The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)

OCTOBER 12, 2010


It’s been years (really?) since I watched The Evil Of Frankenstein, which was the 2nd sequel to The Curse Of Frankenstein, which I’m just watching now, obviously. The nice thing about seeing so many “origin” movies is that I don’t have to go in any order like I do with the others, but I probably should have gotten around to this one sooner, as it’s a pretty historically significant horror movie.

For starters, it was the first real team up of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They had appeared in two other, non-horror films prior to this, but in minor roles (and one of them they didn’t even appear together). They’d go on to make some 5691 movies together, so it’s nice to see where it all began. The Dracula movies had better chemistry for the two by design, but even with Lee playing a mute, fairly expressionless monster, you can still see how well they work together, and it’s no surprise that Lee’s scenes are the best in the film. Unlike the Uni movies, the focus is more on Frankenstein than the Monster, so Lee isn’t really in it much – something that disappointed me a bit until I realized that if he was the focus that it would be too much like the several hundred other Frankenstein movies I had watched. Also, the makeup is pretty lousy; apparently Universal was going to sue for copying their design so they had to quickly come up with a new one (it just looks like Christopher Lee wearing a thin mask – you can see his very much alive skin on his neck). Later movies just said “fuck it” and used Jack Pierce’s design. Heh.

Another important fact about this movie – it was the first Hammer film in color, and the first one to tackle the classic monsters, which would become their bread and butter over the next two decades. It’s hard to imagine there was a time where it was a pretty big deal for a major film studio to be redoing a classic horror film, huh? Like the Universal film, it leaves out the North Pole bookends, but it does have a wraparound, with the entire movie being Victor’s story as he awaits execution for the crimes he’s telling us about. And again, it focuses more on Frankenstein than the monster – there’s really only one scene of the Monster loose, where he harasses a blind guy before getting shot by Victor’s mostly unwilling partner in the experiments. So it’s a good example of how to do a new version of a book that’s already been turned into a movie without really copying either of them too closely. I should send Matt Reeves a copy.

Speaking of the bookends, I like that Cushing was all disheveled in them. He’s one of the most proper-looking guys in horror movies ever – always in a nice suit and well scrubbed. I can’t recall another film where he looked like shit; it kind of threw me off at first. In the “happy” scenes he’s his usual well-dressed self, including one purplish number that made him slightly resemble Gene Wilder in the original Willy Wonka film. Also, the bookends prevent the film from ending the second the Monster is killed – I assume that since this was the first, they were still playing with the formula. They wouldn’t often make this mistake again!

And there’s gore! This might have been the first time excess blood was seen in color (I’m probably wrong there). It’s not exactly Dead Alive, obviously, but I bet it was pretty damn stunning back then, like when the Monster gets shot in the face and blood pours out from underneath Lee’s hand, which he has raised to the wound in order to hide the blood pa-, I mean, apply pressure to his fresh, painful wound. Plus he dissolves in acid at the end instead of the usual fire (he gets set on fire too, of course).

The DVD (from Warner) has the trailer, which, as usual for the era, gives pretty much all the money shots away. Cast & Crew is completely worthless – no bios, it’s just a single page with the cast and crew listed, as if you couldn’t get that information from the film itself. Of some minor use is “Hammer Creates A Monster”, a text-based rundown of the history of the franchise as a whole. I would have preferred some more info about THIS film, instead of quick capsule summaries of all seven sequels, but it’s a nice little bonus all the same. It’s how I learned that the one I saw (Evil) was 3rd, for some reason I thought this was the only one before that one. So I need to see Revenge of Frankenstein next, and then I’ll be back on course. I’ve seen most of the Hammer Dracula ones by now, so it seems a good time to move on to their Frankenstein. Hopefully it won’t take 3 years to get to the next one.

What say you?


  1. I watched a documentry on the frankenstein movies last night, and me thinking I had seen most, this appeared on it and I hadn't heard of it before. Will have to watch it if I ever get chance

  2. Yep I agree, this is one of my all time favorite Hammer Horror films. Revenge of Frankenstein is pretty good also infact some even think its better then this one, but I personally don`t think so. Anyways you should review Revenge of Frankenstein i`d be very interested to see your take on it.

  3. I love this movie. Not my favorite, that would be Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, which has a really depressing and intelligent "monster" in Freddie Jones. But I love Lee in this. The makeup kinda creeps me out, actually. It's all scaley and greenish.

  4. I think it's a good call on how Cushing's dishevelment plays into making the movie effective. Throughout most of the movie, he's perfectly coiffed and relaxed.

    Biggest problem with the movie is that the framing sequence doesn't make a whole lot of sense. At least as anything other than desperation. Cushing claims that he doesn't deserve the guillotine for trying to kill his wife, by telling a story where he confesses to being responsible for at least 2 murders, grave robbing, and the deaths caused by his creation?

    Revenge of Frankenstein is probably a better film. It's not a better horror film though. Same with Frankenstein Created Woman. OTOH, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is the goods.

  5. "Cushing claims that he doesn't deserve the guillotine for trying to kill his wife, by telling a story where he confesses to being responsible for at least 2 murders, grave robbing, and the deaths caused by his creation?"

    HAHAHAHA holy crap, didn't even dawn on me. That's amazing.

  6. It's a tribute to how much of the movie works that it's not dwelled on more.

    To me, the shot the perfectly encapsulates Hammer's Frankenstein movies, and much of Hammer period, is Cushing casually wiping a bloody hand across a fine jacket.

  7. Of the series, I've only seen this one and "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" (featuring David Prowse as the monster!). I do own "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed," but I also own around 4,000 movies, so it might be a while before I get around to watching it. Eventually, I do hope to see all of the Hammer Frankenstein films (and all the Universal ones, for that matter. I still need to see the Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. I own at least 3 or 4 Hammer Dracula films and still have yet to watch any of them...this is going to take a while...). Hearing that a lot of people have so much love for "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed" just might push it up in the line a little bit though.

  8. As far as Cushing appearing disheveled, I can think of one other horror film: Tales from the Crypt (1972), in which he played an elderly man who works as a garbageman, and is the target of scorn from his wealthier neighbors, who consider him a blight on their neighborhood.


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