“The Curse of Frankenstein” Review: A Hammer Horror Staple | Octerror 2020

Boo! Heh, got you, didn’t I? Nice to see you back, friend. Octerror has almost reached its end, and will conclude in two days with a very special Halloween bonus post. How about that! But tonight we’re taking a look back at The Curse of Frankenstein, directed by Terrence Fisher and produced by Hammer studios. The film is the first installment of the Frankenstein series, based off the original Mary Shelly novella of the same name. If it wasn’t for this movie and The Quatermass Experiment, the studio may not have been renowned for the genre it’s remembered best by: horror. With that in mind, let’s get this show on the road and find out if this reimagining lives up to the Universal classics!

As Baron Victor Frankenstein awaits his execution, he recounts his scientific research. He and his tutor Paul Krempe eventually become equals and have a breakthrough by reanimating a deceased puppy. Because of this discovery, Frankenstein has now become fascinated by the idea of constructing a human creature and bringing it to life as well. Paul is incredibly worried about Victor’s fiancee Elizabeth whom has visited them and in a struggle damages the creature’s brain. Due to the brain’s deformity, the alive creation doesn’t behave as the Baron intended, going on a killing spree. As Frankenstein descends further into insanity, so does the eventual demise of his creation.

Now, allow me to get the monster out of the room. No, Curse of Frankenstein doesn’t surpass the Universal version. However, there is still plenty to enjoy on this one. This is Hammer’s first venture into a fully color feature, and I must say that everything looks stunning. From the glowing luminance of Frankenstein’s potions to the Autumn leaves on the premises, the wide watercolor palette is a feast for the eyes. And given this is Frankenstein we’re reviewing, aesthetically pleasing is a superb compliment.

Some of my favorite horror entries of all time are more rooted in atmosphere. In modern Hollywood, a “horror flick” is thin on plot, but the real fat is with jumpscares and piercing jolts in music to startle viewers momentarily. By momentarily, I cannot phrase enough how much the scare is repetitive. It’s sort of like a comedian tickling you with a feather, rather than deliver genuine humour. The same concept applies to horror. Thank goodness that Curse of Frankenstein has its foundation in the right place! It is no where close to spot-on, but the consistent creepiness throughout definitely satisfies my tastes.

The acting is additionally something to praise. Two horror icons, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, preform wonders with their characters. Cushing as the cunning Baron Frankenstein arouses a particular shift from intelligent pupil to eager madman. His utter dedication to his blasphemous hobble of a man is a joy to watch unfold. The creature formed by the Baron, acted out by Lee, has a tone to him that urges viewers to feel sorry for his dilemma. The film’s highlight – one of two, actually – is when the flaming monster falls through a window into a massive tub of acid. This accomplishment is leveraged also by the magnificent score and the impressive, though on occasion vanilla camerawork and cinematography. The former is a vital tool for the atmospheric subgenre, as well.

Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein is one of those simply solid films. This compliment to the Frankenstein name I feel deserves more attention in the horror community, even the film culture in general. Although the James Whale installments are arguably better directed, you certainly can appreciate how Hammer strung up an alternate approach to a monster exemplar. That, at the very least, is worth applause.

RATING: 7.5/10 “Recommended to Horror Aficionados”




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