Gods and monsters on screen again in 'Frankenstein' double feature

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
Oct. 17, 2012 at 5:17 a.m.

Boris Karloff had been knocking around Hollywood for years when he got his big break and was cast as Frankenstein's monster, aka "The Monster."

Under pounds of makeup, metal bolts jutting from his neck and wearing a pair of shoes that made the actor more than 7 feet tall with a heavy thudding gait, Karloff created a monster that was unlike anything seen on the screen before.

Director James Whale didn't want to be known as a horror film director, but, despite making a number of great films while working in Hollywood, he is now best remembered for his two films on the reanimated dead, "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein." Whale looked to German films from the 1920s and 1930s to get the look of his films, and the world he created was one darkness and shadows. It was the kind of place where the scientist Henry Frankenstein could conceivably creep through graveyards looking to steal corpses and play at being God by giving life to the dead.

"Frankenstein," made in 1931, was a huge hit. Karloff, who had actually gone unbilled in the film, found that he was suddenly famous for it (in fact, the British actor would be known for this role until the day he died). Universal Studio suddenly had a success on their hands, and the studio was chomping at the bit to make a sequel to the film.

However, Whale was less than eager to take on another Frankenstein movie, fearing he'd be pigeonholed as "that monster movie director" for the rest of his career. He held out until 1935, when he came up with a follow-up that was pretty much guaranteed to be fun to make. That was how "Bride of Frankenstein" got created.

Boris Karloff put on the metal bolts again and grudgingly agreed that the character would be allowed to talk in the second film.

What was created was one of best monster movies of the era.

The Monster was just a monster in the first film, but in the second he was achingly human and alone. The film, with Whale's sense of humor, is both amusing and heartbreaking. While neither Whale nor Karloff much fancied being known for their creation, for this film "of gods and monsters" you are well aware while watching it that there's a reason this is what they are remembered for.

Now you've got the chance to see both "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" showing at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday in theaters nationwide for one night only.

Go see it. It's stuck around this long for a reason.



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