To anyone who expects a Frankenstein story to be adapted straight from the book, Hammer's film is certainly not the place to look; changes to the story from the original Mary Shelley novel (1818 and 1831) are so numerous that it is easier to mention the elements that are retained. Most of the lead characters are named after characters in the novel, although Victor's favourite tutor here (Krempe) was his less preferred tutor at University in the novel, while Justine becomes a simple maid with no family links - although her suffering in this film is not much less than that in the novel, Elizabeth is here but as a cousin (as per the 1818 novel, rather than the family friend she became in Shelley's 1831 rewrite). Victor is very interestingly written, while Shelley's character started off mechanical and determined, after the creation he became depressed and emotional; Sangster's Baron (curiously an orphan) retains the mechanical, determined attitude throughout the story, showing almost complete indifference to ethical concerns, and even to Elizabeth's presence. Victor's creation never has a chance to become the linguist of the book, as he is kept locked up throughout, and is far more animalistic.
Most of the other details from the text are changed - the blind man, the creature's escape, the
flashback story telling and even the wedding night climax are all
present, but in noticably altered forms. Even the setting is
the original Subotsky script had Victor travelling to
University to pursue his studies, the Sangster script compresses all
the action to Victor's house - no doubt in consideration of the very
low budget for the picture. Although trying to avoid any links to
the 1931 Universal film or its sequels, the theme of the bad brain
explaining the monster's violence, not present in the novel, is
retained - although rather than a criminal brain being used as in the
earlier film, Frankenstein is forced to use a damaged 'intellectual'
Hammer's first horror film looks fantastic in glorious Eastmancolor. Director Terence Fisher and cameraman Jack Asher are able to fill their frame with magnificently colourful sets - in particular Victor's lab which is a plethora of test tubes and electronic equipment. This stands in contrast to the often very elaborate laboratory sets featured in film adaptations and it does give the film a surprisingly realistic edge, compared to the more fantastic atmosphere of the Universal films. Although the camerawork is generally routine, a few good tracking shots help to build tension, and the reveal of the creature is a magnificent moment that even 50 years on can still bring a chill. This scene, and the movie as a whole, are aided by a strong James Bernard score that helps to ratchet up the tension when necessary, and provide a good background to the film as a whole.
The 1950s were still conservative times, and
the censors at the BBFC forced numerous changes and cuts to the film,
in particular the attack by the creature on the blind man and his son
- this sequence is now merely suggested. However, Hammer were able to
get some violent scenes past the censors and we get to see slight
detail of Victor's work as well as the gunshot wounds the creature
sustains. It is still possible to see where a brief shot was cut out
as Victor disposes of the highwayman's head into the acid.
Fortunately intial concerns that the creature itself would not be
able to be shown on-screen are assuaged and we get plenty of
shots of the impressively made-up Christopher Lee.
Curse of Frankenstein represented the start of one of the best partnerships in horror movie history as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee made their breakthroughs into cinema. Cushing had, until that point, been a famous name only on British television - notably in the BBC production of 1984 (1952) - as well as on the stage in various Shakespearian roles. However by the mid-1950s, these roles were drying up as new 'reactionary' theatre was becoming vogue. Seeing that Hammer studios were casting for a film version of Frankenstein his agent contacted the studio, who had already been considering him for the role. Cushing gives a standout performance as Victor and convincingly pulls off his character whom he describes as not being evil, but so driven that he is not prepared to let anything stand in his way. A very detailed method actor, Cushing took pains to study elements of the anatomical sciences that his character was so versed in, and to keep his props authentic. Christopher Lee was appearing in his 42nd film by this point, but had no name value and was cast merely because of his desired stature. Despite not having any lines, and with facial expressions impossible behind several layers of make-up, it was his body acting that makes an impression - and he successfully gives the appearance of one who is unfamiliar with his body and his limbs. Although outplayed by Cushing and Lee, the rest of the cast also give solid performances - Robert Urquhart and Hazel Court are very strong as Paul and Elizabeth.
|Anyone famous in it?||Peter Cushing - Hammer's biggest name, world famous for a short but key role in Star Wars (1977)
Christopher Lee - Euro-cult star in the 1960s, recently in the Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) series.
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Terence Fisher - Hammer film mainstay.
|Is it scary?||Not really. Some scenes may still raise a chill.|
|Any violence?||Some brief fight scenes and a little blood, but most of the violence is merely implied.
|Who is it for?
||All cult/horror film fans should enjoy this. A must for fans of Hammer or Frankenstein films.
|Good soundtrack?||James Bernard with a distinctive orchestral score.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The picture quality is very good with only some very light grain throughout.
|Audio||Original English mono - Dolby Digital - sounds great, no hiss.
German and French dubs are included.
|Subtitles||English, English HOH, German, German HOH, Swedish, Danish, Norweigan, Greek, Turkish, Arabic.
|Run Time||Main Feature: 1hr 19m 47s (PAL)|
|Extras||The disc features:
|Region||Region 2 - PAL
|Other regions?||Identical release in USA and Australia. USA disc has additional onscreen text notes, no other differences.
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language.