VITO Project’s 2020 Spring screenings at London’s historical Cinema Museum continue with two classic horror films from celebrated British director, James Whale, The Old Dark House and The Bride of Frankenstein, presented in 35mm on Sunday 23rd February.
Following the screening there’s a discussion on pre-Hays code moral guidelines for the film industry and the queer sensibilities in Whale’s films led by Caroline Seddon, film programmer for Women and Cocaine, and John Arlie, Gender and Sexuality in Cinema lecturer at Birkbeck College.
Whale was an openly gay filmmaker working in Hollywood from the 1930s to 1940s, but declining health and personal problems, which impacted on his professional career, led to his tragic suicide in 1957. A fictional account of his later years was presented in Gods and Monsters. Whale’s contributions to the horror genre have become classics and two of those are screened in this special gothic double bill that aims to explore the lasting impact and the continuing appeal of horror to queer filmmakers and audiences.
THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932, USA, 72 mins)
Director: James Whale Stars: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Ernest Thesinger
A deliciously black comedy based on a J.B. Priestley short story. Set in Wales, a group of travellers seek refuge from wild storms in an isolated mansion inhabited by the eccentric Femm family. Their unnerving hospitality only serves to reveal there’s more than a few skeletons in the closet. Openly gay Ernest Thesinger plays the impish, bitchy Horace Femm whist Karloff plays the mute butler Morgan, whose drunken rage releases the most psychotic Femm from the attic. The film also stars Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey and Charles Laughton, an actor much troubled by his own sexuality.
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935, UK, 75 mins).
Presented from a 35mm archival print Director: James Whale. Stars: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesinger
The acclaimed sequel to the original Frankenstein that Whale had also directed. Karloff returns as the Monster, searching for his purpose, befriending a blind man and learning to talk, but desiring a companion. Colin Clive reprises his role Dr Frankenstein, and Ernest Thesinger as Dr Pretorius with his own mini human menagerie. But It’s Elsa Lanchester (aka Mrs Charles Laughton) who plays both the iconic Monster’s Bride as well as Mary Shelley. An everlasting and highly influential classic.
Ticket prices: £10 for double bill, £6.00 for one film . You can book via Billetto.co.uk
This screening is hosted in partnership with the Women & Cocaine Series, who will be continuing the celebration of James Whale movies with a 35mm screening of WATERLOO BRIDGE on 10th March. Next VITO Project screening: Good Manners, 29th March