Star Wars and Frankenstein

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition:Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.)

It feels almost impossible to judge the cultural impact of the Universal Monster movies as they began releasing in the United States almost a hundred years ago. Looking at the box office figures and the interconnected universe they spawned over the 1930s and ‘40s, it was something akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars for audiences of its day. The Frankenstein films, for the most part, starred Boris Karloff and were very loose interpretations of the classic Mary Shelley classic from 1818. Its themes of creating life after death and playing God were powerful and the films brought these ideas to easily shocked or offended audiences in the time before the Production Code. It even had to be edited down for blasphemy in some parts of the country because of Dr. Frankenstein’s bold statement that he’s replaced God by giving life to the monster.

It’s no wonder that director James Whale’s vision of obsessed “men of reason” abandoning that reason in the pursuit of creating life would factor a strong influence in the Star Wars films. Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein were both syndicated on television thanks to Shock Theatre and Son of Shock, making indelible impressions on everyone who watched them on television through the ‘50s, ‘60s, and beyond. There’s certainly a chance that a young George Lucas was one of those kids watching creature features, and absorbing everything.

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bride of frankenstein reboot update

Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein reboot isn’t quite dead yet. At one point, the film was supposed to be part of Universal’s Dark Universe – but then that entire idea was chased away by torch-wielding villagers. Now, Universal is taking a different, and so far better, approach to reviving their classic monsters. They already released The Invisible Man with Blumhouse, and have several other monster-related titles in the works. And according to screenwriter David KoeppBride of Frankenstein is one of them.

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bride of frankenstein remake

After the implosion of the Dark Universe, Universal had supposedly put a lid on the Bride of Frankenstein remake, but the project may still have a pulse after all. A few notable Hollywood figures have been circling the project over the past year, including Oscar-nominated producer Amy Pascal and A Quiet Place director John Krasinski. And with Universal launching a new creative mandate for edgier fare, according to new reports, the Bride of Frankenstein remake might still come aliiiiive.

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love in horror movies

Given my thematic body of work here on /Film thus far, I’m sure you’re expecting a February essay that analyzes Valentine’s rosiness through a horror lens. Have I already become that predictable? Yeah. Let’s absolutely talk about why love and horror create the most exquisite, developmentally rich bond(age)s in all the genre world. Why? Simple: there’s no scarier plot device in horror than “love.”

Love is often described as many things – a battlefield (Pat Benatar), the answer (John Lennon), a motherf*#@er (Old School) – but cinema audiences largely attribute love’s on-screen representation to Gerard Butler rom-coms or Hallmark tear-jerkers. Guy meets girl unexpectedly, they fall in love, happily ever afters all around. If it’s December, said man is probably also Santa in disguise. Picture perfect, just as in reality. Right?

For all its butterflies and “You complete me” sentiments, love can also be a savage monstrosity that tears at our gushy insides. This is where, amidst a sea of overtly-saccharine lifestyle pornography pics, the horror genre keeps us in check – unafraid of love’s flip-side intimidation. Call me a cynic, emotionless, or unsalvageable if you must, but to me, we rob ourselves of crucial understanding by not facing our fears and exploring the shadows light doth create.

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Passion and anguish, true love lost and mourned over oceans of time, unrequited love felt so strongly that it drives one to darkness and despair…ah, the horror of love. These sentiments may not appear in the glittery pink and red Hallmark cards littering your local supermarket, but in a year where del Toro’s strange and unusual love story The Shape of Water swept the Oscar nominations, this Valentine’s Day deserves something a little different, a little darker, a little more…gothic.

Gothic isn’t always spiderwebs and haunted mansions or that weird kid in the back of your classroom. From poetic bloodlust to loneliness so crippling you can almost feel your chest caving in, from Universal Monsters and Goblin Kings, from headless horseman to robots, the romances of this list take the phrase “it’s better to have loved and lost” to tortuous new heights. They embody the characteristics of a Victorian era genre full of mystery, desire, and the macabre, more tantalizing and real than a thousand shades of grey.

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frankenstein and bride of frankenstein

(Welcome to The Final Girl, a regular feature from someone who has steered clear of horror and is ready to finally embrace the genre that goes bump in the night. Next on the list: James Whale’s two monster movie classics, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.)

When /Film managing editor Jacob Hall told me that the first two movies I would be watching after It were Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, I breathed a sigh of relief. No. I was more than relieved, I was ecstatic. Gothic romance! The birth of science fiction! Pre-Code movies! Those were my bread and butter.

So it came as a quiet surprise to me that I hadn’t actually seen or read Frankenstein yet. I knew of the mythos, of course — the bolt-headed monster, the frantic shrieks of “It’s alive,” Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks’ hysterically funny satire of the classic movie, Young Frankenstein. I was so familiar with the beats of the story and had seen famous scene countless times in the background of other movies, but had never actually watched James Whale’s 1931 classic and its sequel. It was high time to remedy that.

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gal gadot for bride of frankenstein

Gal Gadot could trade in her shield for a white gown and wig, if Bride of Frankenstein director Bill Condon gets his wish granted.

The classic monster movie remake and next entry into Universal’s so-called Dark Universe has been indefinitely delayed, and there’s nothing much for the team behind it to do except twiddle their thumbs and make casting suggestions in case stars Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie leave the project. And Condon’s number one backup pick is Wonder Woman herself.

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Bride of Frankenstein

Well, that was quick. Days after director Bill Condon confirmed that pre-production on Bride of Frankenstein (the next film in the burgeoning “Dark Universe” series) was still on, Universal has announced that work has halted on the project. Is this the end of the Dark Universe?

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Bride of Frankenstein remake

Boy, they’re really still going to do this, huh?

After the less-than-kind reaction to The Mummy, featuring Tom Cruise and nothing even close to a coherent script, it seemed as if Universal’s Dark Universe – an attempt to turn their classic Monsters characters into the stars of their own MCU – might be DOA. But apparently not! Like an undead creature, the Dark Universe lumbers on, in search of fresh blood. Bill Condon, who will helm the next film in the series, Bride of Frankenstein, revealed some new information regarding Universal’s latest horror remakes. Read Bill Condon’s Bride Of Frankenstein remake details below.

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Kurtzman pic

Writer-director Alex Kurtzman is one of the two writers/producers overseeing Universal’s new Dark Universe and he kicked off the new world by directing The Mummy…which was panned by critics and underperformed in the states, but did very well overseas. It didn’t start off the Dark Universe with a bang, but Bride of Frankenstein and other Dark Universe titles are still coming. Just how involved Kurtzman is in those upcoming movies is now unclear.

Below, Alex Kurtzman talks about his uncertain future in the Dark Universe.

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