Director – Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Mummy)
Starring – Peter Cushing (Horror Express, The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires), Robert Urquhart (Hammer House of Horror, Nightmare), and Hazel Court (The Twilight Zone, The Masque of the Red Death)
Release Date – 1957
Rating – 3.5/5
Blu Release – 3.5/5
When I was in high school and college I found myself becoming obsessed with the Hammer horror flicks. Dracula, the mummy, Frankenstein, and the random one offs were movies I had to have. I was lucky enough to find several out in the wild while hunting for movies. One of those was the 1957 Curse of Frankenstein starring horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
The DVD I had of this was one I found for just a few dollars at Big Lots of all places. It is now out of print and going for a decent price. It’s a movie I’ve always enjoyed but it is far from my favorite Hammer film. A few weeks back I received word that Warner Archive Collection was releasing this one on blu. I reached out to them and they were kind enough to send over a review copy of this release. Thanks guys!
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows an imprisoned Victor Frankenstein (Cushing) who is awaiting the gallows. He then recollects what he is sentenced to death for. The story goes back to him and a colleague working on a way to defeat death. After resurrecting a dog they work on piecing together a man and bringing it back from death. They succeed but the creature becomes a monster forcing his colleague to put it down. Unable to let go of his research, Frankenstein once again brings the monster back to life but this time it kills someone close to him. **Spoiler Alert**
Hammer Horror officially started in 1955 but didn’t gain traction until 1957 when they released The Curse of Frankenstein. They had several hits prior to this release but none gained international acclaim like Curse did. Christopher Lee himself would often proclaim that Curse was the beginning of it all and he’s not wrong. Curse was the beginning of many successful, and not so successful, adaptations that would make Hammer the leading name in horror for several years. Though Curse is a legendary film that has it’s own place in cinema history I would be lying if I said I loved it or it was my favorite. It’s not if I was to be blunt. I like it but there is so many other Hammer films I would prefer to watch.
The acting in this is absolutely amazing. Cushing and Urquhart are brilliant together. Cushing has never did the camera wrong and delivers one of his most iconic performances. His version of Frankenstein may not be as memorable as the Universal adaptation but horror fans know to give him he credit he deserves here. Also, Lee is absolutely brilliant as the monster. Without being able to deliver a conventional performance, he does so through community emotions with his eyes and expressions.
The story for this one is a little more detailed that the films previously based on Shelley’s work. This film is focused more on the doctor and his obsession with creating life and how his obsession for life creates death. The original Universal film is a classic and one of the most popular horror films in history. However, this adaptation is a lot more darker an grittier. The characters have more personalities and the pacing is a rollercoaster of a film. We get plenty of build up, action, and then we plummet to a more tamer scene before repeating. It keeps the viewer engaged.
Finally, the film has some bloody moments with some great scenery and props but if you want gore you are watching the wrong film. With that being said, I absolutely love the make-up on Lee. His creature may not be iconic but it’s down right eerie as fuck and really matches the tone of the film. Overall, The Curse of Frankenstein is a must see for genre fans and collectors will want this two disc release from Warner Archive Collection. The image quality is far from perfect BUT it is a vast improvement over my DVD release of the film. This release doesn’t push the boundaries what a blu can do but I’ll take the improvement any day. Check it out.
New feature commentary by Screenwriter/Film Historian Steve Haberman and Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr
Newly Remastered 1.37:1 Open Matte version of feature
The Resurrection Men: Hammer, Frankenstein and the Rebirth of the Horror Film
Hideous Progeny: The Curse of Frankenstein and the English Gothic Tradition
Torrents of Light: The Art of Jack Asher
Diabolus in Musica: James Bernard and the Sound of Hammer Horror
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD)