Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
The first of Hammer's Frankenstein series (and the only to feature Christopher Lee as the semi-titular Monster, though Peter Cushing would recur as Victor Frankenstein) also marks the start of the studio's long run of horror classics, establishing production aesthetics that continue to influence filmmakers. Dodging Universal at every turn (lawsuits awaited if the new film in any way resembled their iconic versions), Sangster's screenplay cribbed much from Mary Shelley's novel which had been discarded by James Whale, focusing on Frankenstein's immoral studies, propensity to murder, and descent into Mad Science rather than on the monster he creates, a mere symptom of his true ills. Terence Fisher's film is a feast for the eyes, summoning a deeply Gothic atmosphere straight away. Phil Leakey's creature make-up veered considerably from Jack Pierce's famous Karloff applications; the Creature suffers a more stitched-up, gruesome visage. Tame by latter-day standards, this tale of dark deeds and harsh consequences was initially panned for violence and gore by critics missing the film's subtle nuances: Was the Monster a figment of murderous Frankenstein's imagination? Or is his former accomplice Paul Krempe simply getting the last laugh as the Baron is led to the scaffold, the place where he acquired so many of the parts that went into his work? A cornerstone of modern horror.