Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Friday, October 10, 2014

All Hallows' Month: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Serving up the first of the mandatory fright flicks for October, Bride of Frankenstein.  I've already written a few analytical bits about this genre classic, so I'll skip the plot overview and historical aspects behind Universal's spectacular sequel to their 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley's immortal Frankenstein.  A loose, occasionally nutty continuation spawned from the second half of Shelley's novel, Bride of Frankenstein is a perfect mate in film, if not as a figurative companion to the lead monster.

My son and I kicked back with Bride of Frankenstein after dinner and it reminded me of myself at his age, when I was weaned on the Universal monster mashes via the weekly after-hours horror shows on Saturday nights.  I've written before how we had "Ghost Host" on UHF Channel 45 and "Creature Feature" on Channel 20 back in the day and there was a heavy lean on the Universals back then, as I'm sure it was all across America during the late seventies and early eighties before the horror host moguls were put to rest.

Of course, I didn't keep my son up until 11:30 p.m., not with the age of home video, cable and on-demand hubs.  Still, I smiled as I heard questions out of that child's mouth that mimicked mine when I was ages eight and nine, some almost verbatim.

"Why is Frankenstein so angry?"  "Why does he want a wife?"  "Why isn't the blind man afraid of him?"  "Who is that creepy guy with the funny little human figures in the glass?"  "What makes Frankenstein go crazy?"  And of course, the most intuitive query I was proud of him for asking, "Why doesn't the Bride of Frankenstein like him?  She's supposed to be his woman."

Most of the time, my son sat quietly, intrigued by the film, until Frankenstein escapes his irons after capture and tears the doors off of his prison cell.  Boris Karloff's rampage from the jail through the town had my son's mouth creaking open with delight and marvel--as well it should, to someone his age.  Then he uttered the most profound, mature caveat, as if warning an entire room full of people:  "I don't suggest you mess with Frankenstein.  He's very strong!"

Of course, Bride of Frankenstein compelled me to reinforce that smoking is not "good," when O.P. Heggie lights up a cigar and tells Karloff to enjoy.  Whereas I've laughed at the naiveté of that scene in the past, now as a parent, I was compelled to rebuke Heggie's glowing endorsement to my son.  The times being what they were all the way through the 1980s when smoking became less cosmopolitan and more dangerous to your health, I get where Heggie and Universal were coming from.  However, when you're already pointing out to your little one that smoking is an unwise and unhealthy life choice, a conscious parent like myself can't help but feeling like smacking my forehead and yelling "Doh!" in the key of Homer Simpson at that scene.

Luckily, by the end of the film, that sequence was forgotten by the little man.  He was more interested in finding out what happened to Dr. Pretorius after the Frankenstein monster releases his maker and his wife, then brings the castle down upon himself, Pretorius and the short-lived Bride who rejected him upon sight.  A natural thing to be inquisitive about, once my son put the pieces together (pun intended here, of course), he nodded emphatically when I said "Kinda stinks Frankenstein was brought into this world with nobody to love, doesn't it?"  This, considering the painstaking measures the film does to build sympathy for the monster, director James Whale manages to undermine the terrifying undertones of grave robbery, murder, heart plucking and a sick fascination with the dead, the latter relative to Doctor Pretorius.  All of those nuances went above my son's head, since he was busy trying to make sense of Frankenstein's dual nature teetered between violence and sensitivity.

The funny parting shot from my son, though, knowing there are more Frankenstein flicks down the pike following this one, said "It's all good.  Frankenstein's gonna go hide and take a nap for a while.  He'll be back." 

Parenting through the monster classics.  You take every opportunity to teach a child where you can.  Unfortunately, I couldn't teach him about the perils of vanity after I sent him off to bed and wrapped my evening with the more adult-oriented Countess Dracula.  That's two nights spent with Ingrid Pitt; I suppose I should move on.  At least Elsa Lanchester's iconic shriek at the end of Bride of Frankenstein left an appropriate mark upon my son, much as it did upon me as a kid.  He went to bed trying to replicate that blood-curdling scream, while I silently patted myself on the back. 

                            Listenin' to:  Zombi - Surface to Air

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