Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TV Bites: Bride of Frankenstein

Elsa Lanchester's Deviled Pork Chops

Happy Halloween from Paris!! And it's part two of the Frankenstein double bill!!

You could say I'm on vacation, but you could also say I'm doing deep research for my December class (see above). I went to the cafe where Amelie worked and the little fruit/vegetable stand down the block from "her" house. Oh yeah, I'm eating a lot, and tomorrow taking a class on making croissants.

But let's get to it.... My favorite quote I discovered while researching this post is from Carl Laemmle Jr., studio production chief of Universal Pictures at the time. Announcing their new line up of horror films in 1933, he said they would have "a decidedly novel and shocking appeal.... We have found that the theater-going public like the unreal, the weird, and the uncanny, and we are preparing to cater to this great audience with colorful, imaginative stories." I like that. Go Junior! Where's a studio head like that today?

So, hope you all have a fun Halloween without me.

Bride of Frankenstein is available on DVD and streaming from Amazon and also streaming @ YouTube.


"Our mad dream is only half-realized. Alone, you have created a man. Now together, we will create his mate."

After the success of James Whale's Frankenstein (already the fourth filmed version - the first was produced by Thomas Edison in 1910, starring Charles Ogle as the Monster) and Todd Browning's Dracula both in 1931, Universal Pictures went on a horror talkie movie binge over the next few years with The Mummy, The Invisible Man (which Whale directed), and The Black Cat which would become the core of the Universal monster movie industry. But even before Frankenstein was released and became a hit, there was talk of a sequel (the ending was changed before its release so the Doctor could himself be "brought back to life" if needed - how times have not changed). It would be called Return of Frankenstein and James Whale wasn't interested in helming it. (fyi - Whale had first been brought to Hollywood by Howard Hughes to help with the dialogue directing of Hell's Angels.)

Several writers took a stab at writing a sequel over the ensuing years (with titles including the god awful The New Adventures of Frankenstein - The Monster Lives!). One was Philip MacDonald who is known both for his detective novels and his screenwriting work, including several of both the Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto series. (MacDonald continued writing for many decades, including teleplays for Perry Mason and Fantasy Island.) MacDonald's wild idea took place in the then 1930's present with Dr. Frankenstein building a death ray which he uses to blackmail the League of Nations, but somehow the Monster shows up and destroys the contraption. Another script by another writer, had the doctor building "the bride" out of body parts from a train wreck, and her head was from "a hydrocephalic circus giantess who had committed suicide in a fit of sexual despondency."

Thankfully for all us horror movie fans, Whale decided in 1934 to revisit his creation but demanded from Universal to have complete control over the project. Anxious to have another hit on their hands, the financially-troubled studio agreed. Whale wanted a script that would have both horrific and humorous moments. John L. Balderston, who had co-written the theatrical version of Frankenstein originally bought by Universal and inspired the films, initially was brought in to write what was now to be about a bride for the Monster. It was Whale's idea to begin the new story just after the old one ended. Balderston created what would be the prologue, a conversation between Mary & Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. But Balderston just wasn't nailing the script, so Whale eventually brought in screenwriters William Hurlbut and Edmund Pearson to cut and paste what he liked from the various previous drafts and to work with him to bring it all together.

Skipping ahead slightly, but since we've just mentioned the film's prologue (and more to come on the prologue in the Background & Context section), Elsa Lanchester wrote, "I played Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, dressed extremely elegantly, sweeter than sugar.... [My] dress was the most fairy-like creation I have ever seen before or since in a film. It had a low neck, tiny puffed sleeves, and bodice that continued in a long line to the floor and onto a train about seven feet long. The entire white net dress was embroidered with iridescent sequins – butterflies, stars, and moons. It took 17 Mexican ladies twelve weeks to make it. The dress traveled around the country and appeared in the foyers of all the big openings of The Bride of Frankenstein."

Whale's first casting idea for "The (Monster's) Bride" apparently was Brigitte Helm, who played the robot creation in Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis, but Helm had recently fled the Nazi takeover of Germany and quit acting. Another actress (or two) who was considered for the role was either Pandora's Box star Louise Brooks or "B-movie" actress Phyllis Brooks, depending on the source - or maybe they were both considered. Meanwhile, Elsa Lanchester, an old friend of Whale's and had worked in theater together in the UK, had been cast to play Mary Shelley and Whale decided he didn't need a second actress. Having both the story's creator and the created monster be played by the same person offered many interesting metaphors and interpretations he could play with.

Lanchester expanded on this in an interview: "Whale did feel that if Mary Shelley, this beautiful, innocent creature, could write this horror story, somewhere brewing within her was this – dream-life horror – dominating her thoughts and her spirits... A lot of pretty women are really not the nicest people. Not that Mary Shelley was like that. But she did have this thing curdling inside of her, with a pretty exterior. She had 'fiends' within. James Whale wanted to point that out."

Of course, our friends at the Hayes Office had to have their say in censoring the screenplay. Joseph Breen wrote to Whale, upset that "[t]hroughout the script there are a number of references to Frankenstein which compare him to God and which compare his creation of the monster to God's creation of Man. All such references should be eliminated." Also, there were problems with, as Whale splendidly listed in a letter in response to Breen, those of "God, entrails, immortality, and mermaids." Several scenes of the Monster killing people were to be deleted, as was a scene where the Monster played "Peeping Tom" on a young couple making out that was cut. Later, they were forced to cut some shots of Lanchester in her Mary Shelley outfit as they exposed too much breast. My favorite scene that was censored from the script was of the Monster who after himself being crucified wanders through a cemetery and finds a statue of Christ on his cross. The Monster rushes over attempting to free the figure. Let's just say the Hayes Office thought it inappropriate and refused it despite Whale's protestations. Still, some envision a Christ/Monster metaphor running throughout the entire film.

The two main actors from the original reprised their roles - Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein and the awesome Boris Karloff as the Monster. Clive, at this point in his life, was suffering from deep alcoholism. Reportedly, he had a “handler” to follow him around to make sure he didn't injure himself, but by the end of shooting he was on crutches during his close-ups from an accident on the set. Jack Latham, who is alternately described as Whale's associate or friend and would work as a stand-in on the set, recalled that Clive, "would go off to his own little dressing room and they'd call him and he'd come out and do the 'it's alive' thing and then go back. We didn't see him very much." Two years later, Clive would be dead from tuberculosis.

Dwight Frye, who played the assistant Fritz in the first film, returned as Karl the assistant in the Bride. Whale also cast the great Una O'Connor, whom Whale had used in The Invisible Man, for comic relief. Sadly, several scenes featuring Frye were cut from the final film as being too violent and have been lost to history.

For the part of Dr. Pretorius, Whale initially wanted his Invisible Man star Claude Rains to play the part and Universal wanted Bela Lugosi, but Whale decided to cast another Brit he'd known from his theater days, Ernest Theisinger. In addition to his work as an actor, Theisinger was a crocheting hobbyist (and authored the book Adventures in Embroidery) and was typically seen crocheting on the set between takes. He would often refer to himself as “The Stichin' Bitch.” He also performed part-time as a female impersonator. (Some consider his character a "stand-in" for the openly gay Whale in the movie.)

Karloff agreed to play the Monster again (and would for the next sequel and then call it quits), but with one big reservation. "I felt the role was a challenge," Karloff stated. "[In the first film,] I had to portray a sub-human of little intelligence and without speech, still getting over the sympathetic qualities of the role. When the Monster did speak [in the Bride] I knew that this was eventually going to destroy the character. It did for me, anyway." He tried to convince Whale to take away his speaking lines unsuccessfully.

When Karloff had been originally cast as the Monster, Whale noted that Karloff's face, "always fascinated me and I made drawings of his head, added sharp, bony ridges where I imagined the skull might have been joined. His physique was weaker than I could wish, but that queer, penetrating personality of his I felt was more important than his shape, which could easily be altered."

Makeup artist Jack Pierce was brought in to flesh out, so to speak, Whale's drawings. "We had to surmise," Karloff said of the Monster's "cigar box" head, "that brain after brain had been tried in that poor skull, inserted and taken out again. That is why we built up the forehead to convey the impression of demoniacal surgery. Then we found the eyes were to bright, seemed to understanding, where dumb bewilderment was so essential. So I waxed my eyes to make them heavy, half-seeing."

Seventeen year old Valerie Hobson who was cast as, well, the actual bride of Frankenstein (Lanchester was the Monster's bride, to be technical), remembered in an interview how Karloff's eyes appeared to her in his make-up. "Boris' kind eyes – he had the kindest eyes! Most monsters have frightening eyes, but Boris, even in makeup, had very loving, sad eyes.... Karloff was so moving – like some of the great clowns who make you cry, he made you cry. The makeup was wonderful but it was almost clown-like in its extremeness. You really felt that here was one whose heart was absolutely bleeding to get out of his monstrous self and find someone to love, and who would love him."

According to Lanchester, Jack Pierce was somewhat of a prima donna. "I spent long hours in the makeup room," she wrote in her autobiography. "Jack Pierce, of course, was the creator of the first Frankenstein makeup, and so he was elevated even further in his own heaven when a Bride was to be born. He had his own 'sactum sanctorum,' and as you entered (you did not go in; you entered) he said good morning first. If I spoke first, he glared and slightly showed his upper teeth. He would be dressed in a full hospital doctor's operating outfit. At five in the morning, this made me dislike him intensely. Then, for three or four hours, the Lord would do his creative work, with never a word spoken as he built up the scars with spirit gum, pink putty, red pain, and so on. Nowadays, you can buy stick-on scars for a few cents at a joke shop. But Jack Pierce fancied himself The Maker of Monsters – meting out wrath and intolerance by the bucketful."

She also recalled how it was for Karloff spending four to five hours in the makeup chair. "Boris would start at about half past two in the morning, and I came in about half past five. He was ready by ten, and they would take some shots of him. I was ready by eleven. Then came lunch. Then he had to go home early in the afternoon to get enough sleep – to get up the next morning for the make-up." (It should be noted that all this hard work influenced Karloff to become one of the founding members of the Screen Actor's Guild.)

Karloff had some fond memories of making the film he could laugh about. “The watery opening scene of the sequel... was filmed with me wearing a rubber suit under my costume to ward off chill," he once explained. "But air got into the suit. When I was launched into the pond, my legs flew up in the air, and I floated there like some obscene water lily while I and everyone else hooted with laughter. They finally fished me out with a boat-hook and deflated me!"

"A word about the screams and that hissing sound I made to show my anger and terror when rebuffing my groom," offered Lanchester. "Actually, I have always been fascinated by the sound that swans make. Regent Park in London has lots of them on the lake. Charles [Laughton, her husband] and I used to go and watch them very often. They're really very nasty creatures, always hissing at you. So I used the memory of that hiss. The sound men, in one or two cases, ran the hisses and screams backwards to add to the strangeness. I spent so much time screaming that I lost my voice and I couldn't speak for days."

Also that first moment when the Bride opens her eyes, Lanchester recalled, "That was a most difficult thing to do, believe it or not, because I'd been working all day and they did it at the end of the day. My eyes were quite sore from the false eye-lashes and make-up and this bandage round about and below them. Of course, I believe in the shot, it peels off and the eyes are staring. It is very difficult to stare for very long without blinking. So they left it for the last minute. As they peeled it off, I opened the eyes and I did hold it as long as I possibly could. In fact so long, they cut before I blinked. The eyes were very sore from working all day. Perhaps it helped the weird effect. The whites weren't white any more... sort of red."

There are so many lovely set pieces in the movie, though one stands out which was perfectly parodied in part one of our double bill Young Frankenstein - the scene with the hermit. As writer Neil Gaiman once noted, "The sequence with the blind hermit is subject to slippage in my mind with its parody in Young Frankenstein. I worry, when I see the blind man in Bride, that he will pour hot soup on the monster, or set light to him, and am always relieved when they survive the meal unscathed." So true. It's hard to watch the Bride without thinking about Gene Hackman's take on the hermit.

Before the picture was officially released, as with the original, a different ending was shot. Whale decided at the last minute, he wanted the Doctor and his Bride to survive.

A now for those in need of some deep casting trivia - the actress who plays the mermaid in Pretorius' collection of miniature humans was Josephine McKim, whose place in history (other than her brief movie career) is that she was a two time Olympic medalist in freestyle swimming. Also, a barely seen jar in the background (there was a bit, but it was cut) features the awesome Billy Barty dressed as a baby. I've previously noted in my post on Footlight Parade (where he also plays a baby) that many years ago I once almost ran over Mr. Barty in North Hollywood on my bicycle as he was getting out of his car. That would have been about as horrible a thing to be known by as anything if it had ended badly.

If you're interested reading about the laboratory equipment created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the film, check out the Background & Context section of my Young Frankenstein post.

While the film didn't win any awards at the time, it was very well received by both the public and critics. The New York Times praised Karloff's performance and called it a "first-rate horror film." It has been consistantly ranked as one of the best films ever made by historians and horror fans.

In 1985, Franc Roddam (who directed last month's Chef du Cinema pick Quadrophenia) helmed The Bride, starring Jennifer Beals as the Monster's lover. Martin Scorsese was considering a remake in 1991, and in 2009 there was talk of another possible remake.

Not a sequel, but a film I recommend seeing is the excellent 1998 film Gods & Monsters, starring Sir Ian McKellen and Brendon Fraser. It's the story of the last days of James Whale's life.


I think the most fantastic bit of fantasy in Bride of Frankenstein is not the story itself, but that prologue which begins the movie with Mary Wollstonecraft, Percy Shelley, and "bad boy" Lord Byron, lounging around with witty conversation sometime after Mary completed Frankenstein but before it was printed - which puts the event somewhere just after the summer of 1817 and Mary would have been all of 20 years old.

Now during that famous summer of 1816 where the three (joined by some others) were in Lake Geneva and Mary first began writing Frankenstein, they were not smoking cigars and drinking sherry as they are in the prologue. They were drinking laudanum and smoking opium. At the time, Mary and Percy were not married (they would by late 1817 after Percy's first wife committed suicide because he dumped her for Mary), but they had just recently gave birth to a child together (and a second on the way when they were married), nevertheless. Also at the house at Lake Geneva was Mary's stepsister Claire, who had been sleeping with both Percy and Lord Byron, and was now pregnant with Byron's child. Percy and Mary were broke during these years and she certainly couldn't have afforded a dress as decadent was the one Elsa Lanchester wears in the film (see above). In fact, during those months in 1817 when the prologue takes place, Percy would have been spending much time away from Mary, trying to avoid his creditors and debtor's prison (by early 1818, they'd moved to Italy to get away).

Byron, meanwhile, "[f]ollowing the accusation of sodomy and incest and to prevent the exclusion of the British society, Byron left England in 1816 and never returned to the country again." He supposedly had sex with his younger half-sister and got her pregnant, amongst his many sexual liasons at the time.

So wherever this trio was meeting in our fantasy prologue, it was certainly not in England, and probably none of them were in convivial of moods.

And finally, if you read Shelley's Frankenstein, you'll know that she had included the tale (though it differs from the movie) of the Doctor's attempt to make a mate for his Monster.


In the film, Dr. Pretorious says, "Sometimes I have wondered whether life wouldn't be much more amusing if we were all devils, no nonsense about angels and being good." So I was very pleased to have a "deviled" recipe from Ms. Lanchester to pair with it. (Also, if you went to my Young Frankenstein class, we also made a pork dish, so that's a little synergy.)

According to Cecil "The Straight Dope" Adams, "The word 'devil' as applied to food first appears in 1786, when it was used to describe a '(highly seasoned) fried or boiled dish.'... Today the word "deviled" is applied to a multitude of spicy dishes. There are other meanings, however. One source gives 'deviled' as meaning 'Food grilled or fried after coating with condiments or breadcrumbs.'" Which is what our recipe is.

However, "devil's food cake," as used in part one of our Frankenstein double bill's recipe, the devil therein is, according to Linda Stradley's What's Cooking America, "usually thought of in terms of dark chocolate, but originally it was red. This was thought to be due to a chemical reaction between early varieties of cocoa and baking soda, which also gave the cake a soapy taste. Today cooks, using modern processed cocoa, sometimes add a touch of red food coloring to bring back the authentic color."

In her autobiography, Ms. Lanchester wrote that upon first migrating from London to Hollywood, "Apart from the brightness in Hollywood... I found “the big pink pup” and “giant frog” sort of restaurants horrifying. You walked into the giant mouth of a frog to get a meal.... To me, American cooking was so odd. You know, mayonnaise on peaches, the odd combinations of foods."

We can only hope that the advertisement for Colman's Mustard from whence today's recipe comes from was, in fact, actually contributed by Ms. Lanchester and not her publicity agent or some marketing geeks. But, as with many of these celebrity recipes, we're going to suspend our disbelief and believe that it is her actual recipe. For as Ms. Lanchester says in the advert, "We always use Colman's mustard at our house - it adds delicious extra flavor to food!"

Now according the Colman's Mustard website, "Mustard has been grown in the fields of England since Roman times.... Classified as an herb, black mustard seed's ancient applications was prominently medicinal, treating ailments such as inflammation, high blood pressure, headaches, asthma and a host of other conditions." You think Dr. Frankenstein had mustard powder in his laboratory? I'm betting he did!

In 1866, Queen Victoria "granted Colman's the ultimate accolade - By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Manufacturers of Food & Households" and is still today sold as "The Queen's Mustard." But from now on, I'll think of it as the Bride of Frankenstein's mustard.

As always.... cook, eat, watch & enjoy!

Elsa Lanchester's Deviled Pork Chops
adapted from a recipe by Ms. Lanchester
Click for Printer-Friendly Version

serves 4

4 pork chops, 1-inch thick (boned or boneless)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (Colman's) dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
salt & black pepper, to taste

Preheat over to 350*F.

Season chops with Salt and pepper. Heat oil in frying pan. Sauté chops until almost done. Remove chop from pan and place in shallow baking dish. Add onions and flour to pan, increase heat to fry onions until they start to brown. Add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and water. Stir for a minute, adjust seasonings, and then pour over chops.

Bake in oven for about 12 minutes. Serve.

Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Free) Ebook @ Project Gutenberg
Original 1935 NY Times film review
Modern special effects master Rick Baker gushes over Jack Pierce's Frankenstein make-up (Video) @ TCM
Elsa Lanchester on The Dick Cavett Show @ YouTube
A History of Horror w/Mark Gatiss @ BBC4-TV
Guillermo del Toro on Bride of Frankenstein @ YouTube
Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley @ Wikipedia
Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog

Bride of Frankenstein DVD/Streaming
Bride Of Frankenstein (1993 Rerecording of 1935 Franz Waxman Film Score) CD/MP3
James Whale: A New World Of Gods And Monsters, by James Curtis
Elsa Lanchester, Herself, by Elsa Lanchester
Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, by Stephen Jacobs
The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, David J. Skal
Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration, by Gregory William Mank

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