Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

“Don’t you see? You’ve created a monster!”

An arrogant baron (Peter Cushing) enlists the help of his mentor (Robert Urquhart) in carrying out a series of increasingly questionable scientific experiments. When he decides to bring a creature (Christopher Lee) composed of various body parts to life — resorting to murdering a professor (Paul Hardtmuth) for his brain — Urquhart becomes alarmed, and tries to warn Cushing’s naive fiancee (Hazel Court).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Christopher Lee Films
  • Flashback Films
  • Frankenstein
  • Horror
  • Mad Doctors and Scientists
  • Peter Cushing Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “first of Hammer Studios’ horror films” has “few of the fascinating themes or the philosophizing found in the [original] novel or the 1931 film by James Whale.” He further complains that the picture “lacks the wit and melodrama of the Whale film”, noting that “Lee is neither as imposing a monster as Boris Karloff nor as sympathetic”, and pointing out the “jolting… depiction of Victor Frankenstein as a diabolical villain” who is not only a grandiose sociopath but an extreme cad. I’m essentially in agreement with Peary’s assessment. While the “production values are quite good”, and Cushing’s performance is excellent (it’s fun to see him playing “against type”, given his iconic connection to the heroic Van Helsing), this remake simply pales in comparison in every way but for the “distinct, superbright color”. It’s primarily of note for its historical relevance as the beginning of a new era of horror: according to Richard Scheib of Moria Reviews, “Aside from the flurry of atomic monster movies in the 1950s, there were almost no horror films made anywhere in the world between 1947 and the genre’s revival in 1957”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein
  • Atmospheric cinematography and period sets

Must See?
No, though it’s worth viewing for its historical relevance.


3 thoughts on “Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

  1. You ought to reconsider your “non-essential” assessment.

    This is THE key horror film of the postwar period; it was Hammer’s first using the template they were to adopt time and again until their final horror film To the Devil … a Daughter (1976).

    The film that introduced more explicit violence and gore to the horror film and as such was extremely controversial in the UK upon release. It and Hammer’s success helped revitalise the UK film industry; they got the Queen’s award for industry in 1968. The film made stars out of Cushing and Lee and director Terence Fisher went on to be one of the key specialists in the genre.

    In any case, it all started here and bloodier horrors followed. Herschel Gordon Lewis would take the gore all the way with his seminal Blood Feast (1963).

    As a film, it’s a wonderfully witty production with scenes like the “Pass the marmalade” breakfast which follows a murder; the dapper fellow who toasts all and sundry at the Baron’s engagement party and there are more. Exquisitely shot, beautifully acted and a splendid score by James Bernard. It’s also as tight as a drum with not a single bit of fat – it runs a taught 83 minutes.

    Not to be missed!

  2. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Overall, a rather sluggish flick with a somewhat-tepid screenplay. There’s precious little by way of plot development and too much dull repetition in confrontations (Urquhart’s pleadings with Court to leave Cushing’s house; Cushing’s pleadings with Urquhart to assist him in his experiments). The murder of the professor is a bit unintentionally funny. And there’s one major lapse in which the plot fails in its own logic.

    Another short film (83 min.) that feels long. Hammer would certainly deliver the goods as it continued in the horror realm but not everything in the series pays off.

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