Universal Monster Season at the Regent Street Cinema The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Dir. James Whale
June this year sees the release of Alex Kurtzman’s reboot of ‘The Mummy’ with action man Tom Cruise taking on the cursed soul. It’s the beginning of Universal Studios’ effort to establish a Marvel-esq cinematic universe featuring all their famous classic monsters.
But before we enter a new world of gods and monsters, the remarkable Regent Streets Cinema has treated horror fans to the Universal Monsters Season. The event kicked off on Sunday the 8th of January with the Prince of Darkness himself; Dracula (1931) and will conclude on February the 26th with the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man, Karloff’s unlucky-in-love mummy and misunderstood creation, along with his bride and Dr. Jack Griffin’s disembodied voice also join the roster. I was lucky enough to catch their screening of James Whale’s incredible follow up to the man who made a monster – The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
The film picks up immediately after the events of the first as the burning windmill crumbles in on itself. Dr. Henry Frankenstein is presumed dead and unbeknownst to the cheering villagers; the Monster lives! Production on this sequel began soon after the first film was released with a reluctant to return Whales eventually at the helm, he believed he’d never be able to recapture the success of the first so he carefully turned the tone of this film to a more exuberant direction.
Having survived the fire, Karloff’s iconic creature lurches out of the shadows, burnt and haggard but as stunning as ever thanks to the sensational work of renowned make-up Jack Pierce whose attention to detail throughout this film is next to nothing, even after all these decades. He and director James Whales worked together to produce the bride’s legendary hairdo with its electric white lightning bolt streaks on either side.
As the Monster continues his misunderstood reign of terror through the countryside, Henry finally wakes up mortified and renounces his creation. That is until Henry’s former mentor comes knocking on the door of castle Frankenstein. Dr. Septimus Pretorious, played by the villainous Ernest Thesiger, arrives and coerces Frankenstein with a little help from the formidable creature, to return to his impious work. They head back to lab to stitch up a mate for pitiful being.
Whale focuses more on the plight of the monsters struggle to fit in to his new-found life this time around. Giving the monster a voice makes us feel for Karloff’s character, he’s no longer a science experiment gone wrong but a someone who understands compassion. He saves a girl from drowning then gets chased by villagers and befriends a blind guy. Sure, he still kills a few people along the way but he’s an emotional, angry wreck. He’s a walking dead person perhaps but the product of his surroundings have done nothing but reject him. His brief encounter with the striking bride, played by Elsa Lanchester, is enough to unhinge the steadiest heart when she starts hissing and screaming, rejecting him too. In the monsters final moments of a new found self-awareness he shouts the devastating words: “We belong dead!” It’s a fantastic delivery of desolation that makes this a great movie, let alone a great sequel.
The impending updates of these Universal classics will undoubtable take the series off into an action-packed direction but that’s not to say they won’t have their merits. Maybe. But Bride and the others considered in the collection will remain great, not just in its genre but of Hollywood. The very apt setting of the recently resurrected Regent Street Cinema served only to accommodate the bride and no doubt all off her guests.
Visit www.regentstreetcinema.com to find out more about the Regent Street Cinema, what’s on and the Universal Monsters Season.