The Curse of Frankenstein
Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein
Christopher Lee as The Monster
Robert Urquhart as Paul Krempe
By The Zombie Master, Lee Roberts
The year is 1957. The last time the Frankenstein monster was seen on the big screen he was chasing around a couple of slap-stick comedians by the name of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Meanwhile, across the pond from U.S. Universal Pictures is a movie production studio that is about to put the horror genre on notice and jump start the monster movie like no other with a retelling of the now famous Mary Shelley story.
The Curse of Frankenstein starts with the Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) in a jail cell, awaiting his time at the gallows, telling his story to a priest. We discover that Victor was orphaned at a young age with the death of his father and, receiving the estate, asks his mentor Dr. Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) to teach and help him in the growing field of anatomy and physiology. They begin experimenting in the re-animation of dead tissue and studying brain activity. Victor however, driven by obsession, starts working towards the ultimate goal of creating new life from the dead. Paul refuses to be a part of this abomination and tries to work against Victor.
Victor succeeds in creating a monster (Christopher Lee) out of parts from dead bodies. After an altercation with Paul, the brain that would have made this monster a genius becomes damaged. The monster therefore is just that, a Monster. Will Victor gain salvation from the priest? Will he be able to escape the blade of the gallows?
The Curse of Frankenstein marks the entrance of Hammer Film Studios into the horror genre, a move that will see Hammer become one of the most influential studios in horror. They were ahead of their time in violence, gore and vivid gothic atmosphere. Curse was so graphic that the critics railed against it but the viewing public loved it, and the box office numbers were proof. This led to the Hammer Studios decision to cater to the public and not the critics.
The Curse of Frankenstein also marks the entrance of Director Terence Fisher to the horror genre, a move that made him one of the most influential directors of the genre. Fisher took full advantage of the use of color and decided that the blood should look like blood and the viewing public might just want to see it – so he would let the camera linger on the blood for just a little while longer. Condemned for this by critics but receiving praise in the movie houses, Fisher would continue to push the limits of gore with the meager budgets that he was given.
The Curse of Frankenstein also began the brilliant on screen and off screen relationship between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, two actors that would successfully bring life to iconic movie characters throughout their careers. Cushing made Curse more about Victor rather than about the Monster. He would play Victor Frankenstein five more times. Lee gave an unforgettable performance as the Frankenstein Monster but would later go down in history as the actor to portray Dracula more time than any other. With Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Hammer Studios was almost guaranteed success.
I have always been a fan of the horror films produced by Hammer Studios and to anyone looking to expand their horror repertoire The Curse of Frankenstein is the perfect place to start.