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akiratubo
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« on: October 03, 2010, 08:50:58 PM »

The Curse of Frankenstein

Much, much better than the 1931 Frankenstein ever hoped of being.  Peter Cushing's performance alone gives Hammer's version enough might to stomp all over the older movie.  Cushing's Viktor Frankenstein is not evil nor is he a madman.  He is amoral and selfish to an almost psychopathic degree.  He is not capable of understanding that people besides himself have thoughts, wants, and needs.  He wants to build a man out of used body parts, so everyone must want to help him, right?  Professor Bernstein won't care that Viktor murdered him for his brain, will he?  No!  In fact, once he wakes up in that brand-new body, he'll be grateful, right?  Of course he will!  It was Justine's fault she got locked in the room with the creature, wasn't it?  Of course it was, she went in the room of her own accord.  Viktor just happened to close the door behind her.

Special consideration must also be given to Christopher Lee as the creature.  When the creature first awakens, he moves exactly like a man who suddenly finds himself in a new, unfamiliar, poorly put together body.  Later, when the creature has been aware long enough to have gained emotions, his body language and facial expressions hit exactly the right notes.  You really end up feeling sorry for the poor thing by the end.

The Revenge of Frankenstein

A lesser movie than its predecessor, The Revenge of Frankenstein still has a great sucker punch for its audience at the end.  The big problem is that it drops the revolutionary portrayal of the Frankenstein character the first movie developed so perfectly.  In this one, he's presented as a regular villain and has, apparently, been one for a while.  He's at least well-connected enough to have two henchmen inside the police force who save him from the guillotine.

Three years later, he has set up a thriving medical practice in a new city.  He also runs a free clinic for the poor.  Funny thing, he seems to perform a lot of amputations ...  Frankenstein also acquires a new partner, named Hans.  There isn't a monster this time around.  No, Frankenstein has actually built a near-perfect simulacrum of a human being.  He doesn't even have to murder to get it a brain, he has a paralyzed volunteer, Karl, who is perfectly eager to have a new body with four functioning limbs.  The transplant is a success, Karl does well acclimating to his new body, and then everything goes wrong.  If anything, you feel even sorrier for Karl than you did for the original creature when all is said and done.

Now, about that sucker punch I mentioned ...

Remember that Frankenstein has been performing unnecessary amputations on patients at his free clinic.  Well, they find out, and they're p**sed.  They're so p**sed, in fact, that they kill Frankenstein!  Fortunately, Frankenstein and Hans had managed to assemble yet another body during the course of the film, and ...

Are you ready?

... Hans transplants Frankenstein's brain into the new body!  Just when you thought the title of the movie wasn't making any sense, what with his experiment failing and the people he'd wronged getting their revenge on him, Frankenstein wins.  He has achieved his life's work: the creation of a perfect body with a genius brain to control it.  Wow.  It almost makes up for the less-inspired take on Frankenstein's character this time around.

The Evil of Frankenstein

Well, forget about everything you just read above.  This movie establishes an almost entirely different continuity.  Frankenstein is still around, he's still played by Peter
Cushing, and he still has an assistant named Hans.  However, that business of his brain being installed in a snazzy new body is done away with.  Perhaps Hans has gotten his brain swapped around between movies, though, because he's played by a different actor.

This Frankenstein is a much nicer fellow.  Sure, he steals body parts from cadavers and assembles them into humanoid monsters but he doesn't kill, or even hurt, anybody.  He's also broke after a recent misadventure, so he and Hans return to the mansion where Frankenstein used to live (not even remotely similar to the mansion from the first movie) so they can loot it and sell the stuff for cash.  That was the plan, anyway.  The place has already been looted of everything valuable by others.  To top it all off, Frankenstein and Hans get in trouble with the police and have to flee to the hills.  There, they meet a deaf-mute (and extremely cute) girl who offers to let them stay in her cave.  No, really.  And can you guess what's in that cave?  Why, it's Frankenstein's original monster, of course, buried in a block of ice!

Never mind that the original monster fell into a vat of acid where it was completely dissolved, the movie sure as hell doesn't.  The original monster also didn't look like a very tall man with a cardboard box for a skull and putty haphazardly applied to his face.  Oh, hold on, the movie's about to explain the discrepancy.  Frankenstein tells Hans about his original experiment, where he built the blockhead monster all by himself, tried to teach it to be civilized, and then lost it when it wandered onto a hill and fell off.  (It might have been shot off the cliff.  There's a very poorly dubbed in noise that may be a gunshot.)  Hmm.  That sounds a lot more like the 1931 Universal movie than The Curse of Frankenstein.  Maybe The Evil of Frankenstein is supposed to be a sequel to the '31 movie.  If so that's ... odd.

Anyway, Frankenstein and Hans resurrect the monster but it is in a deep coma.  Frankenstein enlists the help of a carnival hypnotist (look, just go with it) to wake the monster up.  And so he does.  Unfortunately, the hypnotist programs the monster to obey his commands, which include robbing churches and "punishing" people who p**s him off.  Now, just how do you think a seven-foot, superhumanly strong monster with a badly damaged mind is going to interpret a command to "punish" someone?

Cue the pitchfork bearing mob.  Seriously.

I actually liked this movie.  Oh, it's nowhere near as good as Curse or Revenge but, like I said, I don't think it's supposed to be a sequel to them so that's not as big a problem as it might seem.  The plot is a mess but, hey, it gave me what I was expecting, which could be a plus or a minus depending on how you look at it.  Peter Cushing turns in another great job as yet another reinterpretation of Frankenstein.  The rest of the acting is solid and professional.  Kiwi Kingston, as the monster, handles the physical part of the role just fine.  However, he cannot emote like Christopher Lee.  Then again, I don't think even Lee could have acted through the crappy makeup they plopped down on poor Mr. Kingston's head.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Now this should have been called "The Evil of Frankenstein".  He really is evil this time around, and how!  The movie begins with him decapitating someone.  Holy crap!  Once again, his secret lab is discovered and he has to make a run and start over somewhere else.  That somewhere else is a boarding house run by a young woman named Anna and her fiancee, a psychiatrist named Karl.  (What is it with the names "Hans" and "Karl" in these movies?)  The young couple is doomed as soon as they meet Frankenstein.  Before it's over, he will have blackmailed them into ruin, goaded Karl into committing kidnapping and murder, and raped Anna.

Yes, raped.  Quite a graphic rape scene, too.  What really drives it home is the expression of utter disgust on Frankenstein's face while he's doing it.  If he isn't enjoying it, why is he doing it?  Just to have something else to hold over Anna?  Bastard.

Frankenstein's plan this time around is to spring an old colleague of his, Dr. Brandt, out of the madhouse so they can begin working together again.  Unfortunately, Brandt has a heart attack.  No problem!  Frankenstein can just transplant his brain into a new body with a perfectly good heart.  When Brandt wakes up, however, he isn't all that happy.  You see, he still had a wife and a normal life awaiting him at home.  That's all gone now, and is he ever angry about it.  How angry?  Angry enough to set his home on fire and carry Frankenstein inside so that they'll both burn alive.

In the previous movies, you were always on Frankenstein's side, consciously or not.  Not here.  There was a point during the climax where it seemed like Frankenstein was going to get away.  I did not want him to.  I wanted him dead.  He ruins the lives of everyone he gets near in this movie.  He is the most frightening monster of all, here.

I would call this the best of the Hammer Frankenstein movies if not for one thing.  Periodically, a blowhard police inspector shows up to provide comic relief.  When he does, the movie comes crashing down around him.  The "comedy" mostly involves him being an a***ole to grieving widows and utterly, absolutely, positively refusing to believe the man he's seeking could be a doctor.  See, it's funny because there's mounds of evidence to suggest that he's looking for a doctor but he's oblivious to it.  Hilarious!  Fortunately, this character disappears about 3/4 of the way through the movie, never to be seen again.  But for most of the running time, no matter how good the movie was, I couldn't get as involved as I should have because I knew Inspector Blowhard was going to show up in a few minutes and ruin everything.

I think this follows the continuity established by Curse and Revenge.  Frankenstein appears to have a tattoo on his arm that he got in Revenge.  I can't be sure, though, because I seem to have missed a movie in-between Evil and this one, called Frankenstein Created Woman. (Talk about an intriguing title.)  I don't know what happened there, so I can't say for sure where Must Be Destroyed falls in the continuity, if it does at all.

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell

I'm pretty sure this is a direct sequel to The Evil of Frankenstein.  When Frankenstein speaks of his backstory, it seems to fit Evil's version of events.  Also, his hands are badly burn-scarred and useless for delicate surgery.  At the end of Evil, Frankenstein's hands got set on fire when he tried to rescue his creature from the burning laboratory.  Once again, I can't be completely sure of this movie's place in continuity because I haven't seen Frankenstein Created Woman.

Anyway, this movie is pretty slight compared to the others.  A young surgeon, Dr. Simon Helder, is trying to follow in Frankenstein's footsteps and has made good progress toward assembling his own artificial man.  However, the graverobber he employs (played by Patrick Troughton!) is arrested and sells him out.  The magistrate is feeling awfully lenient that day and Helder's sentence is pretty light: five years confinement to an asylum.  You've probably already guessed that Frankenstein has set up shop in said asylum.  Under the name of "Doctor Viktor", he acts as resident physician to the patients.  Helder recognizes him, of course, and Frankenstein finds it useful to have another doctor around.  He gives over the day-to-day duties to Helder so that he can spend more time on his "special work".

Eventually, Helder discovers Frankenstein's secret laboratory, where he also finds David Prowse wearing the sorriest monster costume ever.  It looks like they sewed some pillows together, covered the pillows in shag carpet, and topped it off with an off-the-shelf monster mask.  Cripes!  Was Hammer really that far in the red when this movie was made?  The costume wasn't even necessary.  David Prowse was already a pretty big guy, much bigger than anyone else in the cast.  They could have just glued some hair on his torso and some lumpy bits to his face and it would have worked so much better.  What makes it all so much worse is that, even underneath that godawful mask, you can see that Prowse is doing a decent acting job.  He's not Christopher Lee but he's a good sight better than Kiwi Kingston.  Such a tragedy.

You all know the deal.  The crappy-looking thing in Frankenstein's lab is a deformed man named Schneider, who possesses superhuman strength and durability.  Frankenstein wants to put the brain of a genius in his skull and create a superman blah blah blah.  Fortunately, there just so happens to be a genius on hand and, with Helder's help, Frankenstein performs the transplant.  Once again, the transplantee isn't too happy to wake up in a hideous body.  Worse, the bestial body rejects the new brain, and he ends up just as primitive and violent as the original Schneider ever was.  Rampage time.  Budget-conscious rampage time.

It's obvious that almost everyone working on this movie realized that it was a big step down from the previous ones, Peter Cushing especially.  He channels it into his performance, giving us a Frankenstein who is still driven but who realizes that, even if he succeeds, all he'll have to show for it is a man in a bad gorilla costume.

Most people seem to regard this as the absolute worst of the Hammer Frankenstein movies.  I'm not sure if I agree (and, again, I haven't seen them all).  I think the reason it's remembered so disdainfully is just because of when it came out.  It was released in the United States in 1974.  Aside from a couple of brief bits of gore, Monster From Hell could have been made in the 50s.  Can you imagine how cheesey and old-fashioned Monster from Hell must have seemed to audiences in the same year that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre came out?

A final word ...

Until I saw these movies, I had no idea Peter Cushing could actually act.  I had only seen his movies from the 70s, when he was burnt out after his wife's death and playing the "daffy, old, British man" in cheap, crappy movies.  Seeing him ten to twenty years younger, having fun, and acting in productions that were not embarrassingly cheap or trashy opened my eyes.  I understand now why he is held in such high regard.
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Vik
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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2010, 09:27:16 AM »

I've only seen 'Frankenstein must be destroyed'. I liked it.
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The Burgomaster
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2010, 10:28:28 AM »

I have the whole series on DVD.  Nice write-up  Cheers . . . but where is FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN?
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metalmonster
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2010, 07:42:48 PM »

I've Seen CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN And EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN Great Movies!

Just Recently Someone Got Me REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN And I Still Have To Watch It


...I'm Sure It Will Be Great!
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Hammock Rider
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2010, 08:38:22 AM »

Thanks for the write-up. Now I know in which order to watch them!
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« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2010, 03:44:06 PM »

The Curse of Frankenstein

Much, much better than the 1931 Frankenstein ever hoped of being.  Peter Cushing's performance alone gives Hammer's version enough might to stomp all over the older movie.  Cushing's Viktor Frankenstein is not evil nor is he a madman.  He is amoral and selfish to an almost psychopathic degree.  He is not capable of understanding that people besides himself have thoughts, wants, and needs.  He wants to build a man out of used body parts, so everyone must want to help him, right?  Professor Bernstein won't care that Viktor murdered him for his brain, will he?  No!  In fact, once he wakes up in that brand-new body, he'll be grateful, right?  Of course he will!  It was Justine's fault she got locked in the room with the creature, wasn't it?  Of course it was, she went in the room of her own accord.  Viktor just happened to close the door behind her.

Your painitng of Cushing's Dr. Frankenstein is spot on.  He was always pre-occupied,  dismissing of others' thoughts and feelings, and always assuming that what he did was for the best of his victims and those around him, no matter the consequences.  And his cold, gaunt pallor made him look even more sinister. Cushing was an actor that looked old from the start, but never seemed to age afterwards. He always seemed to look the same no matter how old he got.
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Tam-Riel na nou Sancremath.
Dawn's Beauty is our shining home.

An varlais, nou bala, an kynd, nou latta.
The stars are our power, the sky is our light.

Malatu na nou karan.
Truth is our armor.

Malatu na bala
Truth is power.

Heca, Pellani! Agabaiyane Ehlnadaya!
Be gone, outsiders! I do not fear your mortal gods!

Auri-El na nou ata, ye A, Umaril, an Aran!
Aure-El is our father, and I, Umaril, the king!
Neville
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2010, 09:17:33 AM »

Very nice recaps. I absolutely LOVE the Frankenstein films by Fisher and Cushing. I got to see a couple of them in a special screening in my hometown, and I didn't stop until I watched all of them. Funny thing is, I left out "Evil of Frankenstein", because it was helmed by Freddie Francis and doesn't really belong tol the series, and only watched it a few weeks ago. Fun flick, but not as great as the rest, that's for sure. I think it was meant to be a remake of the original Universal film, but since I haven't seen it I can't tell if it is very similar.

On "Horror of Frankenstein":

- Yes, Frankenstein is sort of a sociopath. But rather than a mental condition the film seems to suggest that is the result of him being an aristocrat, which makes him think of pretty much everybody as an inferior. He seeks, apparently, to help humanity with his work, but at the same time he couldn't care less for individual humans. Many Hammer films had a strong criticism towards elites and aristocrats, and this series is no exception.

Still, we are supposed to be in his side. A recurrent topic in the series is that the rest of the characters is often as despicable as the Baron, if not more. Think of the woman who literally offers his daughter to him at the beginning of the film, for instance, or the maid who tries to blackmail him into marriage. At least he is faithful to his own terms.

- Indeed, Christopher Lee is the best of the different actors who played the "monsters". Read somewhere one of the reasons of his versatility is that he was an expert mime.

On "Revenge of Frankenstein":

You pretty much nailed it. The film is good, but too much of a recap of the first film. The killer ending, however, is nothing short of genius. And Victor becoming, literally, the monster, is a good indicator of the moral compass in the series. It's only the second film in the series and he's already become more monstruous than anything he could create.

On "Frankenstein must be destroyed":

One of my favorite in the series. Loved Cushing as a complete bastard, although again the other characters are not very likeable, except the "monster". As for the rape scene, heard Cushing was against it and it  is indeed questionable. If anything, it makes Victor even less likeable before the final confrontation.

Still, my favourite bits are the beginning (love how Fisher teases the audience with Victor using a rubber mask) and the bitter irony that for obtaining his knowledge Victor is forced to do a positive thing, to cure his rival scientist.

On "Frankenstein must be destroyed".

Ohhh... a film to love or hate. Or love and hate. I agree it looks very old fashioned for the 70s, but the gore levels alone are amusing. And it also has the more decadent, wicked and amoral Victor of all the Frankenstein films. That's saying something. This one I could watch it on the theatre, the collective "Owwww" when Frankenstein drops the useless brain in the basket and then kicks it aside was awesome.

I also agree these films are a must see if you want to understand how great Peter Cushing was. His Victor keeps a remarkable continuity between the films, and allows him to show some amazing range. Watching these films I sometimes wanted to pat his back, and others wanted to enter the screen and strangle him with my bare hands. Other times I couldn't help but laugh at his malignity or wish him success, and in more than one occasion his plans made me shudder.

Don't miss "Frankenstein created woman", it's one of the best in the series and my personal favorite of the bunch. And yes, Victor / Cushing gets to do different things than in the rest of films.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2010, 04:42:16 AM by Neville » Logged

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JaseSF
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2010, 08:03:28 PM »

Interesting analysis but I simply don't agree with you that the Hammer films surpass in any way the 1931 version of Frankenstein and 1935's Bride of Frankenstein aside from Cushing perhaps giving a slightly better performance in the Dr. Frankenstein role. I consider everything else including the portrayal of the monster, the whole overall atmosphere, the supporting players, etc. to be much superior in the classic Universal films. I also liked Revenge best of all the Hammer films and I was slightly disappointed by Curse upon first viewing. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is quite good too but man is Dr. Frankenstein an evil bastich in that one.
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« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2010, 08:45:48 PM »

I love all of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, but it's hard to compare them with the Universal films.  They have 2 very different styles, but both are great.  For me, the answer to the question of which is better really depends on what kind of movie I am in the mood to watch.
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Umaril The Unfeathered
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« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2010, 03:13:38 PM »

I love all of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, but it's hard to compare them with the Universal films.  They have 2 very different styles, but both are great.  For me, the answer to the question of which is better really depends on what kind of movie I am in the mood to watch.

Well, for the contextual universes they were made in, both Universal and Hammer did
very well in portraying different styles of horror.  The Universal Frankenstein risked a lot--30's era audiences were shocked at the idea of a man playing God (and creating life) and conservative attitudes were somewhat that of great shock. To say nothing of James Whale being gay.   And then you had Tod Browning's Freaks.  Moral attitudes were certainly pushed to the limit for the time.

Even 30-some years later in the early 60's, horror films were still altered for American sensitivities...Mario Bava's Mask Of Satan was changed to Black Sunday over the "S" word in the title.   Black Sabbath was altered to make the lesbian lovers in the first film friends instead.

However, the 60's era Hammer films had a looser leash, and things were allowed to be a bit more graphic (but no-less unsettling) and Doc Frankenstein was allowed to be more sinister and diabolic.   Different times, different strengths\weaknesses.  Great thread!
« Last Edit: October 13, 2010, 03:13:11 PM by Umaril The Unfeathered » Logged

Tam-Riel na nou Sancremath.
Dawn's Beauty is our shining home.

An varlais, nou bala, an kynd, nou latta.
The stars are our power, the sky is our light.

Malatu na nou karan.
Truth is our armor.

Malatu na bala
Truth is power.

Heca, Pellani! Agabaiyane Ehlnadaya!
Be gone, outsiders! I do not fear your mortal gods!

Auri-El na nou ata, ye A, Umaril, an Aran!
Aure-El is our father, and I, Umaril, the king!
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