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Monday, November 9, 2009

Franken-week: Day 1 ...

Yoinked from wikipedia ...

"Bride of Frankenstein (advertised as The Bride of Frankenstein) is a 1935 horror film, the first sequel to the influential Frankenstein (1931). Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of his mate and Mary Shelley, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein, and Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Septimus Pretorius. Since its release the film's reputation has grown, and it is hailed as Whale's masterpiece.

The film follows on immediately from the events of the first film, and is rooted in a subplot of the original novel, Frankenstein (1818). In the film, a chastened Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, only to be tempted and finally coerced by the Monster, encouraged by Henry's old mentor Dr Pretorius, into constructing a mate for him. The Bride rejects the Monster however, resulting in her death, that of Pretorius, and apparently the Monster's own death, when he destroys Henry's laboratory.

The studio considered making a sequel to Frankenstein as early as its 1931 preview screenings, following which the film's original ending was changed to allow for Henry Frankenstein's survival. James Whale initially refused to direct Bride, believing he had 'squeezed the idea dry' on the first film. Following the success of Whale's The Invisible Man, producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. realized that Whale was the only possible director for Bride; Whale took advantage of the situation in persuading the studio to let him make One More River. Whale believed the sequel would not top the original, so he decided instead to make it a memorable 'hoot'. According to a studio publicist, Whale and Universal's studio psychiatrist decided 'the Monster would have the mental age of a ten-year old boy and the emotional age of a lad of fifteen'.

Screenwriter Robert Florey wrote a treatment entitled The New Adventures of Frankenstein – The Monster Lives! but it was rejected without comment early in 1932. Universal staff writer Tom Reed wrote a treatment under the title The Return of Frankenstein, a title retained until filming began. Following its acceptance in 1933, Reed wrote a full script that was submitted to the Hays office for review. The script passed its review but Whale, who by then had been contracted to direct, complained that 'it stinks to heaven'. L. G. Blochman and Philip MacDonald were the next writers assigned, but Whale also found their work unsatisfactory. In 1934, Whale set John L. Balderston to work on yet another version, and it was he who returned to an incident from the novel in which the creature demands a mate. In the novel Frankenstein creates a mate, but destroys it without bringing it to life. Balderston also created the Mary Shelley prologue. After several months Whale was still not satisfied with Balderston's work and handed the project to playwright William J. Hurlbut and Edmund Pearson. The final script, combining elements of a number of these versions, was submitted for Hays office review in November 1934.

Whale and the studio psychiatrist selected 44 simple words for the Monster's vocabulary by looking at test papers of ten-year olds working at the studio. Dwight Frye returned to play the doctor's assistant, Karl, having played the hunchback, Fritz in the original. Frye also filmed a scene as an unnamed villager and the role of 'Nephew Glutz', a man who murdered his uncle and blamed the death on the Monster. Boris Karloff is credited simply as KARLOFF, which was Universal's custom during the height of his career. Elsa Lanchester is credited for Mary Shelley, but in a nod to the earlier film, the Monster's bride is credited only as '?' just as Boris Karloff had been in the opening credits of Frankenstein.

The film, however, is far from perfect. When the castle is self-destructing, the Doctor can be seen against the far wall. Yet he is next seen outside in the arms of his beloved, watching the explosions. When Elizabeth is talking to Henry on the telephone, you can see her hand slip out of the ropes that have her tied up, then slip back inside the ropes again. When the Monster kneels down at the pond to get a drink of water, he bumps a rock with his hand. The rock moves, and is clearly a prop. Not long before filming began, Colin Clive broke a leg in a horse riding accident. Consequently, most of Dr. Frankenstein's scenes were shot with him sitting. Of course, as is well known, the title is itself a goof because the bride is made for the Monster not for Frankenstein. Unfortunately even Dr Pretorius refers to her as "a bride for Frankenstein". A confusion he surely would not make.

In the decades since its release, modern film scholars have noted the possible gay reading of the film. Director James Whale was openly gay, and others associated with the cast, including Ernest Thesiger and Colin Clive, were alleged to be gay or bisexual. Although Whale's biographer rejects the notion that Whale would have identified with the Monster from a homosexual perspective, scholars have identified a gay sensibility suffused through the film, especially a camp sensibility, particularly embodied in the character of Pretorius and his relationship with Henry. Gay film historian Vito Russo, in considering Pretorius, stops short of identifying the character as gay, instead referring to him as 'sissified' ('sissy' itself being Hollywood code for 'homosexual'). Pretorius serves as a 'gay Mephistopheles', a figure of seduction and temptation, going so far as to pull Frankenstein away from his bride on their wedding night to engage in the unnatural act of creating non-procreative life."

Watching Frankenstein yesterday, I had an idea for a play (possibly a musical) indirectly centered around the events of the original film. It's all about a young german man with dreams of one day opening his own torch and pitchfork store. People laugh at him and call him mad. The only two people who believe in him are his father and his fiance. When his father dies the man follows his dreams and opens the store. He then gets married and has a son. He is happy but he has no money. But the strain of being married to the laughing stock of the village proves to be too much to the wife, who eventually leaves him and his failing store. He decides to kill himself but before he can the Frankenstein monster goes on a killing spree and the angry villagers need a large amount of torches and pitchforks FAST! His store sells out and he becomes RICH! This causes the wife to realize what a fool she was and rushes back to him, apologizing. He flips her off and throws her to the monster who kills her. THE END!

Great idea, huh?

WORKING TITLE: Frankenstein's Wall Mart.

Enjoy the show, y'all!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
... and now the conclusion to Bride of Frankenstein, brought to you by Bond's Medicated Powder!

This is the BEST film I'll show. It all goes DOWNHILL from here!

Tomorrow: It's a triple threat of horror legends - Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi team up in the sequel to the Bride ...

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