Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein (1931/1935)

Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein, 1931 and 1935 respectively, directed by James Whale;

Today (tonite?) Pop Teez gives you our first Creature Double Feature (for all you Boston WLVI Channel 56 fans) of the month.  But don’t worry – at a combined 2 hours and 25 minutes for both movies, you’ll still be finished watching this terrible twosome sooner than the you would be watching the latest Zack Snyder superhero epic.  And you’ll probably be less scared (scarred?) afterwards.

Everyone knows the basic story of Dr. Frankenstein: Mad scientist gives life (LIFE!) to a body created via a vertiable smorgasborg of body parts (an arm here, a leg there) all stitched together. Inevitably this man made, er, man all goes horribly wrong when the creation escapes and wreaks havoc on the village outside his castle, and ostensibly some lesson is learned about man playing God. Even if you’ve never read the book or seen a version of the movie, through the magic of cartoons or TV sitcoms or some other modern pop homage/parody, you’ve heard the gist of the story.  But if you’ve never seen either of these films, they are still more than worth a look.  And if you have seen either or both, and it’s been a while, then of course you ought to revisit them.

With this 1931 version of Frankenstein, director James Whale created what we now think of as the definitive Frankenstein Story.   Though this version strays far from Mary Shelley’s original it is still a bit of pretty rock solid story telling (in 1994 Kenneth Branagh made a version much more faithful to the source novel, with Robert DeNiro as The Monster… And It Stinks!).  Plus this version has Boris Karloff as the iconic Frankenstein’s Monster (it’s the mad doctor who is actually named Frankenstein!) we all picture when we think of, well, Frankenstein.  

At a tidy 70 minutes, the movie covers a lot of ground at a brisk pace and is thoroughly entertaining.  And many horror movie, mad scientist and even science fiction tropes that we are oh so very familiar with now originated here – the smoking beakers and the electrical charges shooting between art deco tesla coils just to name two!

1935’s Bride of Frankenstein is the rare sequel that picks up precisely where its predecessor left off.  Over the top, brimming with dark humor and infused with relevant for the day social commentary, many think it surpasses the original. While James Whale had to be persuaded to return to the director’s chair for the sequel, and the script apparently had to be re-written several times, it is considered to be his masterpiece.  

If, after viewing this delightfully macabre – but not too macabre –  double feature, you are hungry for more James Whale Universal era horror films, check out 1933’s The Invisible Man (starring, in his debut, the fantastic Claude Raines) and the more campy but still creepy The Old Dark House (1931) – about a nasty storm forcing a random group of travelers to spend the night in a spooky old house with some extremely odd characters.  Starring famed british actor Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff as a mute butler who is apparently a very mean drunk, it was considered lost for many years, until a print was rediscovered in 1968.  Pop Teez cannot vouch for the quality of the 1963 William Castle version as we’ve not seen it, so no refunds will be given.

Dr. Vorhees