Thursday, October 08, 2015

Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) part 2


“The Bride of Frankenstein” was the sequel to the hit “Frankenstein”. It’s very rare that a sequel is more successful than the film that spawned it. But in this particular case a successful sequel was only possible because of the right director, a good story, a cast that has just the right chemistry, along with people behind the camera who know what they’re doing. For this film Whale did what he could to guarantee a film that would be a smash. He even stopped production from February 19 to March 2 1935 so he could use the actor O.P. Heggie to film the hermit sequence. Heggie was unavailable when filming began due to to the fact he was at RKO studios finishing another film. Whale wanted to make this a memorable film. To that end he wanted Colin Clive and Boris Karloff to reprise the roles they created in “Frankenstein”. He knew Mae Clarke was unavailable due to illness, and knew he would have to re-cast the role of “Elizabeth”. But he also knew what hadn’t worked in the first film. Edward Van Sloan who played “Dr. Waldman”, Frederick Kerr who played the original “Baron Frankenstein”, and John Boles as “Victor Moritz” were not asked to reprise their roles. Instead Whale decided to inject a bit of humour. To that end he added Una O’Connor and E.E. Clive to liven things up. He had worked with both actors when he directed The Invisible Man in 1933, and thought they would provide the “hoot” he wanted to have. And after seeing Ernest Thesiger act he knew he wanted him in the sequel.

9645  Agnes Teresa McGlade was born in Belfast Ireland on October 23 1880. She changed her name to Una O’Connor when she began her acting career with the Dublin Abbey Theater.

Until the thirties she appeared on stage in Ireland and England. She appeared in the Hitchcock film Murder in 1930. She followed that up with a stage version of Cavalcade. She was asked to reprise her role in 1933. It was then she moved to Hollywood. Her comedic performance made a favourite of James Whale. He cast her in the The Invisible Man (1934) where she played the wife of a pub owner, and as the housekeeper in The Bride Of Frankenstein. In both she roles she’s opinionated, nosy, and quick to scream. She also did what she called “straight” roles. A year after immortalizing herself to millions of film goers in The Bride of Frankenstein she portrayed the mother of a captured member of the Irish Republican Army in the film The Informer. She also played Bing Crosby’s housekeeper in The Bells Of St. Mary’s.

 In the fifties she endeared herself to thousands of theater goers when she portrayed Janet McKenzie in the stage version of Witness For The Prosecution from 1954 to 1956. In 1957 she would reprise the role she created in the film of the same name. Though it was a rather serious drama she brought a wonderful comedic touch to the production. The film also reunited her with Elsa Lanchester. Sadly it would be her very last film. In her late seventies she decided it was time to retire from the entertainment world, and to live a more sedate life. She passed away less than two years later in 1959.

3283-2453 E. E. Clive portrayed the burgomaster of the town. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a burgomaster is the chief magistrate of a town in some European countries in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland so we can assume the film takes place in one of these countries. Edward Erskholme Clive was born in 1879 in Monmouth England. He was an accomplished actor and director. He originally started out working towards a career in medicine. Having already completed four years of studies at St. Bartholomew's Hospital his ambitions changed direction at the age of 22, and he began acting. He moved to the states in 1912 and set up his own stock company in Boston. . In 1920s his repertory company was in Hollywood when one of his colleagues became Rosalind Russell. He worked in a number of Broadway plays.

902. E.E. Clive as the cop  His first role in films was in The Invisible Man (1934). He portrayed a simple English village policeman. James Whale was impressed with Clive, and kept him in mind for any future projects. When the time came to cast someone as the pompous incompetent burgomaster (mayor) of the town Whale knew just who to ask. It was a role that brought Clive a great many bit and character roles in the future. He frequently played butlers and lawyers. Clive passed away from a heart disorder in 1940, shortly after appearing in Pride and Prejudice with Sir Laurence Oliver and Greer Garson. According to the June 7th edition of The New York Times, published one day after his death Clive appeared in “1,159 Legitimate Plays Before Going Into Moving Pictures”.

ernest-thesiger-11 Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger was born in 1879. Initially he wanted to be an artist, but when that didn't work out as planned he switched to acting. He made his debut in Colonel Smith in 1909. He acted till the outbreak of World War I. He enlisted, but was wounded after seeing action overseas. He was sent home and discharged.

His first film role was in 1916 as one one of the witches in a spoof of Macbeth. Films were still regarded as a novelty, and he returned to the stage in a play that few, if any gave much of a chance. A Little Bit Of Fluff was more successful than anyone involved with the production, including Thesiger, could have dreamed. It ran for over 1,200 performances. Its success led to a film version in which Thesiger reprised his role. He became know for his comedy and his female impersonations. In 1919 he appeared in a seasonal production of The Merry Wives Of Windsor. Thesiger and Whale met during this play. Whale was riding high after directing Frankenstein,and requested Carl Laemmle to purchase the rights to J.B. Priestley’s worked called “Benighted”. The story brought together a strange collection of people together. Thesiger’s character was described as “A man so thin, with so little flesh...he was almost a skeleton”. Prior to doing the film, which was renamed The Old Dark House (1932), Thesiger had no reputation to speak of in Hollywood. But after his performance as Horace Femm in The Old Dark House his star was definitely on the rise. Boris Karloff and Thesiger did a film called The Ghoul (1933) in England cashing in on their popularity. Kathleen Harrison appeared in the film as well. Thesiger and Harrison would reunite twenty years later doing the film “Scrooge”, better known in North America as “A Christmas Carol” (1951).

The working title for the Frankenstein sequel was The Return Of Frankenstein. But James Whale had no intention of doing any film based on any of the scripts or script ideas he heard or read. Instead took the best parts from all the scripts and cobbled together a script that he liked. He wanted Thesiger in it, but the was no role suited to him. So Whale created Dr. Septimus Pretorius. Apparently Pretorius was based on a real life alchemist of the 16th century called Paracelsus, and a friend of Mary Shelley’s called John Polidori. In the film Pretorius was a former mentor of Henry Frankenstein, who, like Henry, was obsessed with the creation of life. He is a wee more obsessed as this tidbit of censored script demonstrates. He is explaining why he was “booted out”. 

"Actually it was a very small matter, a question of taking a corpse out of the mortuary. You know how difficult it is to get cadavers for dissections...there was some trouble about it. It happened that the lady--oh, I forgot to tell you it was a lady--was in the habit of suffering from cataleptic fits. Her townspeople were quite aware of her malady, but on her first day here in our town of Frankenstein she was seized with a fit in the marketplace and, thinking her dead, they placed her in the mortuary!"

"But how terrible!" Henry exclaimed. "And she was not dead at all?"

"So they said. But how was I to know?'

"But there were signs, surely?'

Pretorius nodded nonchalantly. "To be sure--when one is looking for them. Curiously enough, I did think the body rather warm before I started dissecting."

Frankenstein was now thoroughly horrified at the recital. "And you paid no attention?"

"It never occurred to me to realize what had happened. And then, when she did recover, it was too late to do anything about it. You see, I had done quite a lot of dissecting before she screamed...Afterward, I did the only merciful thing."

Thesiger made a wonderfully creepy Dr. Pretorius. And the film shows it. But Thesiger longed for a return to the stage. The Bride Of Frankenstein was his last film produced in America.

Split_large  In 1936 Thesiger was cast as the sculptor Theotocopolous for the film Things To Come which was based on the story The Shape Of Things To Come by H.G. Wells. However his performance was not appreciated by Wells and he was replaced by Cedric Hardwicke. But his services were retained by Wells for the film The Man Who Could Work Miracles. It was about this time Thesiger published a book on needlework, which was a life long hobby.

Most of his professional work centered of the stage, but he did appear in the occasional film. He appeared in The Man In The White Suit, Scrooge, The Robe, Meet Mr. Lucifer, and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961). By then he was Ernest Thesiger OBE – Order Of The British Empire. But he didn’t much chance to use the title. He died in his sleep shortly after completing The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)–part 1

It’s that time of year again…


I’m sorry. I tried. I really tried.

I tried to look at this iconic picture as the horror picture it’s supposed to be. Maybe when it was first released in 1935 people looked at it as the classic horror film it is. Back then people were trying to live out a life during the great depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president for the first time, and John Dillinger along with Bonnie & Clyde provided headlines for newspapers big and small. And when the sequel to Frankenstein finally came along in 1935 people really wanted to escape reality, and have their socks scared off. And maybe, just maybe, in some cases, it actually happened.

But now its eighty years later. And parodies of this film abound. References to the film and clips from the actual film can be found in Scooby-Doo, Hogan’s Heroes, Remington Steele, Casper, Bordello of Blood, Animaniacs, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Star Trek: Enterprise, The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, Bride Of Chucky, and of course Abbott & Costello – and that’s just a very small sampling of the effect this film has had.

I found it to be a horror-comedy, plus a film that asks a lot of questions. I’ll ask the questions, and make my observations in the order they appear.

The Bride of Frankenstein almost didn’t get made. There were three major items against it, all of them creative. The director of Frankenstein, the primary actor (Boris Karloff), and the initial ideas for the sequel all said no. James james_whale_portrait Whale, did not want to do a sequel, believing that what could be done with the subject already had been done in the original Frankenstein film. Whale was presented with a number of ideas for the sequel, most of which were god awful, and after reading a prospective script he said “it stinks to heaven”. Whale was an actor, a director, and a set designer. And after fours years of badgering by Universal, specifically by Carl Laemmle Jr., and reading some truly awful scripts such as “The New Adventures Of Frankenstein – The Monster Lives !” Whale decided that he would do the film…but on his terms. Whale had a fair amount of input into the script, the lighting, even some of the props. He had seen some pretty terrible script ideas so he decided to make this film, and to make it a “hoot” that few, if any, will ever forget.

 906. Boris Karloff publicity still  Boris Karloff wanted nothing to do with the film as he felt giving the monster dialog would take a great deal of the horror factor away from the second film, and detract from the horror of the film “Frankenstein”. But it took some herculean convincing on Whales’ part to bring Boris on board. Boris was still convinced the monster should not have the power of speech. When asked why he so opposed to giving the monster speech he said “My argument was that if the monster had any impact or charm, it was because he was inarticulate – this great, lumbering, inarticulate creature. The moment he spoke you might as well ... play it straight”. Whale understood Boris’s concerns, so they settled on forty-four words the monster would speak. Boris was satisfied with his part of the script but Whale found some elements extremely wanting. So he gathered up all the potential scripts, took the best parts from all of them, and came up with a script everybody could like. The month was November 1934.


Whale thought The Bride Of Frankenstein should have many of the people who were in “Frankenstein” as possible. It was obvious Colin Clive was still abusing alcohol, and to make matters worse he broke his leg shortly before filming, which is why when he was filmed he’s almost always sitting down. Mae Clarke was simply too ill so the role of Elizabeth was re-cast. Valerie Hobson won the role, but I have a question. Could Valerie Hobson have least worn a blond wig, so a least both “Elizabeth’s” could have been blond and the film would have better continuity ?. Her hair color difference was the first thing I noticed. Some say the role of Dr. Pretorius was written strictly for Ernest Thesiger, while other sources had Bela Lugosi and Claude Raines being considered for the role of Dr. Pretorius. Whale was accepting of Thesigers work, but he didn’t care for the person. He treated Whale poorly and was very snobbish. But Thesiger was related to aristocracy, and Whale liked that part about him.

Boris Karloff, also known as William Henry Pratt, began his film career relatively late, in 1919, but it wasn't until he was offered a role in “Frankenstein” at the age of 44 that he achieved stardom. He worked steadily until his death in 1969, and amassed a body of work of more than 150 films. People that he was a gentle, refined man, very much the opposite of the image he created on film. Valerie Hobson says he had a lisp, but I can’t find any documentation to back up her claim.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Babylon 5–The Series (1994–1998)–part 3

The Ambassadors

The people that make up the aliens on Babylon 5 are some of the most talented people I’ve seen on any show.

Mira Furlan got her training in Croatia, and used her experiences from real life on the stage, and in front of the camera. She was the voice of reason on the show, but there were times when matters that affected her character affected what you saw on the screen.

mira-furlan-21616       Delenn- 1       Delenn-2

        Mira Furlan                   Delenn in season #1               Delenn in #2- #5

Mira Furlan played Minbari Ambassador Delenn. Delenn is a member of the religious caste on the planet Minbar. Earth and Minbar were locked in a war ten years earlier, when suddenly, and despite their vastly superior fire power, the Minbari surrendered. In season 1 there was a “bone” at the back of her head which probably led to a number of “bonehead” jokes. In the last episode of the first season, “Chrysalis”, Mira undergoes a cosmetic change that was a little more comfortable, but just as troublesome. The “bone”, though a great deal smaller, required her to restrain her head movements. It was a little more than difficult than originally envisioned to secure without making part of her face look distorted. Through experimentation the smaller bone was secured more firmly, and Mira was more free to move her head. In season 2 she underwent a change, one that made her a Minbari/human hybrid. Her change brought certain baggage with it, baggage every human female can relate to. Having never had hair on her head before she isn’t quite certain how to treat it, or what to do with it. This combination leads to the inevitable bad hair day, and questions about something she also never had before – cramps.

3. bad hair day

Mira Furlan was born on September 7 1955. She is best known for her role as Delenn on Babylon 5, and as Danielle Rousseau on the series “Lost”. Her mother was Croatian, while her father was of Slovenian and Croatian heritage. She comes from a highly intellectual and academic family. Several members of her family are professors in what was Yugoslavia.

She is an accomplished actress in her home country having graduated from the Academy for Dramatic Arts in Zagreb. She was a member in the Croatian National Theater, and is a past Cannes Film Festival winner.

She and her husband, director Goran Gajic, moved from war torn former Yugoslavia. The ethnic and political tensions from the war made it all but impossible to carry on their chosen professions with any degree of safety. Goran directed his wife in a fifth season episode of Babylon 5.

LENNIERAmbassador Delenn has an aide named Lennier. He too is from the religious caste. Lennier has a secret love for Delenn. In season 3 he describes it as “not romantic love as you would understand it, something nobler”. He lost family when the ship, the Black Star, was destroyed by Babylon 5 commander John Sheridan during the Earth-Minbari war. Instead of holding a great grudge against Sheridan he chooses to understand why Sheridan destroyed the Black Star. Lennier is played by veteran actor Bill “Billy” Mumy.

Peter Jurasik played Ambassador Londo Mollari. The job of Ambassador for Babylon 5 was considered a joke by the Centauri Republic, a job that was a dead end job. Londo discovers that nobody else wanted it, and that it was assigned to the person who could do the least harm. Throughout the run of the series it is discovered Londo is a very dangerous person.

Peter Jurasik - Londo Molari                       Londo

                             Peter Jurasik               plays            Londo Mollari

He’s a former military officer that sees the Centauri Republic that he knew dying all around him, and wishes for the good old days when the Republic was one of the strongest races in the galaxy. When we first meet him he’s not much more than a buffoon who drinks to excess at the drop of a hat. He tries to make people think he’s an important person, and fails miserably. The coat he wears starts out looking like royal purple, but as the things he does get more and more dark the coat slowly becomes black.

Peter Jurasik was born in 1950, and is an American character actor. He created quite a number of characters for various television shows in the seventies and eighties. He created the character of Captain Triplett in a rare two episode “gig” on M*A*S*H. He also appeared on Barney Miller, Taxi, Family Ties, MacGyver, Bay City Blues, Fame, and Night Court. Prior to Babylon 5 his claim to fame was a recurring role he played on Hill Street Blues, where he played Sid the Snitch, a person who had perpetual greasy hair. When Hill Street Blues closed shop he went on to its short lived spin-off Beverly Hills Buntz.

vir   Vir Cotto is the all too often ignored conscience that Ambassador Mollari should have. Vir is a modest person whose only desire is to make his family proud of him. Since the Centauri Republic regards the role of ambassador as a joke, the role of the ambassador’s aide is regarded as dead end job too. Vir regards Londo as his mentor, but there some things that he knows are just plain wrong. Londo rarely listens to Vir, but when he does he tells Vir that he was right. In seasons 1 Vir rarely displays any backbone, and is pretty cowardly at times. When Vir first became the ambassador’s aide Vir was regarded as an embarrassment to his family, and his family arranged for him to be assigned to this position as a means of getting him as far away from them as possible.

In season 2 he starts to develop a trait that endears him to viewers. He starts to actually stand up to his boss. He realizes his boss is prone to making some really bad mistakes, and isn’t afraid to let him know when he’s wrong. He also starts to show the viewer that he’s not the egotistical Centauri who’s obsessed with his position in society. He may be from minor nobility, but his star starts to rise as Londo realizes his importance.

In season 3 Vir is assigned to be the diplomatic liaison on Minbar. Before returning to Centari Prime to deliver a report, Londo edits it – and proceeds to make it sound like him. This is noticed, and Vir is advised to to not let Londo do any future editing. But the most significant development is when a “seer” – a person who can see the future, relates to him that he will one day be a Centauri emperor.

Stephen Furst plays Vir Cotto. He will remembered for his role in National Lampoons Animal House in 1978. In the eighties he played Dr. Eliot Axelrod on the series St. Elsewhere.

               Andreas Katsulas (2)                       G'Kar

             Andreas Katsulas           played              Ambassador G’Kar

G’Kar is from the planet Narn. One hundred years ago the Centauri Republic invaded Narn. He was just a youngster at the time, but old enough to be a servant to his Centauri masters. His mother and father were servants as well. When his father was killed by the Centauri G’Kar killed his first Centauri the same day. He later joined the resistance which eventually succeeded in driving the Centauri from Narn. He joined the military, and took part in at least invasion during the expansion of the Narn Regime.

When Earth was fighting the Minbari the Narn Regime sold weapons to Earth. They did anything to survive. When G’Kar was appointed ambassador to Babylon 5 he knew he was going to be in close quarters with the Centauri, and he had a rather healthy hatred for Londo Mollari. During the second season of the show the Centauri Emperor visited Babylon 5 with the intention of apologising for all the atrocities the Centauri inflicted on the Narn. Until G’Kar heard this he had every intention of killing the man in cold blood. Unknown to the emperor Narn was bombed and invaded a second time. When the Centauri were finished Ambassador G’Kar became citizen G’Kar. The government that appointed him had been destroyed. G’Kar did his best to help the underground resisters on Narn. Most other worlds in the Babylon 5 universe have telepaths. Narn doesn’t have any. In an effort to change that situation G’Kar experiments with a substance know as “Dust”. Unaware of its effects G’Kar takes “Dust” which bears an unsettling resemblance to cocaine. He goes psychotic, and almost kills Vir Cotto and Londo Mollari. The experiment is a failure. At the end of season 2 Earth declares martial law, and Earth President Clark starts issuing illegal orders. Captain Sheridan tries to deal with this, but when Mars ( a colony which wants to secede ) is bombed Babylon 5 secedes. A war council is formed and G’Kar isn’t on it. It’s soon recognized his experience would be an asset and by the end of season 3 he’s a member of the war council.

Andreas Katsulas played G’Kar in the series and in a number of Babylon 5 related movies. He also played Romulan commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He died of terminal lung cancer in 2006. The creator of Babylon 5 said he “"loved smoking with a passion that cannot be described".  When Andreas wasn’t in front of the cameras he could often be found outside the set smoking – in full Narn regalia.   

0000The last ambassador is by far the most mysterious. Ambassador Kosh is from the Vorlon Empire. During season 1 Kosh hardly ever attended council meetings. When he did it was usually to say something cryptic or mysterious and then vanish for months on end.

In season 2 he started to take an interest when Captain John Sheridan took command of Babylon 5. However Kosh was noticeably absent when the Dilgar warrior J’ha dur showed up. She had perfected a serum that gave anyone who took it immortality. Kosh apparently contacted his government who destroyed her ship, and killed her. All Kosh would say to the people on the station is “you are not ready for immortality”. He frequently drove people crazy by having exchanges like this:

 Sheridan: "Well, as answers go, short, to the point, utterly useless, and   totally consistent with what I've come to expect from a Vorlon."

Kosh: "Good."

Sheridan: "You know, as many times as you've come and gone from the Vorlon Homeworld, you could be anyone under there. How do I know you're the same Vorlon?"

Kosh: "I have always been here."

Sheridan: "Oh yeah? You said that about me, too."

Kosh: "Yes"

(Kosh turns his back on Sheridan and begins to walk away)

Sheridan: "I really hate it when you do that."

Kosh: "Good."

Kosh is murdered in season 3 by representatives of a race know as The Shadows. The Shadows and the Vorlons were at war one thousand years earlier. Both races are old races and basically want the same thing. Their methods differ, but are similar.

I finished watching season 3 on Sept 11. If I’ve said anything that makes you want to watch the series well that’s great. I think you’ll enjoy the entire series. I can’t tell you about the series because I haven’t see it all.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Babylon 5–The Series (1994-1998)–part 2b

The Episodes

As in any other series there are the episodes which stand alone, and aren’t really connected to any other episode. They might have a line of dialog that connects them to another episode twelve weeks away or more, but that’s all. The shows head writer, J. Michael Straczinski recalled in 1996 how he dealt with these episodes:

First thing I did was to flip out the stand-alones, which traditionally have taken up the first 6 or so episodes of each season; between two years, that's 12 episodes, over half a season right there. Then you would usually get a fair number of additional stand-alones scattered across the course of the season. So figure another 3–4 per season, say 8, that's 20 out of 44. So now you're left with basically 24 episodes to fill out the main arc of the story”.


Sarah Douglas in the stand alone episode “Deathwalker”

“Deathwalker” is an excellent example of a stand alone episode. Aside from a tiny amount of information (Earth and the Dilgar went to war about thirty years before Babylon 5 went on line, the Dilgar lost, and those that survived the war died when their sun went nova) given to the viewer there really isn’t any connection between this episode and the rest of the series. “Deathwalker” is the nick name of a woman known as Jha’dur, and she is a war criminal of the worst sort – she did medical experiments on the enemy. Her existence brings a loose collection of minor planets together with the desire to have her tried and executed front and center. Aside from that there is almost nothing to make this episode stand out aside from truly bizarre make up. Robin Curtis, (Star Trek) who played Savvik in the Star Trek movies and a number of other roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation, plays a role that completely destroys the image of Robin Curtis with pointed ears spouting logic at every chance.


Robin Cutis sans pointed ears…I miss the ears

Season 1 is a chance for the viewer to learn about the main characters of the series, learn about their agendas, their loves, their hates, what they will do for their respective planet, what they won’t do at all, and the surprising facets of some that we would never expect.





Mr.-Morden2_thumb2       Episode 13 of the series, the one called “Signs and Portents”, introduces us to a character known as Mr. Morden played by Ed Wasser. This fellow may appear likeable when you first meet him, but his main purpose is to create mayhem and chaos where ever he goes, and to serve his masters, a race known as the Shadows. His good looks may be appealing to some, but if the need arose he would gut you alive or simply kill you. At first he asks a seemingly innocent question “What do you want ?”, but if you really think about it an question like that could, and frequently does, entail a great many consequences. And it’s those consequences that makes this series one to watch over and over because it does something television rarely does: it teaches.