Tag Archives: The Evil of Frankenstein

My Thoughts on: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Ever since I saw Frankenstein Created Woman and The Evil of Frankenstein last year, I was obsessed with getting to the very beginning of Hammer’s Frankenstein saga by hunting down The Curse of Frankenstein. Well, the recent holidays finally gave me the chance to acquire this film and I finally got the chance to see Peter Cushing’s introduction to the story of Frankenstein.

I’ve had quite a bit of time to turn this story over in my brain and I’ve reached some interesting conclusions about it. While the original 1931 Frankenstein is unquestionably superior, there are some good things to be found in Hammer’s interpretation of the story. Most notably, the best thing about The Curse of Frankenstein is Peter Cushing as the titular character. I’ve liked every iteration of Cushing as Baron Frankenstein so far, but this version, obviously the youngest (20 years before Star Wars for context) might just be my favorite. It’s here in The Curse of Frankenstein that we see how Frankenstein’s obsession with creating life got started.

And what’s really interesting about Frankenstein’s obsession is how it grows by degrees. He doesn’t start out immediately wanting to create life in a new body, it all starts as an innocent interest in science and higher learning. When he finds a brilliant tutor to teach him, the pair spend years delving deep into science and medicine until finally they’ve seemingly unlocked the secret of life and death, a huge medical discovery, but it’s at this point that Frankenstein’s devious mind begins to make itself known. Rather than share this discovery with the world, Frankenstein wants to keep it to himself and use it to breach the ultimate boundary: making a body and giving it life, effectively playing God. In this film as in the 1931 Universal film, this is presented as the greatest offense one could possibly commit against nature. It’s made abundantly clear that what Frankenstein is doing is completely immoral, the only one who can’t see that is Frankenstein himself.

It’s rather frightening how Cushing plays Frankenstein. As the story progresses and Frankenstein is pushed again and again to give up his experiments, his obsession with creating a body and proving that he’s right (never mind the question of whether he should to begin with) grows until it dominates every facet of his life. And the most unnerving part is that Frankenstein seemingly can’t see how he’s coming across to those around him. He’s robbing graves, picking up body parts from seedy charnel houses, he spends hours in his laboratory covered in blood putting a body together and he has no idea of how insane this makes him look. In fact, he’s driven so far that he, at one point, commits cold-blooded murder without so much as flinching in the brutal aftermath. A chilling performance indeed.

In fact, the story is so particularly insane that I have a theory. You see, the story of The Curse of Frankenstein is bookended by Frankenstein being in jail about to be executed for a crime he alleges he didn’t commit. The bulk of the film is a long flashback where he explains his side of the story. At the end of his recollection, his former tutor and alleged partner in the bulk of the experiment comes to visit him and Frankenstein begs him to tell the authorities that it’s all true. The tutor coldly denies everything, condemning Frankenstein to the guillotine with his omission and it seems that the tutor has gained the ultimate vengeance by keeping silent and leaving Frankenstein to his fate. However…it’s occurred to me that there’s another solution.

See….back when I was in grad school I learned about this thing in storytelling called unreliable narrators. Now, 99% of the time, when a story is being narrated to us, be it in a book, TV or film, you trust that you, the reader/viewer, are being told the absolute truth. But sometimes, and Game of Thrones (the books, not the show) is a noteworthy example, you get a story where you can NOT trust that the narrator is telling you the truth. And as I watched the closing minutes of The Curse of Frankenstein play out, it occurred to me that Baron Frankenstein might just be an unreliable narrator. Think about it, suppose this entire story of creating a monster is just the ravings of a man gone incurably insane? It’s frighteningly plausible and it really makes you rethink the story as it’s been told to you.

I also really enjoyed Hazel Court’s performance as Elizabeth. I instantly recognized her from her role in The Masque of the Red Death and was delighted to discover that she was in this film opposite Cushing for a decent chunk of the story. Interestingly, those beautiful dresses she wears throughout the film are vintage pieces from the Victorian era. Part of me wants to find it hard to believe that Elizabeth could stay ignorant for as long as she did about what Frankenstein was doing, but then I remember that Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein is such a charmer that it would be quite easy to be distracted from what’s going on.

Finally, I’m still not sure how I feel about Christopher Lee as Frankenstein’s monster. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen all of the Karloff Frankenstein films first and I’m pretty sure that’s colored my reception of Lee in the role. Oh, he certainly does the best he can with the role, it just…it just doesn’t compare to Karloff’s Monster.

If you haven’t seen any of Hammer’s Frankenstein films, I highly recommend starting with The Curse of Frankenstein. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I’m looking forward to watching more Hammer films in the future.

Let me know what you think about The Curse of Frankenstein in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

My Thoughts on: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

After picking up Frankenstein Created Woman and realizing just how much I enjoy watching Peter Cushing play Frankenstein, I made it a goal to get all of Cushing’s performances as the character (on blu-ray) in my collection. So, when the opportunity came to pick up The Evil of Frankenstein, I immediately took it.

This film was completely new to me, unlike Frankenstein Created Woman, however the plot generally follows what I’ve come to expect from these stories: a creation of Frankenstein’s runs amok, chaos ensues, and it all ends in a big dramatic climax. Only in this case the story takes a few unexpected twists between the beginning and the end. As with several of these films, the story starts with Frankenstein already in the midst of a new set of experiments, only to be chased out of town (yet again), forcing him to return to his hometown in search of money. Things take a twist when he discovers his original Monster, only to find it comatose and unresponsive. Frankenstein coerces a traveling hypnotist into reviving his creation, but that quickly creates more problems than it solves as Frankenstein soon finds out.

Here’s the thing about The Evil of Frankenstein: I know that Hammer made this film (and the other Frankenstein films in their series) as separate entities from the old Universal films, but I swear THIS film is a near perfect blend of Son of Frankenstein (1939) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). How so? Well, first of all, a major plot point in The Evil of Frankenstein is that Baron Frankenstein discovers his original creation, but it is now unresponsive. That is eerily similar to Son of Frankenstein, where Wolf von Frankenstein (the titular “son of Frankenstein”) discovers his father’s monster in a comatose state. But the similarity continues: once Frankenstein’s monster is revived, it only responds to the commands of the hypnotist who revived it, EXACTLY like in Son of Frankenstein where the Monster only responds to Ygor’s commands. Those are way too many similarities to be mere coincidence and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the writers for The Evil of Frankenstein took inspiration from Son of Frankenstein, even if they weren’t supposed to.

The similarities to this film and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man are less striking, but still interesting. The big similarity between these two films is the Monster being rediscovered frozen alive in ice, which is also how he’s found in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. I’m also struck by the similarities of the two film’s climaxes, or at least they seem similar to me. In both films, Frankenstein’s monster is swept away and presumed killed when the laboratory is destroyed (blown up in one film and swept away by floodwaters in the other). Again, it’s one similarity too many to be pure coincidence (though having read that this film was distributed by Universal, maybe Hammer really did just copy past film elements after all).

Those interesting details aside, I have a serious bone to pick with whoever put together the creature make-up in The Evil of Frankenstein. Part of the reason I love the original Frankenstein makeup from the 1930s so much is you really can’t tell that it’s a make-up. In THIS film however, it is painfully obvious that this is an actor in makeup, and not even really good makeup. This is my least favorite part of the film and it made it really hard to take certain scenes seriously.

Peter Cushing is a delight to watch, as always. For years I only knew him for his appearance in Star Wars, and I’m glad I’m finally taking the time to check out more of his filmography. I noticed in this film the same detail I saw in Frankenstein Created Woman: Baron Frankenstein is too clinical for his own good. That is to say, he’s so interested in his monster as an experiment, that the greater ramifications don’t occur to him until it’s too late. The same as in this film: he’s content to make use of the hypnotist, but it doesn’t occur to him that the hypnotist would USE the monster for his own personal ends until the damage has been done.

Flaws aside, I did ultimately enjoy The Evil of Frankenstein. It’s an enjoyable film, Peter Cushing is completely believable as an obsessed Baron Frankenstein and while the outcome of the story is predictable, it’s no less fun to watch.

Let me know what you think about The Evil of Frankenstein in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

My Thoughts on: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Film Reviews

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook