Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Film — The Black Cat and The Bride of Frankenstein

The late show Karloff double bill -- one new to me, the other seen many times before, when the old Universal horror movies were late shown on TV during student days.

The Black Cat had at its core a psychological revenge drama, with two men who had met in the Great War (Lugosi, as a doctor, recently returned from a long spell in a -- presumably Russian -- internment camp; Karloff as an architect, and the commander of a fort that had been betrayed to the Russians) settled their differences. As it was, it had a bunch of needless side-story -- gratuitous Satanic rituals (a mood destroying hoot to anyone with even a smattering of Latin), and a bumbling everyman (and woman) newly-wed American couple (good luck making a getaway on foot when wearing those heels, lass).

If only they could have trusted to their material -- not that a modern version could be trusted to have done better. But despite that, Karloff (giving the appearance of a Secret Master recently arrive from a UFO) and the urbane and subtle Lugosi, perform to the limits they were allowed.

The Bride of Frankenstein -- despite its opening with Byron and Shelley -- is the start of a treadmill of sequels to Karloff's first appearance as the monster, leading eventually to Abbott and Costello. Great in the set pieces -- the blind hermit, the final scenes in the laboratory -- but larded with comedy yokels in the mode of Shakespeare's crowd-pleasers.

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