Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)

Okay, before the review starts let me just ask you one question, based on a supporting performer in the movie.

Tell the truth now, is this not the best "direct look to camera" that you've ever seen?

I think it is, hence its inclusion here.

But let's get to the entire movie.

The first proper Hammer horror that set the template for many movies to come (the Technicolour horror, the updating of the Universal classics taken mainly from literary forerunners, the greatness of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, etc), this also remains one of their best movies.

It's a pretty familiar tale, with enough changes made for everything to feel fresh and exciting. Peter Cushing plays the obsessed scientist and it's not long before one small success in the ongoing battle against Mr G. Reaper sees our protagonist getting quite obsessed with actually creating life and playing god. His long-time companion, and former tutor Paul (Robert Urquhart) tries to keep things from getting out of control but Hammer fans will already know how things will unfold.

Directed by Terence Fisher, and written by Jimmy Sangster, The Curse Of Frankenstein has plenty going for it. The pacing is perfect, the character of Victor Frankenstein is brilliantly portrayed by Cushing and it's easy to quietly root for him even as his methods become more and more unhinged, Urquhart makes for a decent friend/voice of reason and the script and cinematography are both well above-average for something that people could easily dismiss (both then AND now) as pulp genre fare.

Hazel Court is lovely enough as Elizabeth, though she doesn't get all that much to do, but Christopher Lee is a bit of a disappointment as the creature. Not his fault really, it's just hard to top that original design and performance with Boris Karloff in the role. Hell, even De Niro didn't manage it so Lee shouldn't feel too badly as he certainly doesn't embarrass himself either. It's also fun to see a young Melvyn Hayes (probably best known to UK TV viewers from his role in It Ain't Half Hot Mum) in the role of young Victor and Valerie Gaunt is great as a housemaid who dares to threaten the baron when she realises that she will never be more than his secret mistress.

A great success when first released, this movie deserves to be seen and enjoyed by fans for many, many years to come and deserves all of the adoration it has received over the years.


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