Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Dir: Terence Fisher
Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) uses his Family wealth to conduct experiments
into reviving life in the dead, with the help of his ex Tutor Paul Krempe (Robert
But when Frankenstein moves the experiments on to creating a Human life (made from the parts of dead bodies) Krempe rebels, and Frankenstein's methods become more ruthless.
A ruthlessness that goes unchecked even when the Baron's arranged Wife to be (Hazel Court) comes to stay, as his creature (Christopher Lee) takes shape...
Despite a few interesting shots, like the speeded up zoom during The Monster's
introduction scene as it turns to the camera, 'Hammer's' loose adaptation of
Mary Shelley's novel (or indeed re-make of the 'Universal' film) still smacks
of a filmed stage play, or even a TV film, despite the massive effect it had
on the fortune of 'Hammer' and indeed the British film industry in general.
There is almost no 'use' of the camera other than to film a scene, normally with just 1 or 2 set-ups, any 'atmosphere' is down to the sets and the acting.
And the sets are indeed nice, but they are also over-lit (that old problem of a candle giving as much light as a set of car headlights is here), but the 'mad scientist' lab is fun, with just the right amount of cheesy camp on show, but with the pantomime excesses of the old 'Universal' lab sets toned down (though they were fun).
Cushing is, of course, just wonderful. He gives us the perfect mix of dedication,
ruthlessness, charm and psychosis. You can see why he is trusted and respected,
but he still comes across as genuine as the all-consuming madness takes over
and the experiment becomes all.
The way the Baron expects, even after committing murder, people to still stand by him and give him their loyalty was a wonderful touch to show the sheer arrogance of the man. The shock when Krempe refuses to authenticate his tale is a great moment.
Urquhart does a more than satisfactory job given the thankless role he has.
He is (and always will be) disliked by a lot of Horror fans, because of his
endless 'moral' speeches. He gets in the way of the Horror goodies.
We know what Frankenstein is doing is wrong (at least as his ruthless dedication consumes him) and we know that 'justice' will be done (or seem to be), we don't need the moral commentary that seems to be the only reason Krempe's exists.
Chris Lee is really given little to do, but his body movements voiced more
sympathy than any of the preachy whining that makes the novel such a slog and
his grotesque make-up and overpowering height give us a Monster that feels like
a genuine threat.
Hazel Court looks lovely and is one of the few 'Hammer Heroines' who could really act. Her character shows some rare strength in her convictions as well as she insists on being told about Frankenstein's experiments. But on the whole her role is not much more than a token.
So then, we have a pretty good early 'Hammer' and the first in a series of 'Frankenstein' films that would improve and slump with frustrating frequency (and very annoying lapses in continuity) until ending with the disgracefully undervalued masterwork "Frankenstein & the Monster from Hell".
It's the film that truly kick-started the fortunes of the studio and pretty much (as it gave birth to the more influential, though lesser, "Dracula") re-defined not only British horror movie-making and British movie production in general but also horror movie-making worldwide.
So it's an average film with an amazing place in history...a place which does not stop it being just an average film though.