The Curse of Frankenstein (UK)

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The Curse of Frankenstein (UK)

Post  BoG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:06 pm

Hammer's version of the Mary Shelley novel turned out to be the first of a series of films after this one caught the attention of many in the public. In this color version, we meet Baron Frankenstein when he's still a teen; his parents are dead, so he's inherited the estate. He hires on Paul (Robert Urquhart) as a special tutor because he wants learned wisdom beyond that offered in conventional schools. This teacher-tutor relationship continues after Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) reaches adulthood, when it is now a partnership of equals. Soon, however, Frankenstein's goals begin to differ from his partner's, as Paul notices some disturbingly unnatural obsessions in his former pupil's behavior, as well as a cold callousness.

All this leads to, of course, the compilation and creation of the first artificial man (Christopher Lee), a tall, unpleasant creature which looks like it just stepped out of its grave. It never speaks and seems to have only animal-like intelligence. Frankenstein is presented in this version as ruthless, not above murder to achieve his ends. His worst act is the killing of an elderly colleague whose brain he wants for the eventual creature; Frankenstein makes it look like an accident. Paul has reached the end of his patience at this point and a scuffle damages, we presume, the brain. The story, however, doesn't limit itself to just Frankenstein's questionable ethics in science; he also carries on an affair with a maid, even as his fiancee (Hazel Court) has arrived at the residence. This update seemed to fervently attempt a more modern take on the Frankenstein legend, in comparison to the thirties version; it's quaint now.

This was a low budget film, but the sets, the color photography, the actors and the suggestion of opulence lent it the illusion of something grand and impressive, setting the tone for most of Hammer's output from then on. The intriguing aspect to this version, however, was the subtle suggestion by the end that Frankenstein's creation was only a delusion of his; also, two supposed victims of the creature - an old blind man and a boy - are never verified. Frankenstein appeared to meet his fate at the guillotine at the end but we would see differently in the sequel, Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
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