Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

directed by james whale
universal

These old horror pictures really appreciated comic relief, particularly from strident women portraying minor characters, and they also relished lampooning petit bourgeois authority, such as this film’s burgomaster. Plus, they really enjoyed overacting to the point of buffoonery, although that can be forgiven due the transition from stage to screen. Now, with all that musing done and out of the way, it is time to allow that this production, though a bit slight, is quite accomplished. “Karloff” – that’s all he’s credited as – does wonders with his role, even under heavy prosthetics, and the script does an excellent job of playing on any variety of emotions in underscoring the plight of “the monster.” The “monster’s mate” doesn’t appear until just five minutes remain in the picture, of course, which is another thing these great old-time movie stars had going for them: pacing and suspense. Realism may be another matter entirely, but given the subject at hand, any such observation is probably misguided.

why did i watch this movie?

Johnny Ramone awarded “Bride” first place in his rankings, which overall are pretty fair. (I personally don’t think The Wolf Man and Freaks hold up well enough, but who the hell am I.)


should you watch this movie?

When the mood is right for a picture from this era, such as during Samhain, it would be quite suitable.


highlight and low point

The sequence during which the MONSTER busts out of the dungeon in which he’s been confined, evades the hunt, and tumbles into the crypts from which Pretorius and his henchmen are commandeering corpse parts is pretty memorable. Once again, the studio-lot sets are awe-inspiring, at least the interiors. (The outdoor scenes, not so much.) I could have done without the “humorous” touches and their focus on the lowbrow.

rating from outer space: a−

Dwight Frye as Karl

The Invisible Man (1933)

directed by james whale
universal pictures

Although hampered at times by a bit of slapstick and what feels like leftover vaudeville attributes, and a little too enamored of the photographic trickery by which the effects of the invisible antagonist are achieved – though it’s hard to fault them for that – this SF tale of the inexplicable manages both to convey more tension than you might figure and to be downright creepy at times. When the title character first reveals his condition, it’s pretty disturbing, even as you are obviously prepared for it 85 years later. And at least one other scene along the way provides more than a bit of a shock, albeit tempered a bit by the fact that it is unmistakably done with miniatures. Claude Rains gets top billing for a role which he performs mostly by voice alone, and his dialogue ratchets up the intensity and insanity as this picture progresses. All in all, this one rather deservedly can be called a classic, and remains a significant precursor to more than one film genre.

why did i watch this movie?

The Invisible Man occupies the second slot on Johnny Ramone’s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

In discussing classic horror with others, it repeatedly arose that most had never seen this picture. I hadn’t, either, and honestly never had much interest, figuring I was familiar with the story – despite the fact that I’d also never read the novel. I’m glad I’ve now rectified this oversight.

highlight and low point

As alluded above, a few too many shots here feature things flying around by themselves and people reacting in astonishment or fright. The representation of malevolence by the title character reaches the pinnacle, highlighted by curt pronouncements such as “At 10 o’clock tomorrow night, I shall kill you.”

rating from outer space: B+

a poignant deathbed scene

King Kong (1933)

directed by merian c. cooper & ernest B. Schoedsack
an rko radio picture

I don’t think I’d ever considered this a “horror film” before, but viewing it now, I suppose I can’t think of a more apt genre to which one might consign it. And since the first time I saw it was at a grand old Theater near the house in which I grew up, on the BIG screen, it would have been impossible for me to note the parallels to, say, Jurassic Park, which was around 15 years in the future, or to be reminded of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, because I wouldn’t have seen that for at least a good 20 years. Sure, the big monkey isn’t terribly convincing nowadays, through jaded modern eyes, but it doesn’t strike me as much worse than most CGI, although reminding me of Rankin/Bass productions isn’t necessarily a positive. Given when it was made, it’s pretty astounding, if unintentionally funny at times. It also had me musing about pre-Hays Code Hollywood, for whatever that’s worth – so if nothing else, it was certainly thought-provoking.

why did i watch this movie?

This baby is no. 5 in Johnny Ramone‘s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

I haven’t seen the 2005 version helmed by Peter Jackson, but of course I’ve seen the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis extravaganza … and I avidly saw last year’s largely unnecessary Kong: Skull Island, which I did not until this moment realize was a “reboot.” Uh … how many have YOU seen.

highlight and low point

Carl Denham’s identification of the Stegosaurus the crew encounters on Skull Mountain’s island: “Something from the dinosaur family.” As the crowd awaits the unveiling of Denham’s spectacle, a remark: “Better be worth it after all the ballyhoo.”

(Two tickets cost TWENTY dollars – almost $400 now.) The big ape dies, you know, which isn’t too cool.

rating from outer space: B

Freaks (1932)

directed by tod browning
Metro-goldwyn-mayer

Disjointed as hell due to excessive editing undertaken in a doomed effort to make a disturbing revenge picture even somewhat palatable to a viewing public it never found, this disastrous flop remains one of Hollywood’s most ill-advised creations – for any number of reasons, not limited to how it may make its audience feel. One can only imagine how appalling the excised material must have been, and marvel as to the effect it could have added to a production that remains troubling after nearly a century. The decision to cast real circus sideshow performers was perhaps an inevitability, but the majority of them aren’t film actors and can’t much pretend to be. Saddest, though, is probably the loss of the chance to really experience the capacity for a full range of emotional responses from these morbidly maligned people, as only glimpses remain. As it is, 60-odd minutes doesn’t give anything of real resonance a real chance to coalesce, and what we’re left with often plays like a soap opera interspersed with sitcom skits. How this one ever got the green light remains a question to ponder.

why did i watch this movie?

It’s number nine on Johnny Ramone’s list, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise as it was a huge influence on his band. They identified, but that story’s been told elsewhere. (Marky’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg might tell it best.)

should you watch this movie?

If the original print existed, I might say yes. But it doesn’t.

highlight and low point

The scene that most inspired the Ramones – the “One of us! One of us!” wedding dinner – remains a powerful and chilling experience. Those that seem to exist for comic relief at the expense of one or more of the title freaks are unfortunate.

rating from outer space: {   }