After Univarn published his review of The Curse of Frankenstein, I felt it time to finally sit down and write my own thoughts on this Hammer film that's regarded by so many as one of the production company's classic horror films. Usually when I hear the word "classic", in the back of my mind I'm thinking if it's regarded as such a great film, then I probably won't like it. I don't know if it's my unwillingness to conform to popular opinon, or if I just find some of the lesser loved films more entertaining. Even in the world of Hammer I've found myself enjoying films most Hammer enthusiasts consider awful and find myself not caring too much about the ones they sing the praises of!
The Curse of Frankenstein is Hammer's take on the classic Frankenstein mythology only this time focusing more on the character and madness of the man than the destructive nature of the monster. Peter Cushing is Baron Victor Frankenstein, a child of a wealthy family, now orphaned as a young boy. It is his tutor Paul who was there at his side to mentor and befriend young Frankenstein. As Victor grew into a man so did his love for science, it's his and Paul's success in bringing a small dog back to life that fuels Victor's obsession for taking their discovery to the next level. If they could bring a dead creature back to life, then what would prevent them from creating life!?! It then became to goal to create a perfect man in strength, mind and skill, but Victor's obsession had no interest to Paul who was thoroughly against creating a being with which they would certainly have no control over. Victor demises his old friend's warnings and continues anyway, only to breath life into Paul's warnings of certain destruction.
The Curse of Frankenstein is Hammer's first true horror film. After Hammer's The Quatermass Xperiment began breaking box office records Hammer discovered moviegoers loved the film's horrific content. So the production company decided to give the people what they wanted and set out giving a classic horror picture a Hammer flare. On top of being one of Hammer's first horror films it was the start of a long partnership with the film company and actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Lee gave the character of the monster the different look and feel they were looking for, since the Karloff look and been copyrighted. The signing of Peter Cushing was quite a big deal for Hammer who at the time was Britain's top television star and was on the path to a respectable film career.
For its time The Curse of Frankenstein was considered a huge success with viewers and Hammer alike, it was completed in six weeks, costing only $270,000 to make and brought in 8 million dollars in revenue. The viewers liked Hammers more Gothic and gruesome style of films, and Hammer was interested in giving the people what they wanted, thus began the birth of Hammer horror. For me this was sort of a let down, after reading some of the praise about this film I was expecting something a little more griping, instead I felt it was one of Hammers more mediocre attempts. Still quite watchable and fairly entertaining, I didn't find anything truly worthy of the praise it receives.
Now I can understand why this film was such a big hit in the 50's, it was considered very chilling and "horrific" in it's time, although with the type of horror films today this film would really be considered quite tame. Personally I think The Curse of Frankenstein receives so much love today is because of three reasons. One, it's essentially the birth of the era of Hammer horror, prior to this the film company mainly focused on Noir and crime thrillers. Two, the film was a huge success both in Britain and America when it was released, and three this is the film that brought Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into the Hammer franchise. For those reasons I can slightly understand the love many have for this film, it's not a bad film, but it's also not very interesting either. Personally I've never been a big Frankenstein fan, and while Hammer thought focusing more on the character of Frankenstein rather than the monster was a good move I actaully think it might have hindered the film being more of a true horror film.