Take it from me, a homosexual: the gays love Halloween. It’s onerous to pin down why, for there are quite a few causes to quote. Halloween’s an excuse to be further, the one vacation that celebrates that which is exterior of the mainstream. There are many divas to worship, your Laurie Strodes and Ellen Ripleys and Sidney Prescotts. There are tons of hunks to thirst for, too—particularly in case your very particular factor is Sam Neill shedding his dang thoughts on a blue bus, on a haunted spaceship, or in a seedy bar bathroom by the Berlin Wall. I imply—Halloween is the one vacation that would and did give us The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, which is sort of frankly sufficient proof that October is mainly an extension of Pleasure Month.
However what I didn’t actually understand till this October was that Halloween’s queerness is much from a brand new factor. It actually stretches again additional than, say, the debut of Uncle Arthur on Bewitched. Due to comparatively new streaming service Peacock, I’ve been capable of brush up on my monster film historical past by streaming all of the Universal classics from the 1930s. And, to my utter delight, I’ve not solely been studying extra in regards to the origins of monster motion pictures, I’ve additionally been witnessing queer historical past play out—and I’m right here for it. I didn’t know the Common traditional monster motion pictures have been so homosexual!
And I imply that actually: the Common shared(ish) universe was partly constructed by one of many largest homosexual icons of previous Hollywood—if not the largest. I’m speaking about James Whale, the extremely out and proud homosexual man who directed three of the primary 5 motion pictures in Common’s Thirties monster film canon. After Dracula kicked issues off, Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) set the tone and raised the bar for all of the spooks and frights (and, weirdly, romance and slapstick?) that may come within the following many years. And it ought to be famous that Whale’s homosexuality wasn’t a secret. He wasn’t a “confirmed bachelor” with no time for girls. He was homosexual homosexual and his relationship with film producer David Lewis was very public. Lewis has even been credited as serving to form Whale’s tackle Frankenstein; after studying the story, Lewis remarked that he principally felt sorry for the monster. That reframed how Whale would deal with the character.
There are homosexual undertones to Frankenstein and Invisible Man, for certain (though I’ll learn the latter as homosexual just because I now have the Halloween hots for the rakish Claude Rains). However it’s The Bride of Frankenstein—broadly thought to be not solely Whale’s crowning achievement however the best possible entry in the whole monster franchise—the place issues get actually homosexual. First, there’s the introduction of Ernest Thesiger into the mythos as Dr. Frankenstein’s erstwhile, maniacal mentor Dr. Pretorius.
Thesiger himself was additionally as brazenly queer as he might be within the Thirties, and incessantly collaborated with Whale (gays supporting gays, we like to see it). Thesiger chews surroundings as this mad scientist, laying the groundwork for just about each queer-coded Saturday morning cartoon and Disney villain of the previous 70 years. Then there’s what Whale dropped at the enduring monster himself within the sequel: he, basically, gave the monster a boyfriend. Hell, a husband!
Whereas on the run, the monster (who we must always simply name Frankenstein as a result of, because the son of Dr. Frankenstein, he absolutely has the identical final identify!!) comes throughout a blind hermit dwelling alone within the woods. The hermit doesn’t know Frankenstein’s entire deal (y’know, all of the unintentional murders and his existence being an affront to God, and so on.). He’s simply lonely! Upon assembly Frankenstein, he takes his new buddy’s hand, clutches it shut, thanks God for sending him a companion, and the 2 males simply maintain one another, weeping.
The monster doesn’t discover a bride on this film. He finds a husband and they’re nice collectively till society wrecks the whole lot for them!
Maybe it’s solely after experiencing all of the subtextual and behind-the-scenes queerness in Bride of Frankenstein that one will get main homosexual vibes from the subsequent monster film, the principally unremarkable Werewolf of London. This one wasn’t directed by Whale, however there are undertones between the bitten botanist Wilfred Glendon and the mysterious (and in addition problematic) Dr. Yogami, a.ok.a. the biter. The primary half of the film is constructed round these two males with the identical predilection trying to find and discovering one another. Simply have a look at this second when Yogami confronts Glendon and mainly tells him that they’re the identical.
There’s quite a bit happening there! Selecting a young caress of the forearm whereas one man tells one other that he bit him is a alternative! This second is sensual, as these two males understand they’ve a deep, animalistic connection to one another. It, in fact, doesn’t finish properly. There are not any glad endings for anybody in any of those motion pictures.
However thus far, all of this queerness was straightforward for the general public to miss. Your common Thirties moviegoer had no thought who James Whale was. They little doubt missed the maybe unintentional, however very a lot there gayness of medical doctors Glendon and Yogami. By 1936, nonetheless, Common made the stunning transfer to truly use homosexuality to promote a film!
Dracula’s Daughter, the follow-up to 1931’s Dracula, starred Gloria Holden because the titular vampiress (and style icon). The movie incorporates a scene whereby Holden’s hauntingly regal Depend Zaleska requests to be introduced a girl to color. She is introduced with the harmless and exquisite Lili, performed by 18-year-old Nan Gray. The change between Zaleska and Lili is tense and the sexual power is palpable.
Then Zaleska feeds on Lili.
Whereas everybody concerned in Werewolf of London presumably missed that very homosexual change, the PR workforce for Dracula’s Daughter noticed this scene and ran with it. They really gave the film the tagline, “Save the ladies of London from Dracula’s daughter!” The tagline mainly amounted to “Be careful: undead lesbian on the unfastened!” This was 1936! It’s wild!
What I like about that is that it’s a reminder that, for one factor, gays weren’t invented by ’70s sport exhibits (though I see how one would make that mistake). We’ve been round for the reason that daybreak of time, and positively the daybreak of popular culture. We’ve got at all times cherished the spooks and gags and thrills and chills. We made motion pictures that mattered and we discovered methods to present one another gigs and inform our tales. We even, apparently, influenced straight filmmakers to homosexual up their monster motion pictures, too! And—most significantly—not like the ghouls he created, homosexual mastermind James Whale wasn’t confined to the shadows.