Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Revenge of Frankenstein

1957 had been a huge year for Hammer. The studio's gamble on Curse of Frankenstein had paid off handsomely when Warners picked the film up for distribution and scored an international hit. As 1958 dawned Hammer hit the ground running, the crew at Bray busied themselves with two major productions - an adaptation of Bram Stoker's most famous novel, and the sequel Revenge of Frankenstein. Jimmy Sangster was once again engaged to write the Frankenstein film and immediately faced a problem - in the final scene of Curse of Frankenstein the Baron was heading to the gallows and certain death...

Sentenced to death for his crimes, Baron Frankenstein escapes the guillotine with the help of one of his jailers, Karl a deformed man with a whithered arm. In return the Baron agrees to transplant Karl's brain into a healthy body. The Baron flees Switzerland for Germany where after 3 years of experimentation fulfills his side of the bargain and performs the brain transplant. But after suffering an injury during his recovery, Karl develops a unforeseen side affect - a craving for human flesh... Brilliant as it is, Curse of Frankenstein feels almost like a dress rehearsal for the sequel which emerges as a more confident and stylish picture. Simply put, this is a quintessential Hammer masterwork. The garish color of the original film is more controlled and balanced here, and the film has a stronger visual sensibility thanks to Terence Fisher's inventive direction - one would hardly recognise the atmospheric cavernous sets were being shared with the Dracula production, with much credit due to the genius of Bernard Robinson and his art department.

Once again Peter Cushing takes center stage as the Baron, delivering another triumphant performance mixing impeccably style and manners with cold-blooded malevolence. The monster figures even less here than the original film with Karl's marauding flesh-eater more like a drooling Mr. Hyde type character than a re-animated corpse, but Sangster wrote two of the film's most powerful scenes around Frankenstein's pitiful experiment - when Karl burns his lifeless deformed body in a crematorium, and the scene where Karl literally gatecrashes a society ball and reveals the true identity of "Dr. Stein". The film has little in the way of show stopping gory moments, but Revenge has some disturbing undercurrents, like the cannibalism element (some 15 years before another British production explored the taboo in Frightmare), or the idea of the Baron callously experimenting on the poor and sick at the hospital like a Nazi concentration camp doctor.

A quick shot of one of the Baron's creations, made in his likeness, which explains the twist ending
Columbia's 2002 DVD comes without any significant extras and packaged in a rather dull and uninspired sleeve, but thankfully the anamorphic widescreen transfer framed around 1.66 is quite nice and faithfully reproduces the film's subdued Eastman color. The film itself looks great for its age, and the DVD offers a sharp detailed image. No problems either with the mono audio. What extras there are on the disc amount to a routine photo gallery and the film's trailer in which Peter Cushing brings the audience up to speed on his exploits. (The disc also contains a trailer for Earth vs the Flying Saucers)


  1. Great post, Wes. This one never seems to get a TV screening anymore which is a shame. I'd love Hammer to re-release all the Frankensteins as a box set, alongside with all the Draculas!

  2. Great review! I've been wanting to see both curse and revenge for a while now and they just arrived in the mail a couple of days ago. I Think maybe now is the right time!

  3. Thanks Jon. Y'know that is a really great idea to release the Dracula and Frankenstein series as boxsets, although I imagine it would be impossible - Hammer's back catalogue is such a mess in terms different distributors. I don't even think the final Frankestein film, Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is even in print these days...

    Many thanks Jesper, let us know what you thought of Curse and Revenge !

  4. I saw this somewhere back in the day - but I don't remember it all that well - you've got me chomping at the bit to get to a re-watch!