The Curse of Frankenstein – 1957. Dir. Terrence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, and Christopher Lee.
Frankenstein’s Revenge – 1958. Dir. Terrence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Gayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn
Let me start off by state I absolutely love the whole Frankenstein thing. One of the first books I purchased at the school book fair and read when I was in 2nd grade was Frankenstein. There was always something about that mad scientist and his dark experiments that always captivated me. The creation of life from inimate flesh. That’s some serious sci-fi shit right there. Anyone has read some of my previous reviews probably noticed that I absolutely love the Hammer horror films. Taking cues from the Universal classic Monster movies of the 40’s, Hammer took great pains in trying to reproduce the same innovation that Universal and made something all their own – Different direction, generally darker, and always more violent.
Kicking off the Hammer Frankenstein franchise was 1957’s “The Curse of Frankenstein” starring Peter Cushing (who it should become rapidly obvious is one of my favorite horror actors) as Baron Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as “the Creature”. Hammer seems careful to avoid making the movie too similar to the Universal “monster”, giving it a different look and making the actual character a much smaller part of the movie. Victor is born in the wealthy Frankenstein family and loses his parents at a young age. He enlists the aid of a tutor named “Paul” (Urquhart) with whom he forms a strong bond as the two study a wide variety of topics.
After years of study they began to probe deeper into the mysteries of science including the reanimation of life. Early in the movie Peter and Frankenstein resurrect corpse of a dog. A quite adorable dog mind you. However, not satisfied with simply restoring life an adorable puppy, Frankenstein begins imagining ways to create life where it never existed before, to create a living being part by part. Frankenstein begins “acquiring” limbs and spare parts in order to piece together his masterpiece
Over a period of time, Paul becomes very aware of Frankenstein’s demented obsession and that’s where shit gets interesting. Thrown into the mix is Frankenstein’s wife to be Elizabeth and his mistress / maid. When the maid threatens to go to the police about the Frankenstein’s “experiment”, Cushing shows his ability to play a truly evil bastard.
The “Creature” in the film is played by Christopher Lee, and quite well. Though he has no speaking lines (unless you count a scream in the last 5 minutes of the movie) he does a great job as always of being the monster. The reveal where you finally see the creature is absolutely fantastic.
The Curse of Frankenstein doesn’t quite follow the books or the Universal story as it focuses more on the doctor rather than the monster itself. Uou really get a feel for how obsessed with his invention Frankenstein is going so far as to commit murder in order to create his perfect creature and keep it a secret. He. Is. Ruthless.
The film’s ending set up perfectly for a sequel. Which is exactly what they did! Just a year later, The Revenge of Frankenstein was released. Pushing returned as Dr “Victor Stein”, having managed to escape his fate at the end of the previous film, we find Frankenstein now living under an assumed name far away from his hometown having opened a practice. When the local medical council approaches him, demanding that he join their ranks, one of the doctors recognizes him for who he really is and later visits him in private, wishing to become his apprentice – perfectly logical. It’s not long before Frankenstein is back up to his old tricks, but this time with a slightly more altruistic reason. Stein plans to transfer the living brain from another of his assistants, “Carl”, to help cure his partial paralysis. Also, he keeps an extra “shell” around, you know, just for kicks.
Having learned from his previous mistakes, the operation is initially a resounding success. Invariably however, things can never go so smoothly and Dr. Stein is soon found out by the village and things quickly go south culminating in the poor-house patients he had been caring for turning on him and “tearing him to shreds”…or…did they?
Over all, I prefer The Curse of Frankenstein over it’s sequel. Victor is so much darker in the original and is down right vicious at times. He just generally seems more menacing while as in the second, he’s toned down quite a bit – just sort of doing his thing and not terribly fucking anybody over (the monster in this one does all the damage this time around). Both movies are good but if you want to see some excellent villainy with a top notch designed monster (look at that stitching on Lee), stick with The Curse. Oh, but wait…there’s…another sequel? Tomorrow.
The Curse of Frankenstein
Scare Factor: 1/5
Cushing Throttling: 1/1
The Revenge of Frankenstein
Scare Factor 1/5
70’s Bruce Banner Effect – Cheesy