The Curse of Frankenstein

Dir: Terence Fisher
Star: Peter Cushing, Robert Urquhart, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee

Things Not To Say To A Mad Scientist, #43: "I know plenty, if I care to tell." And, if you do, probably best not to follow up with, "If you don't marry me, I'll tell!" Yeah. No prizes for guessing the fate of the maid who uses those two lines on Baron Victor Frankenstein (Cushing). An up-close and personal meeting with his creation (Lee), who has already shown homicidal tendencies and was shot by the Baron's assistant Paul Krempe (Urquhart), though Victor simply dug up the monster and re-resurrected him. Paul deeply disapproves of Victor's efforts to create artificial life, and only hangs around because he wants to protect Elizabeth (Court), the Baron's fiancée and cousin. She is blissfully ignorant - to the point of idiocy, it seems to me - regarding exactly what her husband-to-be is doing, during all those hours spent in his "stuffy laboratory". Mind you, she's also ignorant of his dalliances with the maid, so let's be honest, perception is not Elizabeth's strong suit. Eventually though, her curiosity gets the better of her, after the lab door has been left unlocked after an argument between the Baron and Paul.

The monster - who was nearly played by Carry On's Bernard Bresslaw, if you can believe it - is a sideline here. This is about the ethical struggle between Victor, dedicated to the exclusion of all else, and his "conscience", in the form of Krempe. The former believes that scientific exploration should know no bounds, while the later takes the view that there are some things with which mankind should not meddle. It's an malleable ethical line Paul draws; seems ok to re-animated things which were dead, but he refuses to help with Victor's plans to create life. That said, the final scene, where Paul has a chance to help his mentor out of a nasty, guillotine-shaped situation, results in an interesting moral choice by him. Both leads are very solid in their performances, and one can only imagine the impact on a late 1950's cinema crowd. You can, however, see why many regard this as the definitive version of the Shelley classic, moving the focus squarely back from the monster to its creator and emphasising the Gothic elements.

[November 2010]

Curses! Foiled again!
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