Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Curse of Frankenstein(1957)d/Terence Fisher

In the late fifties,the British gothic horror giants at Hammer set out to remake several of the Universal classics,this entry being the first.Director Fisher commits to celluloid not only an entirely different motion picture than the 1931 Universal original,but in several brilliant twists,avoids following most of Mary Shelley's classic novel in the process.Though Peter Cushing establishes himself as the quintessential baron toying with life and death in the confines of his laboratory,studio mate Christopher Lee struggles as the patchwork creature,despite brilliant makeup from the late Phil Leakey,and doesn't bring much to the role,save for swinging his arms around and snarling menacingly.He did very well for himself, attaining megastardom,revered worldwide as a great actor anyway,and did not return for the sequel the next year.This film would catapult Hammer to the forefront of British cinema,panned by some critics,but overwhelmingly received by audiences of the day,and remains a true classic and essential viewing for any horror aficionado worth two disembodied hands wrapped in a hanky!
That's right,Baron.The bowl of dry ice is firmly in place...
Baron Victor Frankenstein(Peter Cushing) awaits the punishment phase of his sentencing in a cell,when he is visited by a priest,who agrees to hear the condemned man's sordid tale.As a young man who has inherited his family fortune,he is mentored by Paul Krempe(Robert Urquhart),who later becomes the brilliant young scientist's assistant in successful experiments creatng life where there was once none.When the men reanimate a dead puppy,Paul's joy is overshadowed by Frankenstein's urge to take the experiment much further.The one time tutor reluctantly agrees to help the Baron,until after stealing a corpse from the gallows,he witnesses Victor sawing off the head,and realizes the world,science included,may not see the duo's experiments in the same positive light!When Frankenstein's first cousin,Elizabeth(Hazel Court) comes to stay at the castle,Victor neglects to inform Paul or the maid he's been sleeping with, in between their gruesome work, of the young girl's arrival or future living arrangements.Paul turns a blind eye to the Baron's nightly scavenger hunts for suitable body parts for his creation,instead trying to convince Elizabeth to find somewhere else to live,preferably someplace without a mad scientist!
Horrible makeup,even more horribly miscast;the brilliant actor casts aside the bandages.
When Victor has assembled the creature,save for the brain,he stages a convenient accident at his home for a brilliant old scientist with no immediate family,later removing the genius' brain from the cadaver to complete his makeshift man.Once brought to life,the creature(Christopher Lee)escapes from the lab,killing a young boy and an old man in the process,before a well placed bullet from Paul's rifle sends the monster from whence it came.When the maid threatens the Baron over marriage promises he had made to her during their carnal liasons,he turns her over to the creature,which he has once again given life.Naturally,the creature frees itself from the chains Victor has shackled it in,and when it attacks Elizabeth,he destroys it once and for all with the flame from an oil lamp.When Paul visits the condemned Baron in his cell,he fails to corroborate the mad story Frankenstein has shared with the priest,effectively sealing his fate,as he leaves the jail with Elizabeth in tow.Was the whole thing a figment of Frankenstein's imagination?Or did Paul purposely avoid telling the truth to eliminate his rival for the hand of the young girl?Only the guillotine knows for sure...
Elizabeth(Hazel Court)and her marvelously smashing twin corset-pedoes.
In the autumn and winter years of his career,Lee has gone on to become a sort of elder statesman of global cinema,enjoying several successful periods to this very day,though he'll always be one of my favorite on-screen baddies,and my top choice as a certain infamously undead,bloodsucking count!Cushing's career spanned nearly sixty years,up until his death in 1994,finding the actor reprising his role as Frankenstein several times,Van Helsing in Hammer's long running Dracula series,Sherlock Holmes,and even Dr. Who in the original films!Both men officially met on the set of this entry,though they had acted on earlier efforts together,and began a lifelong friendship,repeating phrases from Looney Tunes cartoons(!)in between takes.Terry Fisher continued to direct most of the major Hammer horror efforts(directing Lee twelve times!),his last being Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell(1974) before succumbing in 1980.This is a classy effort that makes for enjoyable repeat viewings,and as thus,it merits the very highest of ratings,and is highly recommended from your humble N.
That's an awfully nice pea coat,Chistopher.Really.


Balberith said...

The makeup doesn't look that bad... but suddenly this little film pops up with a surprising 4 heads in comparison to your usual 1.. I think this needs my immediate attention

beedubelhue said...

Considering that cotton and little else made up the bulk of the application,which had to be reapplied every time,no it really doesn't.And yeah,this one's a must-see.Fer sure!

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