Found-Again Friday: Barton Fink

It’s got to be better than Beyond Therapy, right?

Why Found-Again? In the words of The Golden Girls’ Sophia Petrillo, picture it: creative writing class, 1993.

There are people in these classes who are, bluntly stated, unreasonably up themselves. The ones who think they need to drink like the Beats to write well. The ones who never seem to depart from a certain subset of “literary, but ‘edgy'” authors in their inspirations. The walking prototypes for the main character in Valerie on the Stairs.

In this class, I managed to get sandwiched between two of these guys, who spent the first half of the semester talking literally over my head about movies and beer and Carver and Updike (Palahniuk wasn’t a thing yet) until I thought I’d pull a Bertha Mason and run mad.

They were obsessed with Barton Fink, and I was soon sick of not knowing why, so on my next trip home I grabbed my friend K. and set up a movie night. My first indication that my movie nights are cursed was my decision to watch The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Barton Fink in the same night. I remember it only as a long night of shared art-film pain (well, that and the revelation that John Goodman is an amazing actor), and I haven’t touched either movie since.

By now, of course, I know there are Coen Brothers movies I like—and even love—so perhaps I was a little hard on Mr. Fink. Let’s find out.

The Premise:  In 1941, playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) is lured to Hollywood to be a screenwriter, and it goes spectacularly badly. He has writer’s block, he has a neighbor from hell—perhaps literally?—and he tries to get advice from a washed-up author who is a fictional analogue of William Faulkner, all while slowly slipping into the writers’ version of the Hollywood studio meat grinder. And then there’s the murder.

I was right about one thing all those years ago: the movie can sometimes be a little slow. That said, this quickly shot up from my previous estimation (sort of a dull groan) through “quite bearable” to “good.” It’s a fascinating combination of noir, psychological study, and to some degree a meditation on religion and ideals: Barton’s idea of serving his fellow man doesn’t long survive actually meeting his fellow man, and this drives most of the plot.  Barton Fink is one of those films Found-Again Friday was made for, and I am happy to relieve it of that other word I used to put in the middle of the title.

"She finally gets it! Drink!"
“She finally gets it! Drink!”

The Verdict: Twofold. One, this was a fun rewatching of something I thought might be agony (remember Beyond Therapy?) and provides some interesting backstory and comparisons to the Coens’ most recent release, Hail, Caesar!, since the same fictional movie studio appears in each. The second thing? After having a similar experience watching and rewatching  Mister Frost, I’m starting to suspect I can’t watch a certain kind of film too late at night—art films.  And here I’d always assumed it would be zombie movies…

Might go well with: The Shining, Miller’s Crossing, an explanation of why 90% of typewriters in movies and television are Underwoods. Really, what did Olivetti do to Hollywood?

Next time: The Quests take Hadji for a ride.

Finally! Friday: Scream Blacula Scream

(Proofreader-brained side note: Do you know how hard it is not to put commas in that title every time I write it? Very hard.)

Why Finally?: Once I saw the first movie, there was no way I’d stay away from this one—especially once I found out Pam Grier was the heroine. And I’m a sucker for movie voodoo, even though I know it is to the real religion what exorcism movies and End of Days are to Catholicism.

The Premise: When the head of a voodoo-inclined family dies, two people are candidates for succession: the dying woman chooses her apprentice, Lisa (Grier), instead of her own flesh and blood, and the spurned Willis retaliates by acquiring Blacula’s (weirdly huge) bones and raising him from the dead. Willis is clearly pretty good at spells, but not good at calculating his own life expectancy after he raises a vampire.

Blacula, as Mamuwalde, uses Willis’s big old house as his HQ and infiltrates the surrounding community, meeting Lisa and her (partner? Romantic relationships never seem clearly defined in these movies) Justin. Justin collects African art, including artifacts from Mamuwalde’s past, and the vampire soon begins to see Lisa and her powers as a way to cure his bloodsucking habit and end his torment.

Remember when I complained about ‘Salem’s Lot and how you couldn’t have vampires multiplying at such a rate plausibly? Scream Blacula Scream is actually a bit of a field experiment in this regard: by the end of the movie, most of the secondary characters have been vamped, and there’s a shot of plywood coffin after plywood coffin in Willis’s basement by the end of the film. Just look at this!

The Verdict: Even playing on my pet vampiric peeve, though, the movie is great: the beginning harks back wonderfully to all the times the original Dracula has been raised again from movie to movie, and William Marshall brings his awesome performance to a film with a better budget—Blacula’s even had a cape upgrade! As in the first movie, there’s a genuine struggle to redeem himself that most movie vampires only experience if there’s a love interest in the, er, wings. Absolutely worth watching.

Might go well with: Love At First Bite, Taste the Blood of Dracula, étouffée.





Apropos Of Nothing: Tearjerkers

Recently, on the strength of the news of Alan Rickman’s death, I attempted something I hadn’t done for years and started watching Truly Madly Deeply. I used to own it, but that was a few broken relationships and one or two deaths ago, so this time I had to stop after 25 minutes because my nose was completely blocked and the tears were starting to soak my shirt collar.

Most of the time, I know better.

I dislike saying it, because it makes me feel shallow, but I hate depressing movies. Part of this is just the way I’m made, I suspect, and the other part is the perception that a lot of these tearjerkers are “women’s movies”—or worse, “date movies”—and so people think I will enjoy them. I vividly remember watching some complete painfests with my high-school sweetheart as a result of this idea: I’d pick comedies (Splitting Heirs was bad, but not so bad I cried about it), and he’d pick things like Steel Magnolias and the Stella Dallas remake with Bette Middler. By the time I realized he was watching the big-screen equivalent of Lifetime movies for my sake, we’d already broken up, and I’ve made sure to be clearer about my preferences since then.

That said, there are a few things I like even though they cause me to wail like the very cranky baby Mom assures me I was. Some highlights:

  • “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar,” an episode of Night Gallery about a man whose life is unraveling between his wife’s sudden death and the machinations of a business rival.
  • The part right before the end of The Last Unicorn. The part right before the end of Young Sherlock Holmes. The part right before the end of The Secret of NIMH. Kids’ movies reserve the right to stomp on your heart, but will generally dust it off and return what’s left of it in the last ten minutes.
  • The end of Hellboy. That’s when I try to explain to anyone else watching that it’s one of the most romantic movies ever. Even though that should be self-evident.

Readers (if any), what about you? Tearjerkers? Nonstandard tearjerkers? Outright refusal? If anyone has a rousing defense of the Stella movie, I’d especially like to hear that.

Finally! Friday: Blacula

Why Finally? Like a surprising number of Hammer films* and (until last year) Universal horror pictures, 1972’s Blacula was one of those glaring gaps in my education—and this despite years of being told how good it is. A viewing was overdue, probably by decades.

The Premise: In the late 18th century, African prince Mamuwalde (the splendid William Marshall) goes on a diplomatic mission to Castle Dracula in an attempt to curb the slave trade. This goes badly, as trips to Castle Dracula tend to do, and Mamuwalde is cursed with vampirism, christened Blacula by Vlad himself, and locked in a coffin for 190 years. When the castle’s furnishings are bought by some decorators and shipped to Los Angeles, the vampire rises—and quickly finds a woman who looks just like his late wife.

Failure of diplomacy.
Negotiations aren’t going so well.

There follows a game of cat and mouse—once the police finally realize a series of exsanguination deaths deserves fuller investigation—led by a romantically partnered pair of scientists. Are they too late to defeat the forces of the undead, or will Blacula reclaim his bride?

Let’s get this out of the way: the vamp makeup in Blacula is often distracting. Some of his victims are completely green, and there’s a wide range of fangs at varying angles on display. Our titular villain gets bizarre facial hair when he vamps out: I enjoyed this, since it seems closer to the hairy-palmed Dracula that Stoker originally dreamed up, but it can be startling.

It shouldn’t detract from the story, though, which gives us an excellent antihero in Blacula. He’s been genuinely mistreated, had everything he valued taken away, and despises his own nature; it’s just not enough to stop the body count from rising, or to stop him from fighting back. And did I mention William Marshall is magnificent?

Readers, if any, know how much I enjoy tracing influences among movies/TV/books, and Blacula is a gold mine. It may be the first movie in which a vampire is haunted by the reincarnation of his lost love (though TV’s Dark Shadows seems to have done it first), an idea by now endemic to vampires generally and Dracula stories in particular. There are tiny details that were lifted almost verbatim by Love At First Bite. And there’s even an appearance by Elisha Cook (credited without his Jr.) as a hook-handed pathologist who suffers the eventual fate of most characters played by Elisha Cook.

My only problems with Blacula, apart from the terrible makeup effects, are ones I have with a number of old horror films—especially the syndrome I like to call vampnesia. (Vampnesia is, of course, a disease common to characters in horror movies in which “everybody’s heard of Count Dracula!”—at least enough to make fun of the people claiming they just saw him— but the good guys still must find an occult expert or make a trip to the local library’s folklore section in order to beat the baddie. I will never understand this.) The movie also has a case of “things spontaneously burning” reminiscent of the flammable stone mansion in The Haunted Palace, but hey, movie fire is fun.

The Verdict: All those people I mentioned above were right: Blacula is an excellent horror movie as well as an interesting cultural artifact. Even while rooting for the mortals, I was sad to see him go (is that a spoiler in a vampire movie, really?) and glad that there’s Scream Blacula Scream to bring him back.

Might go well with: rare steak, good music, anything crocheted.


*At least the ones not called [Something Something Something] Dracula.


Next time: The Quest(s) for the temple.

Found-Again Friday: Miller’s Crossing

With the newest Coen brothers film, Hail, Caesar!, in theaters, the whole internet seems to be ranking their movies—no two lists agreeing on anything, as far as I can tell. Once I realized I was reading those lists looking for Miller’s Crossing, this week’s re-viewing chose itself.

Why Found-Again?: Miller’s Crossing is my favorite movie from the Coens by far, but since it demands my full attention, it doesn’t get rewatched like those movies I can both love and do paperwork with.

The Premise: Pity poor Tom (Gabriel Byrne): his boss Leo is being crowded by a rival crime mob. He’s got the kind of gambling debts that get the attention of leg-breakers. He’s sleeping with his boss’s girlfriend. And he’s the one tasked with saving her con-man brother (John Turturro), who’s in over his head and about to earn a trip to Miller’s Crossing—easily the most beautiful spot for an execution in all of cinema. Tom’s only chance to survive may be to betray everything he loves.

In addition to the just-plain-fun of a crime story and the interpersonal twists—pretty much everyone mentioned above takes a swing at Tom in the course of the movie— Miller’s Crossing is a study in conflicting loyalties, obligations, and brains vs. brawn. To me, though, this is a love story at its most platonic, with Leo and Tom almost a modern take on King Arthur and Lancelot in a corrupt Camelot where the mayor and police chief are sold to the highest bidder… and all done in language that is 80% 1930s gangster flick and 20% poetry.

This is probably the prettiest movie I have ever owned on DVD. (It’s certainly the prettiest American one; Amelie is the only other contender that leaps to mind.) Exhibit A:

Exhibit B: Gabriel Byrne. Yowza.
Exhibit B: Gabriel Byrne. Yowza.

The Verdict: This may also be as close to a perfect movie as I own: a gorgeous, well-constructed film with the atmosphere of  a long-forgotten golden-age noir that never seems to be cribbing or parodying its inspirations. Indeed, the only thing wrong with Miller’s Crossing is its tendency to make viewers say “What’s the rumpus?” as a casual greeting for days after viewing. It’s a fantastic film that, if my reading is any indication, is undervalued by the entire internet.

Might go well with: Pasta, whiskey, a Chieftains CD, Oscar.

Next time: Into the jungle with Jonny Quest, who is absolutely the person you want rooting around old temples.


Found-Again Friday: Legend

Can we start a new rule that watching movies with lots of fire will melt actual snow?

Why Found-Again? Here are the things I remembered about Legend before rewatch:

  • Tim Curry as the devil (yes, technically he is “Darkness,” but if you go around with red skin and giant horns and evil schemes, these little mistakes of identity are bound to occur);
  • Unicorn maiming!;
  • Still less frightening than The Dark Crystal.

I’m not so sure about that last part anymore.

The Premise:  Mischievous (read: a jerk) princess Lili (Mia Sara) spends all her free time with half-feral forest boy Jack (Tom Cruise). When a unicorn viewing goes horribly awry and allows goblins to kill one of the beasts, winter falls upon the land, and a separated Jack and Lili try to undo the damage she caused. Jack joins in with a mob of capricious faeries, while Lili is captured and slated to become the bride of Darkness.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve become more susceptible to background music as I get older, because I was keyed up through most of Legend in a way I didn’t remember from my youth, even knowing what was going to happen. (It’s doubly odd because I could have sworn the unicorn maiming was more graphic than we actually see here; if anything, I had less to worry about.) I also didn’t remember Lili being as irritating as she proved to be, which improved the story; her temptation by Darkness, perhaps the most famous part of the film, isn’t the attack on an innocent girl I recalled so much as a logical attempt to play on Lili’s character flaws.

The movie is certainly heavy-handed in some respects, but the only real weak point in my re-viewing was the final fight…though the swordplay seems like a good, solid background for building an interest in Highlander later on. Even the music is different in those scenes, as if Jerry Goldsmith had stepped out for coffee and John Williams started doodling on his paper, and I found myself looking around for Indiana Jones when I should have been watching evil get defeated.

Legend was the first role I ever saw Tim Curry in, and I managed to become a fan without knowing what he actually looked like for a good two years. As attractive as the unicorns and candy-colored forests are, his Darkness makes the movie…and, disturbingly, no small amount of sense sometimes. In the ’80s, the parochial-school kid in me thought of him only as the devil, but the performance never lets you forget Darkness’s bullish aspect—even in the final fight, his neck is pierced with arrows like picadors’ lances.

Random Notes:

  • We have a credit at the end for “Unicorn Master”; I wonder if that’s higher, professionally speaking, than the Unicorn Wrangler for Cast A Deadly Spell. At any rate, it’s something that would never leave my resume, even if I were interviewing to become a bank president.
  • Was there any “fancy” little girl who didn’t dream of owning Lili’s evil dress?
  • It never occurred to me to make comparisons between this and The Last Unicorn, one of my favorite movies, before now—possibly 12-year-old me wasn’t prepared for a story where The Red Bull struts and talks (and the bull and Prince Lir are the same guy…and Haggard is a fireplace… Hm. Maybe I’m still not ready).
  • While this was one of my earliest encounters with the idea that faeries aren’t all Tinkerbell and flower costumes, there was also this, one of the most feared objects of my childhood:
From The Golden Book of Poetry: illustration by Gertrude Elliott for the poem "Little Orphant Annie"
From The Golden Book of Poetry: illustration by (the unintentionally terrifying) Gertrude Elliott for the poem “Little Orphant Annie”

The Verdict: Still a nice, solid fantasy film, even though the end wobbles far more than I’d remembered. It’s a movie that doesn’t seem to want to end, and maybe that’s why director Ridley Scott seems to understand Lili’s fascination with pretty things so well.

(It may also be time to admit that I’m into guys who wear a little chain mail. There. I said it.)

Might go well with: Mead; Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood books, which are myths and lore with the pastel stuff brushed off; and Cold Comfort Farm, since I spent the first three minutes of the movie thinking of Lili as Elfine.

Found-Again Friday: Ginger Snaps

I know, I know. It’s a new year! you’re saying. Again with the monsters! you’re saying. You had two thirds of a post about season 1 of Picket Fences in your drafts, all good to go…I’m saying, to myself, because you people didn’t know that. But then I rewatched Canadian werewolf movie Ginger Snaps and here we are.

Why Found-Again? Several reasons, but mainly that kind of ambient noise that often brings selections to my Netflix queue: a friend mentioned they hadn’t seen Ginger Snaps, the movie was discussed on some horror-themed podcasts I’ve been listening to—and, of course, I’ve been watching an unusual number of non-vampire “monster” movies this year. I don’t think Lawrence Talbot and Wilfred Glendon would invite Ginger to their parties, though.

The Premise: Morbid, disaffected teen sisters Ginger and Brigitte despise life in their nice, normal suburban community, and not because some creature is devouring the neighborhood pets. Things take a turn for the worse when delayed puberty and a werewolf both attack Ginger at the same time. Soon she’s growing a tail, tiny sharp teeth, and a taste for boys that alienates her younger sister.

I consider myself enough of an expert on watching horror movies without seeing gore that I am literally trying to write a little book about it, but this movie is meatily disgusting and there’s no real way to avoid it. (I’m guessing the folks behind the Does The Dog Die? website would be hospitalized after seeing this, assuming they were foolhardy enough to do so in the first place.)

I’m a bit leery of movies and stories that equate werewolfism and female cycles—perhaps because it’s closer to my demographic than, say, vampires, about whom I will swallow, no pun intended, the most on-the-nose lore you can imagine.  But this equation is the central idea in Ginger Snaps, which under its constant thin layer of blood is really a movie about female roles in society: both sisters fear falling unaware into stereotypical “girly” behaviors, and Ginger’s reluctance to be cured clearly stems from her fear of being metaphorically devoured if she stops literally devouring. Their mother (a hilarious performance by Mimi Rogers), when she finds out her daughters are responsible for a classmate’s death, makes plans to blow up the house and run away with the girls because everyone will blame the murder on her parenting. You can’t win, the movie seems to say, so why not lycanthropy?

The Verdict: Mixed. I enjoy this movie now, writing and talking about it, more than I do when it seems like wading through a sea of deceased Rottweilers. I do love some of the details, though—the tail, the claws, the little teeth that no one but Brigitte seems to notice—and the idea of becoming a werewolf as a painfully slow and capricious transformation. Worth re-viewing, and one of these day I will get around to seeing the sequels.

Might go well with: Because I am still trying to use up the Christmas food, I actually ate summer sausage while I watched this. You probably shouldn’t.

Found-Again Friday: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

Hey, look what doesn’t have a crack in it!


I was about to make a “Who’s on first?” joke before I realized this is the…fourth, I think?… Frankenstein(‘s monster) movie I’ve watched this year. And Branagh’s version is in the queue. Now I’m just tired. (There’s also nothing like the Christmas holiday to remind me why I’m uncomfortable watching the Frankenstein monster: either I have an abnormal brain, or some of my relatives do.)

Why Found-Again? Because I am undereducated in the ways of old comedies not involving Rosalind Russell and/or Cary Grant, this is the only Abbott & Costello movie I’ve ever seen, so saying it’s my favorite is essentially meaningless.  It is true that I’ve seen it several times, though, guy with bolts in his neck be damned—and is anyone reading this really going to venture that the one with the vampire isn’t going to be my favorite when all is said and done?

The Premise: Baggage handlers Chick (Costello) and Wilbur (Abbott) are tasked with taking boxes containing Dracula and the Frankenstein monster to McDougal’s House of Horrors, but set off an insurance investigation when the monsters escape and McDougal is out two exhibits. Turns out Dracula is in league with Wilbur’s girlfriend Sandra, who is secretly a mad scientist planning to use Wilbur’s simple brain to make a user-friendly version of Frankenstein’s creation. Meanwhile, Lawrence Talbot from The Wolf Man and associated films is trying to stop the dastardly plot, but keeps turning into a werewolf at inconvenient times.

The mummy slept in, sadly.
The mummy slept in, sadly.

In a way, I was wrong when I made that remark above about old comedies: anyone who has ever seen an episode of Scooby-Doo (or, from the other direction on the timeline, silent mystery/horror/comedy Cat and the Canary) will recognize the secret-door hijinks in the old castle. The semi-animated quality of Dracula’s transformation into a bat was probably the best SFX 1948 had to offer, but it also seems fitting for what is in some ways a live-action cartoon. (The only one who doesn’t seem to be a little aware they’re living in a comedy is Lon Chaney Jr.’s Talbot, whose intensity will knock your socks off. Poor guy.)

And he sensibly starts undressing when the moon-fit is upon him. Talbot is like the anti-Wilfred Glendon in this picture.
And he sensibly starts undressing when the moon-fit is upon him. Talbot is like the anti-Wilfred Glendon in this picture.

The Verdict: This is still good fun despite the corniness, and it may be the only Dracula movie I’ve ever seen where a chair is used to fend of the vampire and doesn’t end up being used for stakes at any…um…point.

The lab is state-of-the-(dark) art.
The lab is state-of-the-(dark) art.

Demerits for the part near the end when the Frankenstein monster walks into the fire, the most unFrankenmonsterlike thing ever; this is made up for by the Vincent Price “cameo” at the end, though.

Might go well with: Party food, red punch.

As I noted in my post on Frankenstein, Universal’s opening-credits typography and design are great—for a fan of Disney’s Skeleton Dance like yours truly, even better than the “straight” movies being mocked, in fact. But whoever came up with the narration and captions for the trailer above was overdue for a date with a monster himself.

"Look deep into my eyes...and apologize for ever putting the word "Scare-ewy" on a screen."
“Look deep into my eyes…and apologize for ever putting the word “Scare-ewy” on a screen.”



Found-Again Friday: An Awfully Big Adventure


Why Found-Again? This was ranked on my old site as the most disappointing movie I’d ever seen—on a list inspired by watching Altered States the first time, and which would likely have either States or Starship Troopers in the top slot were I ranking the same five now. At the time (2005), I said of An Awfully Big Adventure: “this ostensible comedy…treats among other themes war, incest, homosexuality, thwarted love, suicide*, and the despair of growing old as an artist, [and] flops utterly. One funny bit. One. And yet the cover of the video was dotted with blurbs, apparently by people whose idea of “rollicking comedy” is anything more cheerful than an autopsy. I ask you.”

Clearly I didn’t have a good time last time, but it’s just as clear that some of the fault lies with false advertising. So is An Awfully Big Adventure better when you know what sort of adventure you’re in for?

The Premise: In post-War England, an (extremely) awkward and romantic young woman named Stella gets a job with a theatre troupe filled with exactly the struggling, short-tempered, raunchy eccentrics you’d expect from a movie about a British theatre troupe. She falls immediately in love with director/complete bastard Meredith Potter (Hugh Grant), but  when the company’s breakout star P.L. O’Hara returns (Alan Rickman), everything changes.

This movie may hold some kind of record for number of actors who make appearances elsewhere in my DVD collection: Edward Petherbridge (Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries), Alan Cox (Young Sherlock Holmes), Hugh Grant (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Alan Rickman (Truly, Madly, Deeply)—even the actor who plays the heroine’s uncle had a tiny, tiny part in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Like its fellow countrymovie Love, Actually, I really wanted to like this based on its cast.

The Verdict: …But I still mostly don’t. (Also like Love, Actually, as a matter of fact.)

An Awfully Big Adventure is indeed much better when billed as a “bittersweet coming-of-age story” (thank you, Netflix envelope!) than a comedy, and a chance to look at Alan Rickman in a leather jacket  Lord Peter MFing Wimsey some of my favorites in action is probably never a waste. This time around, perversely, the movie’s heroine was my sticking point. Georgina Cates as Stella is amazing—so amazing that her growing pains and unrequited loves, and the many occasions when people take advantage of her, are sometimes excruciating to watch. I won’t watch it again, but I no longer hold a grudge.

*Special breaking update, and by “breaking,” I mean “Read it on Wikipedia at 3 this morning”: It’s possible that the suicide I mention in the 2005 review was not, in fact, intended to be interpreted as one. You could have fooled me, but of course many things have.

Might go well with: Not popcorn, and I’d rather not say why.


Next time: Forward (Po-)Ho.

Found-Again Friday: The Bride of Frankenstein

Everything I thought I remembered from the original Frankenstein should be in here. Let’s find out, shall we?

Why Found-Again? This is part of my push to rewatch a bunch of old horror movies, Universal and otherwise. In addition to Frankenstein and Werewolf of London, which I wrote about here, I’ve also watched the Lugosi Dracula and The Wolf Man, as well as a few less well-known titles.

The Premise: The climax of the original movie must have involved a grossly incompetent angry mob, since both the monster and Henry Frankenstein survive their windmill adventures. The friendless monster stumbles through his surroundings, rejected by all but a blind man; after getting a taste for spirits, cigars and human companionship, he runs into Henry’s old mentor Dr. Pretorius, who promises him the titular mate. It all goes as well as you’d think. (Warning: if you don’t know how the movie ends, don’t look at that. But is that even possible?)

Pretorius is to a large extent the “…and now we can start the party” character in this film. A gin-swilling, grave-robbing unrepentant weirdo with a nose that can seemingly act all on its own, he out-mad-scientists the actual Dr. Frankenstein handily, almost as an afterthought.

The daily grind.
Pretorius’s daily grind.

In a sequence near the beginning, Pretorius shows Henry a collection of tiny, indignant people he has apparently grown in bell jars, which seems to serve as this movie’s equivalent of Asta’s marital troubles in the second Thin Man movie—presumably comic relief, but to whom? It should be horrifying, but a tiny Henry VIII-style king squeaking away just…isn’t.

The Bride of Frankenstein also has one of my favorite things: an Exposition/Greek Chorus character, a meddling maid called Minnie. She turns up in the very first minutes and just keeps going, keeping people abreast of the monster’s movements and/or yelling at them to shoot it.

...And yes, I think she's better at it than Ramirez from Highlander.
…And yes, I think she’s better at it than Ramirez from Highlander. Happier, too.

The Verdict: The only real thing I have against this movie is that I always hate seeing people be mean to Karloff. The monster may hate fire, but by the time Bride of Frankenstein is over, he probably doesn’t feel warmly toward sticks, chains or ropes, either.

Mrs. Elizabeth Frankenstein seconds that thing about ropes.
Mrs. Elizabeth Frankenstein seconds that thing about ropes.

It lags a little in some places, and some of the musical cues during the actual making of the Bride are downright odd in their cheerfulness—see the clip above—but on the whole, this is quite good. (Additionally, if any of my readers are undergrads in need of paper topics, I’ll point out that a search for “Frankenstein movies language acquisition” yields fewer Google hits than you’d think.)

Might go well with: Roast anything, but Cornish game hens would be creepy.


Next time: More desert intrigue with Jonny Quest.