Sunday, 1 May 2016

Son of Frankenstein

I treated myself to a rare midnight movie this weekend and what was originally intended to be Dracula's Daughter (to belatedly mark Bram Stoker's anniversary on April 20th) was swapped at the 11th hour for another waif and stray, Son of Frankenstein. This was my first screening of Rowland Lee's film and I was pleasantly surprised by this very worthy followup to the James Whale originals. It was Karloff's last outing as the Monster, and hardly surprising, Wyllis Cooper's screenplay all but reduces him to a mindless brute and it must have been disappointing for the actor to watch from the wings as Basil Rathbone winds up to near hysteric levels and Bela Lugosi steals the entire show as Ygor. Still Cooper's screenplay did raise a smile early on in the film when Rathbone's eponymous heir addresses that age-old misconception "Why, nine out of ten people call that misshapen creature of my father's experiments... Frankenstein"

Boris Karloff checks out the latest newfangled gadget of 1939, the slimline widescreen television

Meanwhile I'm currently re-visiting Simon Callow's Orson Welles biography The Road to Xanadu (in preparation for reading Vol 3) and I was struck by something I read in the passage that describes Bright Lucifer, a play Welles initially wrote in 1932 and returned to throughout the decade before ultimately shelving it with the arrival of War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane. What I found particularly interesting about this Gothic melodrama is that one of the characters is described in Callow's words as a "star of Horror movies". Callow opines that Welles was drawing his characters from life and I wonder did Welles have a particular actor in mind ? The New Yorker, writing about the play in 1938 considered Boris Karloff as Welles' inspiration, while in 2014, Mike Teal over at Wellesnet felt the character was "clearly modeled on John Barrymore". Welles' script is currently unavailable, so it's hard to say either way, but it's interesting to consider that Welles' champion in later life, Peter Bogdanovich also devised a character who was a Horror movie star (albeit one in descent) for his debut feature Targets. Bogdanovich first met Welles in 1968 so it's extremely unlikely he lifted the idea from Welles' unproduced, and as far as I know, unpublished play, so I would consider this a rather delightful coincidence.

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