Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

Peter Cushing is Victor Frankenstein in this decent second entry to Hammer's Frankenstein series. UK R2 Columbia DVD.

The Film

Hammer studios were no stranger to sequels. Their sucessful Quatermass film (1955) had quickly been followed up, and so it was that their most successful picture to date Curse of Frankenstein (1957) was followed by a sequel just one year later.

With good continuity, Revenge of Frankenstein begins exactly where Curse left off, with Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) being led to the gallows - but although the guillotine drops, it is not Frankenstein's head that is severed - he is saved by a fellow prisoner named Karl. Three years later and a Doctor Stein has set up a surgery in Hammer's favourite generic middle-Europe town - Carlsbruck. While treating the rich patients for surely ample fees, he uses these to subsidise a hospital for the poor of the city - however, Dr. Stein is hardly being benevolent and it soon becomes apparent that he is using surgically removed body parts from these patients to continue his terrible work from the first film. A knowledge hungry young doctor, Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews), recognises Victor Stein for who he is and offers to assist him in his work. Stein is proposing to transfer the brain of his crippled assistant Karl into a new body he has created - this he does, and with some success - but when Karl realises that he is destined to become a centre of attention for the entire medical profession, he goes on the run leaving a trail of destruction behind him.

For a direct sequel, Revenge of Frankenstein has good continuity, the only alteration made to the story - the legend of Frankenstein and his creation is well known across middle-Europe, while in the first film, Victor struggled to find anyone to believe his story. Apart from that, Revenge works as a sequel, and equally well as a film in its own right - the plot is significantly different to the first film, and indeed to any of the previous Universal Frankenstein films, making it into an original take on the theme. The pacing is slightly slower than the first film but the plot progresses without too much padding, and the exposition is well written into the script. The climax is suitably impressive and tense. On the negative side, Victor's motives are slightly less clear here than in the first film. Although one could generally presume that he was just trying to continue the work until he created a fully functioning creature - he makes a short angry speech threatening the world of science that they could never get rid of him, suggesting that his work is merely to get revenge for his dismissal at the hands of science. A fight scene later on also seems quite gratuitous, as does the film's graveyard opening. As with Curse the film suffered greatly at the hands of the censors. The brain transplanted Karl was originally to develop a taste for human flesh, like that of a brain transplanted chimp before him - however, this subtext was largely removed by the BBFC before the film was even shot.

Terence Fisher directs again, bringing his usual solid mix of fixed and tracking shots and is blessed with a very impressive looking series of sets. Shot just days after Hammer's Horror of Dracula (1958), many of the sets were re-dressed from this film (the entrance stairway and door to Stein's elaborate laboratory is the crypt entrance from Castle Dracula). The film is generally much darker than its predecessor and most of the sets are intentionally poorly lit - although at no time is any of the on-screen action indistinct. Presumably busy on Horror of Dracula at the time, Hammer's lead composer James Bernard is missing from this sequel, instead replaced by occasional composer Leonard Salzedo who gives a decent but largely unnoticed score. 


Peter Cushing as Victor (Franken)Stein carries across the self-assured persona of the first film although he has more of a workman-like attitude throughout the film, lacking the excitement he often displayed in the first - whether character or actor's fault, it does mean he gets less on screen range. A bigger budget than the first film means that there are a lot more actors on hand - but the only other standouts are the two actors, Oscar Quitak and Michael Gwynn, who play Karl, before and after the brain transplant respectively. Together they manage to pull off the job of being the same person, and Gwynn is especially good when he starts to awaken from the operation and finds himself in a new body.

While inferior to the first film, Revenge of Frankenstein is different enough to remain watchable and benefits from solid direction and acting. Recommended to fans of the first film, and Hammer's gothic horrors in general.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Peter Cushing - Hammer's biggest name, also played Sherlock Holmes on the BBC
Francis Matthews - Frequent Hammer star, also voiced the original Captain Scarlet (1967).
Directed by anyone interesting? Terence Fisher - Hammer film mainstay.
Is it scary?Not really.
Any violence? A vicious fistfight in a lab but most violence offscreen.
Any sex? No
Who is it for?
Worth seeing if you enjoyed the first film, and can stand alone. Should interest Hammer fans.
Good soundtrack? Decent track by Leonard Salzedo, not as good as the first film's.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.66:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The picture quality is generally good although there are several scenes affected by flickering, and a lot of speckling in some scenes as well. Never unwatchable though.
Audio Original English mono - Dolby Digital - sounds great, no hiss.
A German and dub is included.
Subtitles English, German, French, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Norweigan, Polish, Swedish, Turkish.
Run TimeMain Feature: 1hr 26m 17s (PAL)
Extras The disc features:
  • Original Theatrical trailer - 2m 13s - very interesting, includes new footage of Peter Cushing addressing the audience as Baron Frankenstein plus a wonder oversell of the film. Decent print quality.
  • Bonus trailer for Earth versus the Flying Saucers (1956)  2m 12s
  • Brief picture gallery, three posed shots and several film stills.
Region Region 2 - PAL
Other regions? Identical releases: R1 USA, R2 Germany and Scandinavia and R4 Australia.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd January 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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