Autumn has fallen and it’s time once more to celebrate the primal, compulsive instinct of fear. Rainestorm finishes its horror trilogy and goes to the well one last time to highlight 31 days of spooky scares that season the eerie atmosphere of Halloween. In this week’s Serial Thriller, we focus on the classic Universal Frankenstein series.
Hex cast: 1935
The charm: Nowhere near as good as its reputation and certainly nothing to compete with its predecessor. James Whale, returning to the director’s chair four years after the brilliant original, made the sophomore mistake of trying to turn his film into a comedy… and not a very good one at that. Fortunately for him, he was talented enough that the tragic aspects of the character and the story still hold firm. While we have to tolerate the screeching hysterics of Una O’Connor and the campy theatrics of Ernest Thesiger, Boris Karloff continues to elicit our sympathy and pity for the monster who wants nothing more than to be loved. Though he reportedly thought it stupid for the monster to speak, Karloff’s simple and naive entreaties, with palms outstretched, contrast beautifully with the arrogant and selfish desires of Drs. Frankenstein (Colin Clive once more) and Pretorius (Thesiger). Elsa Lanchester is marvelous as the titular bride, with her birdlike movements, and swan-like hissing and cawing. (She reportedly based her performance on the “very nasty creatures“)
There’s certainly a lot to love here, including the marvelous production design, though Arthur Edeson’s beautifully noir-ish cinematography is missed. However, it must take a backseat to Frankenstein in terms of quality filmmaking.
Focal point: The monster’s legendary encounter with a lonely blind man in the woods.
Entrancing trivia: “The Bride”, the most obscure of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters, is on screen for less than five minutes and is the only “Classic Monster” never to have killed anyone.
Speak the words: “We belong dead.”
Cursed by: The campy humor that made this sequel so popular is its undoing. Particularly, the insufferable and shrill performance by Una O’Connor.
Companion spell: The Invisible Man (1933). Apparently thinking that one can never have too much Una O’Connor, director Whale unleashes her on this otherwise clever thriller, starring Claude Rains’ unforgettable voice as the title character.