Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Ghoul Assembly: Part Three - Bridal Vile

Looking for love?  If you have the right connections it can be a straight-forward operation…

In our Ghoul Assembly monster-mash-ups series so far, we’ve looked at an Abbot and Costello comedy and a 1980’s coming-of-age family adventure.
This time, we’re looking at a romance - the great romance of horror cinema, even if it was a disastrous first date.

1935’s Bride of Frankenstein is cinema’s first big-budget horror sequel (as opposed to quick cash-in) and director James Whale’s masterpiece. Perhaps a little like Tim Burton and his smash hit 1989 Batman, when the studio finally convinced the director to do sequel he made his film first and foremost, which also just happened to have the title character in it.

Pretorius also has success in creating life - on a much smaller scale
I can’t agree that Bride of Frankenstein surpasses the original Frankenstein as it has been too long since I’ve seen that film, but film historians certainly think so. It is clearly a more expensive, expansive production, make-up genius Jack Pierce has perfected Karloff’s monster (looking more bulked-up and menacing in this film) and Ernest Thesiger’s fruity, frosty Dr Pretorius is one of macabre cinema’s greatest villains. 
His miniature creations still invoke a response of ‘how did they do that?’ today, and the cavernous expressionistic sets and painted skyscapes drip with atmosphere.

All this, and we haven’t even mentioned Elsa Lanchester’s startling bride. Horrifying and weirdly attractive in equal measure, her few, wordless moments on screen have earned the actress and her portrayal screen immortality. Perhaps the then current art-deco influenced fascination with ancient Egypt inspired her look: semi bandaged with an Egyptian head-dress style beehive which makes the bride look like an electrified Nefertiti.

Lanchester’s performance is also a masterstroke, conveying post-birth disorientation with her darting eyes and weird snaps of her head, and finally rejection of her intended mate with that goosebump-raising 'swan hiss'.

We only see this magnificent character for a few moments when she is barely aware and functioning - what a force she would have been at the height of her powers. Perhaps Billie Piper’s amazing performance in Penny Dreadful is an example of what might have been.

Elsa Lanchester also plays Mary Shelley, seen here with Percy Shelley and Byron,
in the prologue.  Her impressive decolletage was censored from the final film.

I have to be honest and say that the middle of the film, like the poor monster, tends to meander a little. But the final act makes it all worthwhile. It’s only appropriate that groom and wedding party are kept waiting for the bride.  Her eventual entrance, to a ghastly parody of wedding bells on the soundtrack, is unforgettable.

Here comes the Bride...

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