A scary Summer Classics double feature: ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ and ‘The Black Cat’

Pictured: Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, 1935.

Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester in the 1935 monster movie classic Bride of Frankenstein.

For the past few weeks, the Kentucky Theatre‘s Summer Classics series has been offering big, venerable classics, including E.T. last week and The Sound of Music the previous week. It’s time to change things up, and our favorite downtown movie house is doing just that with a pair of 1930s horror flicks starring the master of the form, Boris Karloff.

Here, we can stop to consider whether Karloff would have been nearly as scary as William Henry Pratt, which was his given name when he was born in London in 1887. There are numerous theories as to why he adopted the stage name early in his career, the most plausible seeming to be he was worried that his acting career would embarrass his family.

After a decade in Hollywood going back and forth from film roles to digging ditches, Karloff got the role that made him a legend as the monster in James Whale’s 1931 film adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Karloff’s look and performance in the role established a template that has been followed for decades since.

But it was the 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankensteinthat is regarded as the masterpiece, and that’s the film Kentucky Theatre audiences will see Wednesday. Elsa Lanchester had her own career-defining part in the title role as Dr. Frankenstein’s second attempt at creating life.

Accompanying Bride is The Black Cat (1934), the first of several pairings of Karloff with fellow horror star Bela Lugosi, who had a hit right before Karloff playing the title role in Dracula (1931). (Lugosi had reportedly wanted to play the Frankenstein monster too, but that didn’t happen, and there are a variety of theories why.) The plot of Black Cat centers on the fate of a poor stranded couple in the duo’s care.

Showings of the films, which run just over an hour each, are at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Kentucky Theatre. Admission is $6. Do your hair up right.

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