Sunday, October 7th
"Bride of Frankenstein"
Today is a very special day, as it is Jess's birthday. She is the better half of the podcast, so I hope everyone drops her a line to wish her a happy day. "Bride of Frankenstein" was a choice especially for her, and is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Hell, this is just one of the greatest films ever of any genre. It's running time is incredibly short since it was considered to be a B-movie at the time. There wasn't television at all, so films were programmed differently, into groups where shorts, serials, and shorter films would play before the main feature. People would also walk in and out as they pleased, bringing meals, and treating it like a social gathering. Many film-goers, myself included, would be driven mad by this distraction, but it was how things were at the time. It wasn't until "Psycho" in 1960 that anyone cared about showing up on time at all.
So "The Bride" was a B-movie, which did mean that it wasn't seen with the same respect as other films. Many B-movies do not have transfers as pristine as Universal has kept their Monster Classic series. It might be because the Universal series is made up of some classic tales that still hold up pretty well today. "Bride" certainly does, as it has some special effects that still look magical today. Dr. Pretorius keeps some miniature people in a series of jars, with comedic personalities to match, and I still can't quite figure out how they made it look so seamless with the limited special effects that were available. Whatever they did, it probably spooked the hell out of audiences then, and keeps it as a masterpiece today.
Sequels to films were not a huge thing in 1935 when this was released, so I'm impressed with the logic they use to bring Frankenstein's Monster back from the dead. The story begins with Mary Shelly telling her husband Percy, and Lord Byron that her story of the Modern Day Prometheus didn't end quite the way everyone thought that it did. The rubble of the farmhouse could not contain the Monster, and he was still on the lose on the countryside.
It works well, as I see that issues with rights existed even back then. They didn't call the doctor Victor Frankenstein for some reason, renaming him Henry instead. So, why not bend the rules and expand the universe for an entire franchise of Frankenstein movies? The movie world hasn't changed a ton since its inception. Books were always translated, franchises always attempted; they just didn't have quite as many then to fall back upon as they do now.
I love how the Mary Shelly of the film points out in the beginning that her creation has been misread by many. Frankenstein's Monster isn't purely a villain, he is far more complicated than that. The reaction that people have to The Monster is where the real villainy comes in. Mob mentality has never been a good thing, and this film is where my mind goes whenever I imagine torches and pitch forks. This film goes further in showing how The Monster reacts to those who don't judge him. The scene where he smokes in the hut with the blind man is one of my favorite scenes in any movie ever. Karloff is so charming as the monster repeating 'good, good' as he smokes a cigar, and learns what a friend is.
During this most recent viewing of the film it occurred to me that one of my major complaints with the film might have the most modern subtext to it. The Bride gets mention in the title, but she doesn't make her appearance until about the last 10 minutes of the film. She doesn't have any lines, and only reacts to her creator, and the monster who she was created for. She screams in horror as she is the object of everyone with absolutely no choice in the matter. The Monster sees that not even someone who was created for him would be with him based on site, and he doesn't quite have the charm to win anyone over easily. His choice to "end" all the monsters is a heartbreaking one for me, as I always love the monsters more than the people trying to kill them. I think this keeps nicely with the intention of Shelly's original piece, while being an extension of it. It's always been about what it's like to live a life as something society views as a monster, something to be locked up. Just like the treatment of a free spirited woman in 1818.
If you haven't seen this classic film, I urge you to visit it. This isn't a dusty old classic that's a chore to watch. This is funny, vibrant, and has a charm about it that most movies fail to achieve. The BlueRay transfer out there is simply amazing, looking as crisp as if it came out just now. This is a 5 star classic, one that influenced just about every Gothic Horror film after it.
"Masters of Horror: Deer Woman"
"Deer Woman brings us the first chapter directed by John Landis, of "American Werewolf in London" fame. His talents are utilized perfectly here, combining horror and comedic elements with the legend of a woman who is part animal, and is committing some pretty brutal murders at the local trucker bars.
Brian Benben is fantastic as the detective who has been relegated to investigating animal attacks. Benben is the first officer assigned to investigate the brutal murders that have deer hair left on all the victims. Through the investigation, they put this in the same world as "American Werewolf", which will be appreciated by all the horror fans that give this a shot. I remember growing up on his HBO series "Dream On", so I was ready, willing, and able to get with his comedy as soon as he got on the screen. The sequence where he is imagining the different ways a deer attack could have happened in the cab of a semi-truck are simply hilarious.
There's an old joke where a guy is looking at a picture of a naked woman wearing some sort of footwear that is completely out of character. Someone points this out to the guy looking at the photo, and he responds 'She was wearing Shoes?'. This "Masters" episode takes that joke and places a wonderful genre spin on it. When the police investigate, they get very different discriptions of the woman the victim left with. Hair doesn't exactly match, neither does height, but everyone can agree that she was absolutely gorgeous. The legend says that the "Deer Woman" is the most gorgeous woman from the waist up, but has deer legs. Nobody notices the legs because they're too focused on everyone else. Taking this joke and creating a legend around it was a beautiful touch by Jon Landis and his son Max. This is a perfect chapter of the series to pair on a Sunday with Bride of Frankenstein.