The Creature Created By Man
And Forgotten By Nature!

For Hammer Studios, this is where it all began. They created a film that’s reach would extend throughout the 1960s and into the early 70s. Its influence would prod Gothic influences to reach into many films, particularly Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe releases.

Before this film, Hammer had been making films as far back as 1935. They were mostly thrillers and episodes borrowed from British television. The only true success they had was with 1955’s THE QUARTERMASS XPERIMENT.

And that’s when they stumbled upon Mary Shelley’s novel.

So, how does THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN hold up 50 years later? Let’s take a look and see:

The film starts with Frankenstein in a jail cell. He’s called upon a priest to come and speak with him. After nearly strangling the priest, Frankenstein calms down and relates his tale.

After inheriting his father’s estate, a young Baron Frankenstein employs Paul Krempe as his tutor. With their mutual love for medical science, the two get along together splendidly.

It’s not until years later, when the Baron proposes a plot to reanimate a dead man, that a strain is put upon their relationship.

Frankenstein acquires a body from the gallows to the horror of Krempe. Then, to make matters worse, he murders a fellow scientist for his brain.

Now, with his creation complete, Frankenstein stands back in repulsion as The Monster goes on a rampage through the countryside. He manages to shoot The Monster and return him to his laboratory, but the creature does not respond to his commands.

Eventually, The Monster is destroyed, but not before Frankenstein is captured by the authorities and sentenced to the guillotine.

Walking to his death, Frankenstein eyes Krempe watching him. The Baron’s pleas to his once tutor fall on deaf ears and Frankenstein continues on to his apparent execution.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, along with the following year’s HORROR OF DRACULA, reanimated a genre that was crippled throughout the 1950s. Sure, there were atomic monsters running around, but by 1957 they had grown tired. Hammer stepped forward and filled this void.

What was really eye-opening about these films were that they were filmed in color. Frankenstein is shown fooling about with human brains and buying eyeballs. And Dracula, with blood dripping from his fangs, followed with his own gory adventures. These were films that ushered in new rules. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, if one remembers, was also rated X in the U.K. One has to remember the often quoted Guardian review: “Among the half-dozen most repulsive films I’ve ever seen.”

Now, of course, these films are considered tame and rarely are seen without a G-rating.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is also remarkably different from its Universal counterpart. Hammer wasn’t able to secure the Jack Pierce make-up used to cover Boris Karloff, so they had to go with a new design. And the make-up used on Christopher Lee is quite good. The Monster is just as shocking as the 1931 make-up.

The most notable aspect is how different interpretations arise from Mary Shelley’s original novel. Shelley’s novel is about a man playing God and ignoring his responsibilities. The 1931 film is about a man exploring forbidden knowledge and creating a monster that wages social-chaos. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTIEN ignores this. It’s about a stake driven through modern society (here 19th century England). The film does not create sympathy for its monster nor for Baron Frankenstein. Instead, it’s about Frankenstein’s pure ruthlessness in his science.

Terrence Fisher, a Hammer stalwart, brings all this to life in gory aspects that rival that of the Baron. The real horror here is not monsters or dabbling with forbidden science, but attacks on moral decency.

In Shelley’s novel, she has Frankenstein follow his monster to the Arctic Circle. But in Hammer’s version, we leave the creator, Baron Frankenstein, to stand in the shadows of the gallows.

There are also quite the differences from the Universal films. By the 1940s, Universal had driven its creation into the ground. There were team-ups with other monsters that eventually led to a comedic meeting with Abbott and Costello. Universal directed all its attention on its monster, while Hammer focused on Baron Frankenstein.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was the first in a series that yielded six sequels. In all but one (HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN – which was a comedic take on the original film), Peter Cushing portrayed the Baron. Where Hammer’s DRACULA series began to wane in the late 1960s, FRANKENSTEIN maintained a high quality. Hammer also produced a TV series based on its property – TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN – which starred Anton Diffring as the Baron. Unfortunately, no known prints of this 30-minute pilot are known to exist.

Terrence Fisher, who would direct five films in the FRANKENSTEIN series, fills his movie with vivid colors. He is also working from a script by Jimmy Sangster, another name immediately recognized by Hammer fanatics. Complete with an authorative score by James Bernard, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN should be an automatic draw for horror fans.

The cast, in its own right, does a fantastic job. The only weak link would be Valerie Gaunt as Justine. She’s just too happy and go-lucky to play such a slutty and manipulative character.

Peter Cushing, without saying, is his usual commanding self. He gives an astonishing performance as Baron Frankenstein. His portrayal is rather startling. One scene in particular expresses his mania as the Baron pushes his mentor off a balcony to get a good brain for his creation. Not to mention the scene where he locks his mistress in with The Monster so that he can kill her for her obvious betrayal of him.

Special mention also has to go to Christopher Lee as The Monster. He does the best with what is afforded him as he ambles about the countryside like an extra from Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.


As Cushing mutters during the film: “Let’s let our friend here rest in peace… while he can.”

Don’t you rest, Hammerheads. Check these films out, now!

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