Having to choose between Justine and Elizabeth, that was his real curse!
Screenplay By: Jimmy Sangster
Directed By: Terence Fisher
Splendid gothic trappings and Peter Cushing, that’s what The Curse of Frankenstein has going for it. I’ll be honest, remove those two elements and I’m not sure there’s much of a movie to be found here. Alas, those two elements can’t be removed and that’s why The Curse of Frankenstein is a decent horror film.
I did like how The Curse of Frankenstein worked to distance itself from Universal Studios’ Frankenstein, as Frankenstein’s Monster is almost an afterthought in this film. The focus of the film, and the true villain is Victor Frankenstein. He’s the classic mad scientist, the type who is so lost in his science that nothing else in life matters to him. Mr.Cushing is quite tremendous as the film’s lead, he’s menacing and devious at the same time. He manages to straddle the line between a squirrel short a few nuts and someone who is dangerous because he really does know what he’s doing. The film is smart to focus on Mr. Cushing’s character, because he is the highlight of the proceedings.
I did also like the gothic trappings of the film. There’s a bit of a stuffy and stodgy feel to The Curse of Frankenstein. The film rolls with this and does the best it can with that feel. The result is a movie where everyone is trapped with Baron Frankenstein, including himself. The darkened castle rooms, and the constrictive clothing are but a few of the methods used to convey how trapped everyone is in this movie. That’s why the end of the film isn’t surprising, and isn’t really meant to be. When someone as driven as Baron Frankenstein is that trapped the most likely path for him to take is to lose control of the situation.
The rest of the cast is pleasant enough, essentially they get the job done. Christopher Lee is almost a non-presence as the Creature, and the two main women are virtually interchangeable in their parts. I struggled at times to maintain interest in The Curse of Frankenstein. It’s not a terrible movie, or even a boring movie, but it lacks a certain bite to move the film to the next level. In this case I think said bite is inertia, as too often the film is bogged down without any momentum to speak of.
The Curse of Frankenstein is my first classic film from Hammer Studios. It’s not a great horror film, but there is enough in the film to make me want to see more that the famed British studio has to offer in the realm of horror. It lacks bite, and it has trouble ever truly getting started, but The Curse of Frankenstein is a welcome entry into the film canon of Mary Shelly’s misbegotten creation.