Author Peter Brothers calls Bride of Frankenstein “arguably one of the greatest horror films of all time,” and he should know. The Agoura Hills resident has been lecturing about classic scary movies for the past 12 years.
“Though I’m considered a baby boomer, I like to consider myself a horror boomer, because so many great horror films were prevalent when I was growing up,” said Brothers, who will be presenting a Q & A panel discussion and screening of Bride of Frankenstein on Saturday, July 11, at the Reyes Adobe Historical site in Agoura Hills.
The 1935 sequel to Universal Pictures’ 1931 hit Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein was also directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff. The sequel features Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of his “bride.”
According to Brothers, Whale was born in 1885 into a large family in Dudley, England, where he initially studied art. Following the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in the British army but was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war. After his release, he discovered his love for drama and directed the 1928 play Journey’s End. The success of the film brought him to Hollywood, where he was asked to direct Frankenstein.
It was so successful and so frightening, it broke box office records. “It was considered the Jaws of its day,” said Brothers.
However, when Whale–who had already directed The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man–was approached to direct the sequel, he declined. “He said, ‘no way. I’ve gotten everything I wanted out in the first film. I said everything I needed to say. The monster burned up at the end, so there’s nothing more to do,'” Brothers said.
During that time period, Hollywood strictly followed the Motion Picture Production Code, a set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most American films released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. And it was at that time that Whale made a very unusual request. “‘I’ll do this film only under one condition,'” Brothers said. “‘I want complete autonomy. I don’t want any interference.'”
He was granted his wish, and another classic horror film was born. “All of Whales’ horror films are noteworthy because of the styled kind of dark, macabre humor,” Brothers noted. “That’s something a lot of modern day filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter are doing in their films. There’s a lot of frights but there’s also a lot of humor.”
Joining Brothers on Saturday’s panel will be fellow horror experts David Del Valle and Scott Essman. Beginning at 6 p.m., they will meet guests and sign books. At 6:30, the discussion will begin followed by a Q & A session. The screening is scheduled at sundown in the courtyard. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early and bring a picnic dinner.
For more information, go to 91301.org.