The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) is the first of the Hammer series of Frankenstein films that focus on an evil Doctor Frankenstein as the villain.
Baron Victor Frankenstein is orphaned young and strikes up a good relationship with his tutor, Dr. Paul Krempe. They advance so far that they can bring the recently dead back to life. However, Victor wants to go further and Paul disagrees. Victor still plans to go ahead regardless. To complicate things, Victor's blushing bride has arrived and she has no idea what Victor is planning.
Not a lot here to love. I can see why it was reviled upon its release. Almost nothing of the book remains aside from casual references. Ingolstadt, the place where the Monster is created in the novel, is where he gets the Monster's hands. The blind man has a weird cameo that doesn't do much aside from establish the Creature as a threat. Instead of being an abnormal brain, like the Universal series, a damaged brain causes the Creature's insanity. The damage is somewhat part of the plot this time though.
Dr. Paul Krempe is Victor's tutor and friend. He is our moral main character and was entirely created for this film. He tries valiantly to save Elizabeth while maintaining his friendship with the increasingly insane Victor. He manages to deliver a solid performance and gets some great banter with Victor and touching moments with Elizabeth.
Relatively Innocent Observers
Elizabeth is back to being both Victor's cousin and love interest in this. The change seems just to up the shocking factor by adding some mild incest. She provides the most emotional attachment of anyone from this movie. The other three have various faults and somewhat deserve what they get, but Elizabeth believes everything will turn out right in the end.
Justine is the horny house maid. Another strange reference. In the novel, Justine is a platonic acquaintance who is accused of killing Victor's brother. In this film she is having an affair with Victor and hopes to marry him. She is probably the weakest actor in this, but she gives us our first look at Victor's amorality.
The Creature is insane and mindless in this film. Nothing of the eloquent beast from the novel remains, a tragedy as Christopher Lee. The makeup is horrific, but the Creature has such little agency that I didn't find very threatening at all.
Baron Victor Frankenstein is truly evil in this film. He's not sympathetic nor was he meant to be. It is fantastic to see Peter Cushing play this roll though. Victor carries this movie and it is fascinating to see him sink deeper and deeper into sociopathic madness. Without this performance this movie would have been flat out bad. I also love the idea of Victor setting out to create a perfect being and believing in his goal. Also, unlike the novel, he is completely without remorse and has no problem blaming the creature for his crimes. Personally I enjoy this version a lot more than either of the others, but he also lacks dimension. Flat, but fun.
The initial prison isn't so bad, nor is the forest. However, some portions of the mansion, where we spend the most time, look very low budget. The technicolor blood is hilarious.
In the End
The end is fitting and rather chilling. I enjoy how Paul turns Victor's machinations against him.
Peter Cushing's performance sells this movie. If you want a violent and twisted take on Frankenstein, this is it. It doesn't go much deeper than insanity and violence though.