Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) - Terence Fisher

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Director: Terence Fisher
Writers: Jimmy Sangster (Screenplay), Mary Shelley (Novel)
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Valerie Gaunt

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) is my first foray into the Hammer series or horror films. I think I have seen bits and pieces of some of the Hammer Horror Dracula films but I've never taken the time to sit and watch a whole film. I've heard some good things and some bad things about them but I had never really taken the time to find out for myself.

The Curse of Frankenstein did not really impress me that much though. I felt there were a lot of parts that should have been cut out all together and there were some other parts that should have been fleshed out a lot more. I wouldn't call the movie bad but I wouldn't go as far as to call it good either. It is one of those movies that balances perfectly in the realm of the average.

It felt like the film was trying to build the kind of slow tension that Mary Shelley created in her novel but was unable to achieve it. Far too much time was spent on Victor Frankenstein working to create his monster. The film tries very hard to show how obsessed Victor is with creating life but in the end it just spends to much time on aspect of the story.

I think that a good twenty minutes could have been cut from first act of the movie. The story does start to pick up once the monster is created but this is when the film should have taken more time to flesh things out in the story. After the monster is created the story just breezes along with Victor trying to capture the monster so he can experiment on him.

The problem is that the character of the monster is never really fully realized. In this version of the story he is just a mindless monster that does nothing but kill. The film does not take any time for the audience to connect with the monster and feel for him. The monster in this film is more of a prop to show off Victor's insanity than he is an actual character.

Without any way to feel sympathy for the monster and with a Dr. Frankenstein that is too insane to identify with it becomes very hard to connect with the movie on any emotional level. I know this version of the film is supposed to be a straight horror film but what makes the story of Frankenstein so great is the emotional impact, without it there is nothing.

Christopher Lee does a pretty decent job as the monster considering how little he had to work with. The monster also has a somewhat different and unique look in this film, I'm not sure if I mean that in a good way or not though. At first glance the monster make up is very effective and gives off an extremely creepy vibe. However, the more you look at the monster the more the make up starts to look like a cheaply made mask.

The rest of the acting in the film was passable but not perfect. Even though I wasn't a fan of this telling of the story I won't deny that it is an interesting approach to the legend. The cinematography was very interesting and the use of color in the film gave it a very eery feel. The use of a lot of muted colors and earth tones gave the movie a very fantasy like, other worldly feel.

Overall the film was an interesting take on the Frankenstein legend and very different than Frankenstein (1931) but in the end just fell flat. The movie wasn't bad but it wasn't a very good telling of the Frankenstein legend either. It was missing a lot of things that make the story one of my favorites. It is a watchable film but in the end it just doesn't rank very high with me.

Rating: 5/10

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