Director: Terence Fisher
Screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster
Soundtrack: James Bernard
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court
Country: United Kingdom
Run Time: 1Hr 23 Mins
Ratio: 1:66:1 Colour
Format: Restored BluRay Region B
Terence Fisher’s ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ was released in 1957 to huge box office success in both England and the United States, and made stars out of both Peter Cushing and a heavily made-up Christopher Lee. It was the first time that a Frankenstein film had been made in colour and with the censorship laws more relaxed than in the previous decade, a good injection of blood and a little gore was also added to the mix which made this version of the story the bloodiest yet. The script was revised several times to avoid repeating any elements from the Universal Frankenstein series. As part of this effort, new monster make-up had to be devised especially for this film which many critics commented that Christopher Lee looked like a car crash victim.
The story was adapted and re-written by Jimmy Sangster and in their new version we see Victor Frankenstein as a young man who has inherited the family estate of Frankenstein meeting his cousin who will later become his wife and employing a teacher so that Victor can study medicine in his own home. as the years go by both Frankenstein and his teacher begin experiments to re-animate animals and to set about the ultimate experiment, to re-animate a body made up of dead human beings. As the film progresses Victor Frankenstein tries to re-animate his creature several times causing death and destruction until ultimately Victor is put into prison and blamed for all the deaths in the village. In the end the message of this film is the same as the previous incarnations, man’ obsession with playing the life giver will ultimately end in his destruction and of those around him.
In the opening credits we have a small prologue of white text on a red background introducing the Frankenstein, while the haunting score by James Bernard sets the tone for the preceding horror to come. We then begin with a tired and drawn Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) languishing in a prison awaiting his fate as he relates his strange story of his experiments. The cinematography is one of lush colours, beautiful, ornate sets and elegant costumes set in a backdrop of 19th century Europe. What Terence Fisher and hammer succeeded in doing was to recreate the mythology of Frankenstein in a bloodier and more explicit form. Here was a version of the story which was not afraid to show blood, human body parts, and have a cruel sense of humour. This Victor Frankenstein was seen as ruthless and very, very determined to make his experiments work even if it meant that he had to kill in cold blood, to him it was all part of his grand creation, to bring life to a body composed of all manner of human organs and make this being live.
Watching Christopher Lee stumbling about and not understanding what his very existence was for, I felt very sorry for the creature, who has to live like an animal, a trained monkey, with no will of his own who eventually dies in a hail of flames and a vat of acid! What an end to Frankenstein’s experiments. Curse of Frankenstein injected new imagery into an old story, the public had never seen explicit horror presented this way and in full glorious colour. It is no wonder that this movie did so well After this successful version, Hammer Studios made several sequels to ‘Curse’ continuing Frankenstein’s experiments with
re-animation, the first was Revenge of Frankenstein, followed by Evil of Frankenstein, then Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Horror of Frankenstein (without Peter Cushing) and finally Frankenstein and The Monster From Hell (Reviewed Here).
Each sequel had some very good ideas but by the time Horror of Frankenstein was filmed, interest had disappeared for Frankenstein and his experiments, though Peter Cushing will always be remembered as Victor Frankenstein, a man who wanted to create life but could never achieve it a moral tale that has never been surpassed. I love this version of the story and feel that this is an excellent example of Hammers Golden Age, along with Dracula (Horror of Dracula), The Mummy and the Quatermass films, Hammer became synonymous with British Horror even the US market benefited from this new injection of full colour and bloody Horror and the partnership of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee would make Hammer and enduring, iconic movie making studio in the annals of Horror.
I watched the recently released Blu Ray/DVD combo from Lions Gate Entertainment and have created a fantastic collectors edition, which are listed below:
- HD Main Feature – Never before released “Academy” ratio 1.37:1 (83 mins)
- HD The Curse of Frankenstein (1.66:1 version) – Alternate Aspect Ratio (83 mins)
- New audio commentary with Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby
- Frankenstein Reborn: The Making of a Hammer Classic (New and exclusive)
- Life With Sir (New and exclusive Peter Cushing documentary)
- Four Sided Triangle – Bonus feature film (80 mins)
- Tales of Frankenstein – Bonus TV pilot (25 mins)
- World Of Hammer: The Curse of Frankenstein (25 mins)
- Stills Show
I did watch both aspect ratio prints, just for the fan-comparison scenario and liked both versions and felt hard pressed to recommend which ratio to watch above the other. The colour palette for this film is now more striking than ever before and there is also the inclusion off an infamous ‘eyeball’ scene, removed at the time for the UK release but now restored on this transfer. All in all a great piece of gothic horror, with the right amount of garish gore and costumed evilness, excellent!
Baron Frankenstein: [after his monster has nearly killed him] I did it, Paul!