January 29, 2007 Leave a Comment
(1957) dir. Terence Fisher
I got the notion to see this film when there was a misprint in an advertisement for Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) showed up on my My Yahoo page. I had thought, “Wow, that would be great to see!” but then I realized that it had to be a misprint and realized that I’d been foiled. But, that is what we have Netflix for, right? This and the other 5 or 6 other Hammer Frankenstein sequels that they produced.
I was a “monster movie” fanatic as a kid. Well, fanatic is probably too strong, since I realized that I didn’t have the fervor or minutiae-obsessions that really speak to fanatics. I just loved horror films, particularly Universal, Toho, and Hammer studio fare…well also RKO or any black-and-white era Hollywood flicks. They had great series of them run on local cable channels and I had many favorites. Hammer, however, never appealed to me as much as the American ones, and I think that is because I liked the old black-and-white stuff best. I haven’t analyzed it.
Well, The Curse of Frankenstein is the first Hammer film with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, whose names are particularly synonymous with the studio’s horror output in its heyday, as is director Terence Fisher, who helmed an awful lot of the movies himself. As a child, I knew nothing about directors, only actors. It’s an interesting take on the story, which I understand had to be modified for legal reasons to not resemble James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) in any significant way. So, it varies a lot, really. Frankenstein, himself, is not just a mad scientist, but a cheat, a murderer, and many other things. He’s bad. Cushing is great in the role.
The monster isn’t utterly unsympathetic. Lee, wearing a lot of white make-up, looks like a cross between the somnambulist from Robert Wiene’s classic Expressionist film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and something with a lot of heavy make-up that ends up looking like a mask. There are some good sequences, particularly of the “Creature” (not “Monster”, but “Creature”).
The film also creates that strange, yet charming vibe of Victorian England that is probably nothing like it was, but still has that amazing way of creating a “feeling” of some other place or time. Maybe that is just the dated qualities, I don’t know. But something. I also really liked the final shot, the shadow of the guillotine out the window of the cell. The film has some real character to it and a seriousness that I think eventually dissipated from the Hammer catalog after a while.
I don’t know. I will have to see more of them.