You know Hollywood’s delightful habit of periodically producing a Part 2 that equals or surpasses the original? James Whale officially perfected that today in 1935 with the release of The Bride of Frankenstein. Elsa Lanchester makes an entrance for the ages as Dr. Frankenstein’s second creation, with Colin Clive’s haunted doctor reflecting the alcoholism that eventually claimed the actor, and Boris Karloff’s iconic monster as heartbreaking and tormented as ever.
Four years later, Bette Davis starred in one of the films that defined her career: Dark Victory, the story of a wealthy heiress who finds meaning in her life as a terminal illness slowly claims her. It was nominated for a slew of awards, but lost to the tsunami that was Gone With the Wind. As part of the legendary bumper crop of 1939, however, it more than holds its own.
Finally, while I confess that I prefer the American remake, Sorcerer, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s harrowing original, The Wages of Fear, ain’t exactly chopped liver. The tale of four men tasked with a suicidal job of driving sweaty dynamite through the jungle is not only a riveting action picture, but a searing indictment of class inequity and the way the haves can utterly brutalize the have-nots. It opened today in 1953.