* The Bride of Frankenstein
This film picks up where Frankenstein left off. The monster somehow survived the fire and Dr. Praetorius wants to collaborate with Baron Frankenstein to build the creature a bride. This film is more comical and more cleverly written than the first. We see much more of the creature's humanity: he seeks friendship from practically everyone he encounters and learns to speak. The cinematography is again memorable and striking. The soundtrack plays through most of the film unlike the last film, which only had music at the beginning and end scenes. It's amazing with a gorgeous, sighing theme for the bride and theme similar to his characteristic growl for the monster. I would say it's the most memorable soundtrack of any of the Universal Monster films.
Although the cast is dominated by male characters, the female characters shine. Despite the fact that she only has a few minutes of screen time, my favorite part of the film is the Bride. Even though she can't speak and even though she was created for a specific purpose, the Bride doesn't allow herself to be bullied. She makes it clear that she doesn't wish to be anywhere near the monster and that she prefers her handsome creator. Baron Frankenstein's wife Elizabeth is even much more confident in this installment. She doesn't allow the dominating Dr. Praetorius control her as he controls her husband. This is a complete change from the first fim where she was merely a one dimensional weak waif and a damsel in distress to deepen the conflict between her husband and the monster. I love this film from beginning to end partly as a very early example of a feminist horror film.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins
* The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Erik is the Phantom of the Paris Opera House, living underneath it and creeping around its secret passages. He taught soprano Christine Daae all she knows and will do anything, even murder, to get her into lead roles. The Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite stories and the silent version is one of the most faithful adaptations I've ever seen. Once I got used to the over the top acting, I quite enjoyed the film. The acting is so different than the modern style because emotions have to be overexaggerated to convey the right emotion. It leads to a few unintentionally funny moments like the ending where the Phantom is cornered by an angry mob. He holds up his hand as if he has some sort of weapon and then when the crowd stops, he shows his empty hands. Comedy gold.
The scope of this film is huge and incredibly impressive for the 1920's. The sets are gorgeous. The costumes are detailed. It feels like the French opera because of the quality of the sets and the sheer number of dancers, singers, workers, and the vast crowd. I was surprised that parts of the film have color. The masquerade party scene and pretty much any scene where Erik wears the Masque of the Red Death costume is in color. Even the black and white parts are tinged with different colors to enhance the mood. I especially liked the blue for the night scenes. My favorite part of the film is Lon Chaney. He's perfect as the deranged Phantom plus he created his own makeup using innovative techniques. The Phantom of the Opera is definitely worth your time.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins