The Curse of Frankenstein – UK, 1957 – reviews

‘No-one who saw it lived to describe it!’

The Curse of Frankenstein is a 1957 British science fiction horror feature film directed by Terence Fisher from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, loosely based on the novel Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley. The movie stars Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart and Christopher Lee as the creature.

Max Rosenberg who later founded Amicus Productions with Milton Subotsky originally approached Michael Carreras at Hammer Films with a deal to produce “Curse of Frankenstein” from a script by Subotsky. Later, both men were cut out of their profit participation making only a $5,000 fee for bringing the production to Hammer.

The film was a massive financial hit and reportedly grossed more than seventy times its production cost during its original theatrical run. Its worldwide success led to several sequels, and Hammer Films’ new versions of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959) and established “Hammer Horror” as a distinctive brand of Gothic cinema.

Plot:

In 19th Century Switzerland, Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is in prison, awaiting execution for murder. He tells the story of his life to a visiting priest.

His mother’s death leaves the young Frankenstein (Melvyn Hayes) in sole control of the Frankenstein estate. He agrees to continue to pay a monthly allowance to his impoverished Aunt Sophia and his young cousin Elizabeth (whom his aunt suggests will make him a good wife). Soon afterwards, he engages a man named Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) to tutor him.

After several years of intense study, Victor learns all that Krempe can teach him. The duo begin collaborating on scientific experiments. One night, after a successful experiment in which they bring a dead dog back to life, Victor suggests that they create a perfect human being from body parts…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Eyeballs, severed hands and surgical procedures are presented in a relatively unflinching style. At one point, the Monster is shot in the head and blood gushes from its wound. This approach distanced the film from Universal’s monochrome, more suggestive horrors. The film was met with great enthusiasm by paying audiences, but alienated and horrified critics.” BFI Screenonline

Curse of Frankenstein is everything you’ve ever read about it – undeniably a classic, and possibly one of the best films made during the 50s. Okay, so not a great deal happens for much of the film (Christopher Lee’s monster doesn’t appear for what seems like hours), but as a platform for Peter Cushing’s considerable talents it’s superb.” British Horror Films

” …The Curse of Frankenstein is an outstanding film. It may not have that much in common with its source material but Cushing’s brilliant performance and some early cinematic gore effects make this one a must see for any casual fan of the genre. It’s a classic film and one of the best, most influential horror films ever made.” Andrew Smith, Daily Dead

” …it adds dynamism and British grit to a genre that had previously tried to get by on atmospherics and mood alone. It manages to be shocking without being especially frightening, and its virtues of performance and style remain striking.” Kim Newman, Empire

Contemporary reviews:

” …sacrificed by an ill-made script, poor direction and performance, and above all, a preoccupation with disgusting-not horrific-charnelry” Monthly Film Bulletin, 1957

“This British version of the [Mary Shelley] classic shocker emphasizes not so much the uncontrollable blood lust of the created monster as the clinical details whereby the crazy scientist accumulates the odd organs with which to assemble the creature.” Variety, 1957

Cast and characters:

  • Peter Cushing … Victor Frankenstein
  • Hazel Court … Elizabeth
  • Robert Urquhart … Paul Krempe
  • Christopher Lee … The Creature
  • Melvyn Hayes … Young Victor
  • Valerie Gaunt … Justine
  • Paul Hardtmuth … Professor Bernstein
  • Noel Hood … Aunt
  • Fred Johnson … Grandpa
  • Claude Kingston … Little Boy
  • Alex Gallier … Priest
  • Michael Mulcaster … Warder
  • Andrew Leigh … Burgomaster
  • Anne Blake … Wife
  • Sally Walsh … Young Elizabeth
  • Middleton Woods … Lecturer
  • Raymond Ray … Uncle
  • Josef Behrmann … Fritz (uncredited)
  • Henry Caine … Schoolmaster (uncredited)
  • Trevor Davis … Uncle (uncredited)
  • Marjorie Hume … Mother (uncredited)
  • Ernest Jay … Undertaker (uncredited)
  • Eugene Leahy … 2nd Priest (uncredited)
  • Bartlett Mullins … Tramp (uncredited)
  • Raymond Rollett … Father Felix (uncredited)
  • Paddy Smith … Servant (uncredited)

Technical credits: 

82 minutes | Eastmancolor | 1.75: 1 | mono (RCA Sound Recording)

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