellent in the role.  Clive broke his leg shortly before filming, which is why in the majority of his scenes in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN he’s sitting down. Sadly, Clive died two years later in 1937 from pneumonia as a result of his alcoholism, and he never lived long enough to see or take advantage of his increasing fame through the decades as the iconic Henry Frankenstein in these two classic Frankenstein movies.

Stealing the show, however, is Ernest Thesiger as the evil Dr. Pretorious, in a role originally offered to Claude Rains.  Thesiger is a delight to watch, as he instigates Henry Frankenstein throughout, eventually teaming up with the Monster in order to force Henry to create the Monster’s mate.  Thesiger’s Pretorious is a nice precursor to Peter Cushing’s interpretation of Baron Frankenstein in the Hammer Films, although Cushing would take things a step further and make his Baron an even darker character.  It’s a shame Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorious only appeared in this one Frankenstein movie.

Ernest Thesiger steals the show as the conniving Dr. Pretorious in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Ernest Thesiger steals the show as the conniving Dr. Pretorious in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Dwight Frye, who famously played the hunchback assistant Fritz in FRANKENSTEIN after his even more famous role as Renfield in DRACULA (1931) appears in BRIDE as the grave robber/murderer Karl who assists Pretorious and once again has the distinction of being murdered by the Monster.  The original role of Karl was much bigger and included a scene where Karl murders his aunt and uncle and then blames the Monster for the crime, which is why at the end of the movie the Monster goes out of his way to kill Karl.  These scenes were cut prior to the film’s release.

The iconic Bride with the lightning-strike hair was played by Elsa Lanchester, who made such an impression with this role it’s easy to forget that she’s only in the movie for about five minutes, and that’s it!  Yet she hisses her way to infamy, prompting the Monster to complain, “She hate me!  Like others!”   Ah, the pains of dating!

Monster bound

The Monster (Boris Karloff) is bound by the angry mob.

Director James Whale, who directed FRANKENSTEIN, is at the helm once again for THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and he does another masterful job.  He sets up several memorable scenes in this one, even making the Monster a Christ figure. When the mob binds the Monster and hoists him up on a huge pole where he hangs for several moments as they throw sticks and stones at him, the scene definitely brings to mind a crucifixion.  And in the sequence with the blind hermit, as the Monster sheds a tear, just before the camera fades to black, it focuses on a crucifix which illuminates and remains the sole image after the fade.

The scene where the villagers pursue the monster is shot with a moving camera, and it’s every bit as impressive as the chase scene at the conclusion of FRANKENSTEIN.  Henry Frankenstein’s lab is bigger in this sequel, and the bride creation sequence is more elaborate than the creation scene in the original, as this one includes flying kites high above the roof of the laboratory.

The one thing lacking in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that FRANKENSTEIN did better is scares.  The Monster in FRANKENSTEIN as played by Boris Karloff was a brutal unstoppable force that was frightening every time he was on screen, not because he was evil, but because he was tremendously strong and unpredictable, possessing raw incredible strength unchecked by learning or experience.  In FRANKENSTEIN, the Monster had no knowledge of life and death, right and wrong.  But in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN the Monster does know, which makes him a much more fascinating character, and since he develops a conscience rather than become evil, he’s much less frightening.

The screenplay by William Hurlbut and a host of uncredited writers is thought-provoking throughout. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is critically acclaimed because it takes the infamous murderous Monster from FRANKENSTEIN and humanizes him, enabling him to reflect upon his existence, which ultimately causes him even more tragedy and pain.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN also contains a phenomenal music score by Franz Waxman.

Without doubt, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is one of the best horror movies ever made.  It was a hit and a critical success upon its initial release in 1935, and today, 80 years later, its reputation is even stronger.

Looking for first-rate horror movie fare this September?  Look no further than Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

It’s one wedding you don’t want to miss!

—END—

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

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MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)bride-of-frankenstein-movie-poster-1935

By

Michael Arruda

 

 

Welcome to the latest edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, the column where we look at great quotes from even greater horror movies.  Today we look at quotes from one of the greatest horror movies of all time, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), James Whale’s sequel to his iconic original, FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is largely considered by critics to be even better than FRANKENSTEIN.  I’ve always preferred FRANKENSTEIN, mostly because it’s scarier and more of a horror movie, but this doesn’t take away my enjoyment and recognition that BRIDE is one heck of a movie.

While Boris Karloff returns as the Monster, and Colin Clive returns as Henry Frankenstein, a new character who largely steals the show in this sequel is the nefarious Dr. Pretorious, played by Ernest Thesiger, who does a tremendous job in a role that was originally offered to Claude Rains.  Some of the most memorable quotes in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN are from scenes involving Dr. Pretorious.

Let’s look now at some memorable quotes from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, screenplay by William Hurlbut.

In this scene, Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) visits Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) for the first time and tries to convince the doctor to join forces with him so together they can once again create life.  Henry is not interested, but Pretorious is unceasingly persistent.  Let’s listen:

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  What do you want?

PRETORIOUS:  We must work together.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Never.  This is outrageous.  I’m through with it.  I’ll have no more of this hell spawn.  As soon as I’m well, I’m to be married.  Right away.

PRETORIOUS:  I must beg you to reconsider.  You know, do you not, that it is you who are responsible for all those murders.  There are penalties to pay for murder.   With your creature still at large in the countryside—.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Are you threatening me?

PRETORIOUS:  Don’t put it so crudely.  I have ventured to hope that you and I together, no longer as master and pupil, but as fellow scientists might probe the mysteries of life and death.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Never, no further.

PRETORIOUS:  To reach a goal, undreamed of by science.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  I can’t make any further experiments.  I’ve had a terrible lesson.

PRETORIOUS:  That’s sad, very sad.  But you and I have gone too far to stop, nor can it be stopped so easily.  I also have continued with my experiments.  That is why I am here tonight.  You must see my creation.

And a bit later:

PRETORIOIUS:  Our mad dream is only half realized.  Alone, you have created a man.  Now, together, we will create his mate.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  You mean—?

  1. PRETORIOUS: Yes, a woman. That should be really interesting.

Pretorious also shares key scenes with the Monster (Boris Karloff), like in this scene where the two meet in a graveyard sepulcher.  Of course, this was a huge change in this sequel, having the Monster learn how to speak:

THE MONSTER:  You make man, like me?

PRETORIOUS:  No.  Woman.  Friend, for you.

THE MONSTER:  Woman— friend, yes,— I want friend like me!

PRETORIOUS:  I think you will be very useful, and you will add a little force to the argument, if necessary.  Do you know who Henry Frankenstein is, and who you are?

THE MONSTER:  Yes, I know.  Made me from dead.  I love dead.  Hate living.

Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) schemes with the Monster (Boris Karloff) in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) schemes with the Monster (Boris Karloff) in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

  1. PRETORIOUS: You’re wise in your generation. We must have a long talk.  Then I have an important call to make.

THE MONSTER:  Woman— friend— wife.

Of course, one of the most famous scenes in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and certainly the most emotional, is the scene where the Monster is befriended by the Blind Man.  It’s the first time we see an adult actually treat the Monster with kindness and respect, without screaming in fear or trying to shoot, burn, or kill him.  They become fast friends, and it’s the Blind Man who teaches the Monster how to speak, among other things:

BLIND MAN:  And now, for our lesson.  Remember, this is bread.

THE MONSTER:  Bread.  (Takes huge bite from the bread.)

BLIND MAN:  And this is wine.  (Pours wine into mug).  To drink.

THE MONSTER:  Drink.  (Drinks wine)  (Smiles)  Good!  Good.

BLIND MAN:  We are friends, you and I.  Friends.

(Blind Man & Monster shake hands.)

THE MONSTER:  Friends.

(They both laugh happily.)

THE MONSTER:  Good!

BLIND MAN:  And now for a smoke.  (Lights cigar.)

(Monster growls in fear.)

(Blind Man laughs.)

BLIND MAN:  No, no.  This is good.  Smoke.  You try.  (Hands cigar to Monster.)

THE MONSTER:  Smoke.  (Smokes cigar.)  Good, good!  Good.  (Hiccups, looks faint for a moment.)

BLIND MAN:  Before you came, I was all alone.  It is bad to be alone.

THE MONSTER:  Alone, bad.  Friend, good.  Friend, good!  (Shakes man’s hand again, and they both laugh happily.)

BLIND MAN: Now, come here.  (They rise from the table and walk across cabin.  Blind man lifts a piece of wood.)  And what is this?  (The Monster growls and shakes his head.)  This is wood, for the fire.

THE MONSTER:  Wood.

(Blind Man leads Monster towards fireplace.)

BLIND MAN:  And this is fire.

(The Monster growls and retreats.)

BLIND MAN:  No, no.  Fire is good!

THE MONSTER:  Fire— no good!

BLIND MAN:  There is good, and there is bad.

THE MONSTER:  Good— bad.

Sadly, this scene ends badly when two men— one of them played by a very young John Carradine— happen upon the cabin in the woods, and seeing the Monster try to kill him.  In one of the cruelest lines in the film, one of the men tells the Blind Man who the Monster is, and he says this in front of the Monster.

MAN:  He isn’t human!  Frankenstein made him out of dead bodies!

The following sequence is one of my favorite scenes in the entire film.  Pretorious tries once again to convince Henry Frankenstein to work with him to create a woman, and when Henry again refuses, Pretorious brings in the Monster.  It’s the first time Henry has seen the Monster since the two fought in the fiery windmill in the conclusion of FRANKENSTEIN, and the first time Henry hears his creation speak.

When the Monster tells Henry Frankenstein to sit down, and motions for him to do so, it’s an exact mirror scene of the scene in the original when we first see the Monster, and Henry Frankenstein commands him to “sit down.”

It’s a neat scene.  Let’s listen in:

PRETORIOUS (to Henry Frankenstein):  Everything is ready for you and me to begin our supreme collaboration.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  No, no. Don’t tell me of them.  I don’t want to hear.  I’ve changed my mind. I won’t do it!

PRETORIOUS:  I expected this.  I thought we might need another assistant.  (Approaches door.)  Perhaps he can persuade you.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Nothing can persuade me!

PRETORIOUS:  We shall see.  (Opens door, and the Monster enters.)

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  No!  Not that!

(Henry can’t even bring himself to say “not him.”  He calls his creation that.)

PRETORIOUS:  Oh, he’s quite harmless, except when crossed.

MONSTER (enters room):  Fran-ken-stein.

(Henry Frankenstein is surprised the Monster can talk.)

PRETORIOUS:  Yes, there have been developments since he came to me.

MONSTER:  Sit – down!

HENRY FRANKESNTEIN:  What do you want?

MONSTER: You – know.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN (To Pretorious):  This is your work!

PRETORIOUS (smiles):  Yes.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  I’ll have no hand in such a monstrous thing.

MONSTER:  Yes, must.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Get him out!  I won’t even discuss it until he’s gone.

PRETORIOUS:  Go, now.  Go!

MONSTER: Must do it!

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Never!  Nothing can make me go on with it.

(Monster growls.)

PRETORIOUS (to Monster as he closes door as Monster leaves):  Now.

Which of course is the green light by Pretorious for the Monster to abduct Elizabeth in order to force Henry to conduct the experiment.

The Monster himself has some of the most memorable lines in the movie, like this one when the newly created Bride (Elsa Lanchester) hisses at him and makes her disdain for him clear.

THE MONSTER:  She hate me, like others.

Welcome to the world of dating, Frankie!

 

And of course, the Monster utters the most famous line from the entire movie, as he clutches the lever which will blow up the entire laboratory.  After letting Henry and Elizabeth Frankenstein go, he looks at Pretorious and the Bride, and with tears in his eyes, declares,

THE MONSTER: We belong dead.

Unfortunately for the Monster, he cannot die and four years later would be resurrected for the third film in the series, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

But that’s a tale for another column.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Memorable Movie Quotes column on THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Join me again next time for another look at memorable quotes from another great movie.

See you then.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael