Review of “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957)

from IMDB

Saturday pizza and bad movie night with Svengoolie. So damn hot. Maybe we should have given up and just had ice cream in an ice Jacuzzi.

Plot: (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….)

This movie’s take on Mary Shelley’s book begins with a priest (Alex Gallier) visiting a man (Peter Cushing) in prison who has been sentenced to die shortly. The man doesn’t want spiritual comfort. He wants to talk to someone who will believe his story.

It starts when he was a boy. After his mother dies, he inherits the Frankenstein fortune and hires a tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), to help him finish his education. For some reason, they wander into the medical sciences. Victor develops an interest in reviving the dead, and the two succeed with the cutest puppy ever. When Victor talks about building a human being from odd parts, Paul starts having second thoughts. Victor, on the other hand, goes shopping for body parts.

Just as Paul is getting ready to leave, Victor’s cousin Elizabeth (Hazel Court), arrives. As had his mother before him, Victor has been supporting her and her mother for years. Once the mother passed away, it seems only fitting the two should marry. Paul tries to talk Elizabeth into leaving. The maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt) also raises an objection. Apparently, Baron Frankenstein has been free with his favors and has promised to marry her. What is a mad scientist to do?

Thoughts:

The introduction of the tutor to the storyline provides a moral contrast. Paul constantly tells Victor that he’s crossing lines, that his creation is evil. He doesn’t balk at the puppy because, come on, who could say that about a puppy wagging his tail and licking their faces?

After a certain point, he stays in the Baron’s household not to rein in Victor, something he now sees as longer possible, but to try to protect Elizabeth. The danger to her is hinted at several times. Victor tells her nothing of his work and forbids her to come into his lab. At the same time, he promises that she will one day take part in his experiments. YIKES!

The physical degradation of the poor creature—who never learns to speak—is an indictment of Baron Frankenstein’s moral character rather than his skill as a scientist. He starts out ugly, looking like a stumbling corpse and ends up looking like a stumbling corpse with a bald spot, a reminder of the spot (…sort of…) where Paul shot him and killed him.

One of the (apocryphal?) stories Svengoolie told about the movie is that Christopher Lee complained about not having any dialogue as the Creature. He doesn’t. He shambles along, sometimes chained, sometimes not, murdering innocent townsfolk. “If you think that’s bad,” Peter Cushing is supposed to have said, “I’ve read the script.”

The end is not a big surprise. Evil guy, who never stopped when he had the chance, who killed people, who took advantage of his maid’s affections, and abused his own unholy creation, gets his comeuppance.

One of the things that struck me as goofy was the relative age of the actors. The actor who played young Frankenstein at the beginning of the film, Melvyn Hayes (not Gene Wilder), was about 22. Robert Urquhart, his tutor, was a suitable 36ish. The adult Frankenstein, Peter Cushing, was 44 while his tutor/partner remained… 36ish. Those Frankensteins must live hard, I guess.

This was an acceptable, but hardly a stellar, movie for Saturday night pizza and bad movie night. And the pizza wasn’t half bad either.



Title: The Curse of Frankenstein

Directed by
Terence Fisher

Writing Credits
Jimmy Sangster…(screenplay)
Mary Shelley…(based on the classic story by) (as Mary W. Shelley)

Cast (in credits order)
Peter Cushing…Victor Frankenstein
Hazel Court…Elizabeth
Robert Urquhart…Paul Krempe
Christopher Lee…The Creature
Melvyn Hayes…Young Victor

Released: June 25, 1957
Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Awards:

Guinness World Record Award 1957
Winner
Guinness World Record     Tallest actor in a leading role
Christopher Lee

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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