Thursday, 12 January 2012

Frankenstein Created Woman

In 1967 Terence Fisher made a welcome return to the Frankenstein saga with Frankenstein Created Woman a film that restored the series to good health after the the curious misfire that was The Evil of Frankenstein. But in many respects, this fourth episode is one of the most polarizing films of the series, scaling back the traditional horror elements to something more akin to metaphysical science fiction resulting in an ambitious, if not entirely successful film...


Continuing with his obsessive quest to unravel the mysteries of life, the Baron's work is now focused on the soul, and its transference to another body after death. By a strange turn of events, the Baron has transferred the soul of his recently executed assistant Hans into the body of Hans' lover Christina, a tormented disfigured and deformed young woman who in her grief at Hans' death, has drowned herself. The Baron brings Christina back from the edge of life, reborn with a new identity, and miraculously her beauty restored, but driven by Hans' soul to seek revenge against his (or is it her?) enemies...


If the plot synopsis sounds rather tortuous, Tony Hinds' screenplay is even more so. On one hand, it's an ambitious piece of writing - rather than retreading another monster movie, Frankenstein Created Woman mines for something far more fascinating, exploring big ideas like consciousness, identity, even sexuality. Ultimately though Hinds' screenplay is perhaps too ambitious and the story is often muddled, incoherent, even illogical, like the Baron eradicating Christina's physical ailments with a spot of brain surgery, transforming the twisted and scarred young woman into an beautiful blonde 19th century Playmate. Seeing the film for the first time might leave you a little confused so a second or third screening might be required to tease out the whys and wherefores of the plot. Incidentally writer Brian Clemens imported a few similar ideas into his superior screenplay for 1971's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.


A lesser director might have rendered Frankenstein Created Woman a mess, but in the hands of Terence Fisher the film takes its place among Hammer classics. Eight years into the series, Peter Cushing appears a little weathered looking, but is all the better for the character, his chiseled, angular face a perfect expression for the the Baron's cruelty, treating Christina with all the cold detachment of a laboratory animal. Susan Denberg as Christina is impressive too, and despite her thick Austrian accent dubbed into extinction, her performance remains the emotional core of the film - look out for a wonderful moment where she seduces one of her tormentors and her face shows a momentary flash of pain when he mocks the presumed dead Christina's deformity. One suspects Hammer were grooming Denberg to be the next Bardot, but this film proved to be her last appearance on screen, which would later fuel the rumour that Denberg's wild hedonistic lifestyle had led to her premature death - in fact she's very much alive today.


Optimum's DVD of Frankenstein Created Woman is mostly very good, with a solid 1.66 anamorphic transfer. For the most part colors are strong and detail is decent, although the outdoor shots in the film are little more washed out looking. Worth noting that a few seconds of footage (around the 75min mark), is sourced from a noticeably inferior print. Audio is fine with clear dialogue and little hiss. Like the previous Warners UK DVD, the Optimum edition is devoid of extras, not even the theatrical trailer, unlike the Anchor Bay edition from 2000, which contained trailers, TV spots and another episode of the World of Hammer series focusing on the studio's Frankenstein series.

3 comments:

  1. Brilliant stuff, Wes. It's fascinating to get a sense of how Hammer developed the Frankenstein series over the years, how they carried over familiar elements whilst at the same time having to find new spins on old themes. The Frankenstein films seem richer as a series than the Dracula films, do you think that is the case, Wes?

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  2. Jon, I would totally agree with the Frankenstein series having more breadth than the Dracula series. I think it had better writers and directors. I'm planning on doing the Dracula series as well (although I've skipped Brides of Dracula) which will be fun (the film are not that fresh in my mind) so I can see this Hammer series going on and on - originally it was planned to be a quick and dirty overview of the Hammer box but it took on a life of its own, sometimes to my dismay. I imagine any regular visitors are probably going "Please, no more Hammer for Chrissakes..."

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  3. Frankenstein Created Woman has always been my favorite of the Hammer Frankensteins. It's so unique and original. I was thrilled to see a 35mm print at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama event.

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