Tuesday, January 12th, 2021
The Curse of Frankenstein
Studio: Warner Archive
Jan 12, 2021
By Austin Trunick
Only a boy, the death of his mother leaves young Victor Frankenstein the sole inheritor of his noble family’s valuable estate, the title of Baron and near-limitless resources. He’s a gifted, intelligent child, and one of his first orders of business is bringing in one of the country’s most celebrated scientists as his personal tutor. As Victor grows to adulthood, he and his teacher embark upon a series of experiments aimed at re-animating the dead, but unknowingly for very different reasons. The teacher, Paul Krempe, hopes to find a new method for conducting dangerous surgeries and saving more lives; Victor has become obsessed with building the perfect human from parts no longer needed by the dead.
As the film that codified Hammer’s singular brand of Gothic (and distinctly British) horror, the value of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) can’t be understated. For the first time it brings together Peter Cushing (Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (the creature)—Hammer’s dynamic duo—and many of the elements the studio is remembered for. Viewing the new extra features on Warner Archive’s restored Blu-ray edition, it’s incredible to hear how many of these pieces fell into place through simple necessity and ingenuity, and in some cases almost by accident.
The Curse of Frankenstein plays fast and loose with the source material, but it’s to the benefit of this particular movie. Cushing plays Frankenstein as an obsessive maniac, willing to do anything to bring his macabre vision to life. It’s his tutor-turned-assistant, Krempe—who, played by Robert Urquhart, quite comically looks much younger than Cushing, to whom he’s supposed to be twenty-some-odd years senior—who is the movie’s hero, refusing to walk away from his student’s vile experiments and wicked acts in order to protect Frankenstein’s young, naïve fiancée, Elizabeth (Hazel Court). It’s the physical, emotive performance from the towering Christopher Lee as the famous monster that most viewers will walk away thinking about; he turns it into one of the saddest, most pitiable versions of the monster committed to screen. It’s the wicked creator, not the beast, whom we despise in Curse of Frankenstein.
This is a movie absolutely deserving of its 4K restoration. The team on Curse of Frankenstein had a clear understanding of what colors would truly pop from their Eastmancolor print, filling the scenes with bubbling green beakers and, of course, cherry-red blood. For a movie set in a gloomy old manor and the laboratory upstairs, it’s quite colorful and eye-catching, and looks stunning in whichever of the included aspect ratios you choose to watch it in. Extra features include numerous featurettes on Hammer horror and this film’s origins, and a full-length commentary. It’s a horror classic that kicked off a cottage industry, and is still effective today – it’s easy to recommend this gorgeous release to fans of either horror or classic cinema.