Monday, October 13, 2008

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13 Movie 1

Between 1957 and 1974, Hammer Studios made 7 Frankenstein movies. With the exception of "The Horror of Frankenstein" (1970) which starred Ralph Bates in a misstep to try and reinvigorate the series by restarting it, all the movies starred Perter Cushing as Frankenstein.

"The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) was the first, and proved to be a financial cash cow for Hammer studios and steered them into producing their own cycle of horror movies, much as Universal had done nearly thirty years earlier, only now in garish color, the better to show off all of the grisly blood and guts, for a new, modern audience. "Curse" plays fast and loose with Mary Shelley's novel, but is respectful to its origins.

The story is essentailly the same. In a flashback from his prison cell, from where he will soon be executed for his crimes, Baron Frankenstein tells his story. He used his fortunes to build and bring to life a human being of his own creation, crafted from select parts of various dead bodies. Frankenstein's assistant (Robert Urquhart) has second thoughts, and becomes more and more troubled as Frankenstein's aquisition of parts expands from grave robbing to murder. They kill the crazed monster (Christopher Lee) only to have Frankenstein secretly resurect it in a disastrous attempt to repair its damaged mind. The monster is eventually destroyed again, and Frankenstein is blamed for its crimes, his assistant refusing to acknowledge that a monster ever existed.

The movie moves along at a brisk pace, and its sytunning to see a Frankenstein movie in which the monster is essentailly reduced to a supporting role only slightly bigger than a cameo. Unlike virtually every other Frankenstein movie, this and the others in the Hamamer series starring Peter Cushing, focused on Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, and not the monster itself. If viewers familiarity with the Frankenstein story only stemmed from these Hammer films, the continuous misidentification of the monster being Frankenstein would most likely never have occurred.

Cushing is as perfectly cast in the role of the cold, scheming, fanatic Frankenstein as he is as the warm, charming, sympathetic Van Helsing in Hammer's Dracula series.

1 comment:

Shawn Robare said...

After seeing this and then his turn as Van Helsing in the Horror of Dracula, I became a total devote to Cushing. The man is amazing.