On Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. local time more than 400 theatres will take part when 1931’s “Frankenstein” and “The Bride of Frankenstein”, it’s 1935 sequel, return to big screens across the country for a special one-night-only double-feature just in time for Halloween. The Frankenstein double-feature marks the latest in a series of screenings from TCM and Fathom Events as they continue celebrating Universal Pictures’ 100th Anniversary. Recently, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” each enjoyed single night returns to the big screen As part of the celebration.
Wednesday’s presentation of “Frankenstein” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” both feature then-future horror movie superstar, Boris Karloff as the monster. As an added pre-Halloween treat, TCM’s resident movie know-it-all, host Robert Osborne will introduce the films by way of a pre-taped segment featuring interviews with Karloff’s daughter, Sara Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jr., who’s father portrayed Universal’s ‘Dracula’ and 7-time Oscar-winning make-up artist, Rick Baker.
Baker won his first Academy Award for 1982’s “An American Werewolf in London” and his most recent for 2011’s “The Wolfman”. Lugosi, Jr., born just eight years after his father first played “Dracula” in Universal’s mega-hit. Interestingly, he grew up to become a lawyer and in 1966, he became embroiled in a law suit with Universal Studios over the rights of his father’s image as the legendary vampire.
As for Sara Karloff, she not only oversees www.karloff.com, the only authorized Boris Karloff website, but she also wrote the introduction to Stephen Jacob’s “Karloff: More than a Monster”, an overview of her father’s career that, in spite of initial memories, reached beyond Mary Shelley’s monster.
Each of the interviewees will discuss their ties to the horror movie genre as well as how Karloff and Lugosi impacted the genre for generations of movie fans to come. As only TCM’s Robert Osborne can, he will also ask the taboo question of what each of them think of horror movies today.
When Mary Shelley’s now-iconic “Frankenstein” monster made his debut in the author’s original three volume novel back in 1918, the book was published anonymously with the full title, “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”. The reference to Greek Titan Prometheus alluded to the Titan not only having created man, but also obtaining the ability to make fire, therefore granting man the means to a progressive culture, themes vital at the time of the book’s release, as it paralleled the onset of the industrial age.
A few short years after the initial publication, Shelley’s name was included in the second printing, securing her rightful place in the annals of literary history forever. Around the same time of the second printing of the work, a dramatic stage interpretation adapted by Henry M. Milner, “The Man and The Monster; or Fate of Frankenstein” opened at The Royal Coburg Theatre in London. Shelley’s story first appeared on the big screen in 1910, as directed by J. Searle Dawley, in Edison Studios’ ten-minute silent thriller, “Frankenstein”. Five years later, a now-presumed lost second film adaptation, “Life Without Soul”, directed by Joseph W. Smiley, was released by Ocean Pictures.
It wasn’t until fifteen years later, in 1931, that Universal Studios presented the next, and most famous “Frankenstein” of them all. Coincidentally, Universal’s version also marked the first time movie audiences would hear the monster, as their film was also the first “Frankenstein” ‘talkie’.
Under the direction of James Whale, Karloff played the misunderstood monster created by Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive). Clive may have played Dr. Frankenstein, but it was Universal Studios’ genius make-up artist, Jack Pierce who truly created what would come to typify the monster’s look. An interesting bit of trivia: the credits don’t list Karloff as “The Monster”, but rather by “?”. In addition to Clive and Karloff, “Frankenstein” also stars Mae Clarke, who plays Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth. Others in the cast include: John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore and seven-year-old Marilyn Harris as Young Maria. Of the film’s numerous iconic scenes, it’s Harris’ waterfront encounter with “?” that’s among the film’s best remembered moments.
Five years after the success of “Frankenstein”, director Whale re-teamed with stars Clive and Karloff for the first “Frankenstein” sequel, 1935’s “The Bride of Frankenstein”. The film cleverly pays homage to Mary Shelley by beginning with a scene in which the author (as played by Elsa Lanchester) visiting with her husband, Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton) and fellow literary notable, Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon). As she informs the men that her story was not intended to frighten, but to impart a moral lesson, she tells the men there’s more to the story. With that, audiences are then reminded of the final scene in the previous film and the action picks up immediately following.
For the sequel, screening on Wednesday, immediately following “Frankenstein”, Valerie Hobson takes over the role of Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth. Others in the cast include: Ernest Thesiger, Una O’Connor and Ted Billings. Dwight Frye, who played Dr. Frankenstein’s dim-witted assistant, Fritz in the first installment is featured as Karl, one of Dr. Frankenstein’s associates’ cronies in the sequel. Elsa Lanchester has a dual role in “The Bride of Frankenstein” as she reappears midway through the action in the title role. Much like her bolt-necked mate, thanks to make-up artist Pierce, those lightning bolt white streaks in The Bride’s hair are de riguer for any Shelley-inspired bridal party.
During their initial release, both films were equally praised and panned by reviewers. In the decades since, each of the two works have earned legendary status,, frequently making it into most “Best Movies of All-Time” lists with “The Bride of Frankenstein” often cited as the superior of the two. As the old saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman.
Of course Shelley’s story has been told time and time again, both on stage and on screens, both big and small, but these classic gems from the dawn of the modern movie age are now, and will forever be considered the best-loved of them all.
TCM will continue their salute to the films of Universal next month, on November 15, with a one-night-only screening celebrating the 50th anniversary of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
For tickets to TCM and Fathom Event’s “Frankenstein” double-feature, CLICK HERE. For a list of theatres participating in this one-night-only event, CLICK HERE. In addition to the aforementioned 7 p.m. (local time) screenings, a select number of participating theatres will also offer mid-day matinee screenings. Check our local participating theatre for more information.
For a quick look at a classic “Frankenstein” scene, be sure and click on the video clip included in this article.
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