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In prison and awaiting execution, Dr. Victor Frankenstein recounts to a priest what led him to his current circumstance. He inherited his family's wealth after the death of his mother when he was still only a young man. He hired Paul Krempe as his tutor and he immediately developed an interest in medical science. After several years, he and Krempe became equals and he developed an interest in the origins and nature of life. After successfully re-animating a dead dog, Victor sets about constructing a man using body parts he acquires for the purpose including the hands of a pianist and the brain of a renowned scholar. As Frankenstein's excesses continue to grow, Krempe is not only repulsed by what his friend has done but is concerned for the safety of the beautiful Elizabeth, Victor's cousin and fiancée who has come to live with them. His experiments lead to tragedy and his eventual demise. Written by
Opening credits prologue: More than a hundred years ago, in a mountain village in Switzerland, lived a man whose strange experiments with the dead have since become legend. The legend is still told with horror the world over.... It is the legend of...
Even if we dared to omit its landmark importance; it's still a terrific movie.
The Curse Of Frankenstein is out of Hammer Film Productions and based on the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. It's directed by Terence Fisher, written by Jimmy Sangster and stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court & Robert Urquhart. Jack Asher is the cinematographer and James Bernard scores the music.
The first Hammer film in colour, The Curse Of Frankenstein began the second wave of cinematic horror some 25 odd years after the Universal heyday of the 30s. Where Hammer's version differs from the Universal offerings, who were carefully watching what Hammer were doing, is by focusing on the Baron himself rather than the actual iconic creature. This approach threw many critics and observers at the time, with some either calling it too talky, or worse still, depressing and degrading. But the box office tills rang, both in Britain and America, and now the film is revered by film makers and horror historians alike. Rightly so.
Plot basically sees Baron Victor Frankenstein in prison for murder, where faced with the guillotine, he tells to a priest an amazing story of how he and his mentor successfully resurrected a dead body. The resulting creation being the one who committed the murder for which the Baron is now charged. The first masterstroke from Hammer was appointing Fisher and Sangster, the former shoots in lurid Eastmancolor; thus setting the marker for the Gothic style of Hammer to come, the latter produced a crackling script that make the scientist of the piece the actual monster. The second masterstroke was in the casting of Cushing as the driven Frankenstein. Then just a classy actor on TV, Cushing plays it in turns as cold blooded and elegantly charming. Lee, only getting the gig after Bernard Bresslaw's agent demanded too much money, actually doesn't have to do much, but his marionette movements coupled with the fleshy patchwork make up of his face make it totally memorable. Both men of course went on to become horror legends from here.
It's far from the best Hammer Horror film, in fact it's not the best of the Universal Creature reinventions. But it adds grit and intelligence to the Gothic atmospherics, its visuals striking as the character based narrative propels eerily forward. 8/10
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