The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Hammer Horror Review

Director: Terence Fisher

Writers: Jimmy Sangster, Mary Shelley(novel)

Stars: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee

RATING: 3.5 Stars

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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. His experiments lead to tragedy and his eventual demise. – From IMDB

The Hammer Horror films are known for being over the top cheesy and delightfully corny. And as far as those two factors go, this film absolutely meets those two requirements. The films is written so melodramatically that some of the serious or threatening lines will make you laugh out loud, or roll your eyes. Making it hard of course to achieve the atmosphere and scare factor the story is aiming for. It is nearly impossible to view this film as a horror, nothing about it is remotely scary, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed for the absolute cheese-fest that it is.

Starring Hammer Horror’s icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, despite the terrible writing, you are always going to get a decent performance here. Although Lee is used for little more than his physical presence, having no actual lines to deliver in this instance, his physical performance as Frankenstein’s monster is still pretty good. Peter Cushing plays the titular Doctor this time around, and he is a great choice. His performance gets stronger the more the doctor descends into madness, giving his best in this film I think during the scenes in the prison as he is giving his story to the priest.

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Some of the practical effects used in this film are pretty sketchy. The makeup used on Christopher Lee is pretty bad, in several scenes you can see where the mask covering his face ands and the rel skin of his neck starts. It of course uses that fabulously bright red blood throughout, an effect that hung around way longer than it should have done in film-making. But these aren’t really negatives, they are products of the time the film was made, and give the film it’s cheesy reputation.

It isn’t really action packed though as far as plot goes. Not a lot really happens until the final act of the film. Yes we are watching Victor slowly descend into obsession and madness, but none of the truly scary and chilling stuff happens until right towards the end. This makes the beginning of the film feel like a bit of a slog, you are just sitting around waiting for the good part. It really doesn’t need all this set up, most people know how the story starts, we know about Frankenstein, we just want to get to the good bits.

I still really enjoyed it, and will continue to watch more Hammer Horror films (this was my first), cheesy horror films are one of my guilty pleasures, and there is a reason these have been so loved for so long. Check it out if you haven’t already.

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