It’s not every Saturday evening that you find yourself rejecting the warmth of your usual Black Country pub, to traipse up Dudley Zoo‘s bonk to the castle in order to get frit and probably quite cold. But, that is indeed what I did yesterday evening for Dudley Castle After Dark: The Bride of Frankenstein.
Now I know this might seem like it doesn’t constitute a Black Country ‘pub’ experience, but bear with me. Although I bought it with me, I did indeed drink beer. Although they are in ruins, I was indeed sat within Black Country walls. And I’m pretty sure some of those lusty lords, earls and ancient Black Country mon would have been drinking a good deal of ale up on this bonk. So, it’s really just an ancient, open-air pub of sorts, albeit a rather fancy one.
Armed only with a pillow, blanket, torch and beer (of course), I made my way up the bonk, pausing only to say hello to a camouflaged owl and a moody meerkat.
I drive past our castle every day, but it’s been a good while since I’ve set foot here. It’s pretty impressive isn’t it? It’s also reportedly one of the most haunted sites in the UK, which may be why the meerkat was looking a bit shifty.
It was Flatpack: Assemble who had bought us all here for a screening of the 1935 film, The Bride of Frankenstein, directed by local boy James Whale. This event, part of Flatpack’s Black Country Pop-up Film Tour, running in partnership with Creative Black Country’s Imagine That! summer season.
James Whale was the son of a furnaceman and nurse, born in Brewery Street in the shadow of Castle Hill. As a budding artist Whale often spent weekends sketching on the hill or around the woods of Wren’s Nest. He eventually made his name as a pioneering horror director in Hollywood. Not bad for a Dudley boy. I wonder what he’d think of his film being shown on the hill all these years later. Quite poignant really ain’t it?
There was already a good crowd gathering and wench 2, chap and I chatted to a number of familiar faces, all excited and enthusiastic about this special pop-up cinema event.
We set out our little kingdom with blankets and pillow, fiercely defending the grass around us.
There were food and drinks available on site, but many had bought picnics a plenty. It was all rather alfresco for us Black Country folk. Not to be outdone, wench 2 had bought along posh pork pies and popcorn from Waitrose (showin off wor her?), whilst I was busy nibbling on my Lidl mixed nuts (other retailers are available). She did share a couple of them posh pork pies with me which went down very well with some excellent Black Country beer: Summer Smiles (Fixed Wheel).
More and more people started joining us happy cinema goers (apparently over 600 attended), and as it started to get darker, it got spookier with ghostly projections onto the castle walls. A cool young lad dressed as Frankenstein himself ran amongst the crowd, scaring the audience (not too much as he was far too cute).
One of the Flatpack team gave a quick introduction and ably shouted when his microphone gave up on him (maybe it was the ghostly goings on). After watching a horror short produced by students at Dudley College, it was time for the main feature – and my next beer – Westway Pale Ale (Portobello).
The darker it got the spookier it was, although the film had a few comedy moments (obviously not intentional), including the very vocal contribution of one of the zoo’s squawking birds, whose comedy timing was perfection indeed.
You can hear a little bit of the squawking star in the first of these two Periscope broadcasts I filmed on the night:
The Bride wasn’t half yampy as well. Poor Frankenstein was all excited about having a new friend to drink beer and smoke cigars with, and possibly have a bit of chaste hand holding and 1930s kissing with, but she took one look at him and screamed the bloody place down. I’m an old romantic, so I felt ever so sorry for the poor bloke really. He was rather misunderstood and she was no oil painting with her very dramatic bad hair day.
And then, all too quickly really, the film ended. I imagine if you were Elsa Lanchester who was cast in the title role, you might feel a little cheated. You’re born as the Bride and what seems like a couple of minutes later you’re dead, after spending most of the intervening time screaming and wailing. At least Frankenstein, good bloke that he was, saw sense and pulled the lever, consigning them both to RIP (maybe not him if she carries on wailing like that into the afterlife).
A very different Saturday evening it was, and a bloody bostin one at that. Everyone around seemed to agree that it had been a fantastic event and how they wished there were more like it at the castle.
Thanks go to the Zoo, Flatpack and Creative Black Country (and anyone else involved) for putting on a mighty fine show. Lots of happy, smiling faces walked down the bonk on Saturday evening, and dow ower castle look bostin lit up in green?
More info on the Black Country Pop-Up Film Festival here babs.