The Curse of Frankenstein - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Curse of Frankenstein Reviews

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October 30, 2014
Surely one of the best of all of the Hammer movies this is a loose re-telling of the classic Mary Shelley tale. The interesting thing here is seeing Peter Cushing playing Baron Frankenstein as cunning and evilly manipulative of those around him. This is a departure from the norm for this wonderful actor, so often cast as the good guy, and he is both chilling and effective in the role. Seeing him as heartless and downright nasty is a bit of a surprise and creates an interest by creating a sense of unease. We also have Christopher Lee, swathed in latex, as a particularly horrific version of the monster. Lee never says a word in this film but manages to command the screen by virtue of the extraordinary make-up and the power of his performance. This must have scared the willies off the 1950s audience who were perhaps expecting a colour version of the old Boris Karloff movies. Instead, what we get here is an almost proto-gore movie that wouldn't seem out of place to modern cinemagoers. Thankfully, being the product of a more innocent age, much of the gore is suggested and takes place off screen, being merely hinted at and left to the vivid imaginings of the watcher. Nevertheless, there are a few places where this movie really shocks, most notably when the monster gets shot in the eye. What we get with this movie is a kind of hybrid between the comfy Hammer style with the Germanic setting, brightly coloured staging and social class steryotypes and a darker, subtle, genuinely shocking story. For me, it still works remarkably well both as a nostalgia trip and also a suitable chiller for a Halloween week.
October 29, 2014
Peter Cushing is exceptional in this film, i think its one of the best roles I've seen him in, he's a sadistic mad driven scientist who is driven to create life. Christopher Lee as the Monster does well though the make up looks life a put on mask and the illusion can be shattered, but all in all its great and another little gem from Hammer.
½ October 28, 2014
Even though I didn't like this movie as much as Dracula (which, ironically enough, was released a year after this film), I can certainly tell that this film holds up really well today, and that it set a precedent for a plethora of gothic horror films like it. The story is pretty well structured, even though there are a few moments where it seems like not much is happening if at all. What I like is that, at the end of the film, it is left uncertain as to whether Victor's story is true, but it seems pretty pointless because you know it happened in the film's story. All that aside, the performances are really good, with the film sporting an ideal lead actor. The visuals have held up surprisingly well for a film as old as this, and it certainly has that classic Hammer style that makes the films so famous in the first place. Though I do question the design choice for the film's monster, it's at least a good portrayal, and it's fun to watch him too.
½ October 15, 2014
While the many changes to the source material shrink the thematic scope of the original narrative (which, in "Frankenstein," are virtually infinite), the almost wholly-original narrative of "Curse" certainly kept me guessing from start to finish.

The focus here is on a dark, slow-boiling character study of the titular Frankenstein, deftly played by the ever-magnetic Cushing. Christopher Lee makes a strong impression in his limited screen time as The Creature. The core relationship here is not actually Frankenstein and his creation, but rather with the Doctor and his longtime friend/confidant/teacher Paul. Robert Urquhart's performance as Krempe tends to run through the same emotional beats a few too many times, and the often stilted and bland nature of his performance can be chalked up to the fact that Urquhart was disgusted by the film, bad-mouthing it after release.

Still, "The Curse of Frankenstein" is a game-changing horror film that revitalized the genre for the next few decades with some shocking and memorable moments as well as typically excellent directorial craft (clever as ever, working under ever-tight budget constraints) from Terrence Fisher.
October 8, 2014
The breakthrough for Hammer horror, though hardly the best of what was to come. The adaptation takes liberties, which isn't a problem, but many of those liberties slow down the story, lower the stakes, and muddy what was interesting about Frankenstein in the first place, which is. Still, Cushing is tremendous in the role, and Terence Fisher's production has the kind of offhanded artfulness that would become a trademark of all his work with the studio. Though it's not particularly scary, "Curse" is pretty shocking and unsettling to this day, and one can only imagine the effect it must have had on British audiences in 1957. Not a great film, but a fairly interesting one, and an incredibly important one.
September 9, 2014
Peter Cushing stars as the Baron in a more faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel than the more famous 1931 Boris Karloff version. It focuses less on the monster and more on its creator and the monster being evil right from the start gets rid of the morality questions of the original. it also required Hammer to devise a new look for the monster since Universal Studios refused to let them copy the original look. Terrence Fisher was the director and was the first of many classics in the horror genre by Hammer Studios.

Peter Cushing does a great job portraying the obsessed Baron who is more interested in his creation than in the public's safety. Robert Urquhart was equally good as his foil. Elizabeth by Hazel Court was underwhelming and served mainly as eye candy; one of the first Hammer Girls. Christopher Lee though he has no speaking role an unusual staggering walk that makes the monster menacing, with a hint of anguish and sorrow thrown in, but regrettably we see very little of him in the film.

The fact that the film is in color adds somewhat to the gore of the film but it takes deters from the sense of horror and terror by the original black and white. The monster being evil right from the get-go gets rid of the murky morality questions that the 1931 version had, as this film is a straight up "monster is bad and must be stopped at all costs" flick. Notable was the scene where the monster's face was revealed the first time, as the camera zoomed in on Christopher Lee.

While not the best version of Frankenstein ever, Hammer Horror gives it a fresh take and a new look here that is carried by a strong lead performance. While the scripts were, on occasion, a tad weak, they compensated with strong production values and quality talent on both sides of the camera.
June 22, 2014
Peter Cushing plays the most fun and diabolical version of the character I have ever enjoyed watching, and Christopher Lee is a very imposing, creepy presence as the creature.
April 24, 2014
Has more to offer than Universal's Frankenstein, more interesting and fun story, characters and performances. A very enjoyable horror classic.
April 24, 2014
Has more to offer than Universal's Frankenstein, more interesting and fun story, characters and performances. A very enjoyable horror classic.
½ March 12, 2014
(43%)
As typical as a 50's Frankenstein flick can get, only with more gore. The script is as dry as as James Bond's Martini, and it takes a good hour before Christopher Lee (doing a great job) shows up as the monster. It is worthy of a look, but it lacks a spark of energy, and is really just an average offering from Hammer at the hight of their power (late 50's, early 60's).
½ February 19, 2014
Casual movie-goers are no doubt familiar with the Universal monster movies--"Dracula," "Frankenstein," etc. They're probably also aware of 1992's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and 1994's "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." But I feel like numerous people overlook the British film studio Hammer, which was creating their own adaptations from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Although it's debatable which set of movies are superior, the Hammer films are certainly noteworthy for their Gothic scenery, use of updated effects and color. The first of these films that was released was "The Curse of Frankenstein."

The basic plot is relatively similar to the 1931 "Frankenstein" film. Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) wants to create human life from a bunch of different deceased body parts. But this is an entirely different Dr. Frankenstein. For one thing, his name is actually Victor, which matched the novel. And rather than being a sympathetic scientist who is regretful for his experiments gone wrong, he is a ruthless, driven, evil genius who cares about nothing but his work. Peter Cushing plays the doctor; most movie-goers know him as Grand Moff Tarkin in "Star Wars" as well as Sherlock Holmes. But he embodies the role of Dr. Frankenstein so well in his mannerisms and conviction of his voice that he's the one I think of when I think of Dr. Frankenstein; Colin Clive is a close second.

The film actually occurs in flashback. Frankenstein is in prison awaiting execution for murder, where he tells his life's story to a priest. At a young age, he lost both his parents and inherited the family estate, where he's then mentored by Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart); as Victor grows up, they collaborate on various scientific experiments, which culminates when they bring a deceased dog back to life. That raises a curious point; Colin Clive never actually tested his experiments on something that was actually dead, like animals. He just went straight for his own creation. Is that smart? But anyway, both Victor and Paul are thrilled, but Victor now wants to create a human being from scratch, which makes Paul very uneasy.

Okay, so the story about creating a monster is the same, but it's the aspects around the main story that make this film so different from its predecessors. Frankenstein's assistant isn't just some henchman that blindly obeys him or is hunchbacked; it's a mature, three-dimensional character that's known him for years and has his share of disagreements with him. He still has a fiancée named Elizabeth (who is actually his cousin...ew?), but he also has an ongoing affair with the maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt), whom he has killed when she threatens to sell him out to authorities. And he exhumes body parts from graves, but rather than just taking a brain from a lab, he actually invites an aging professor to his house and kills him so he can steal it. So forget the idea of Dr. Frankenstein being sympathetic, because he's just a cruel bastard in this film, and Cushing plays him very well.

I really enjoy Victor's scenes with Paul. We see that Paul wants to help him initially because he knows the breakthroughs they are achieving, but backs off when he sees to what lengths Victor will go for his work. He stops helping him, but refuses to leave the house because Elizabeth (Hazel Court) is there as well, and he's concerned of what could happen to her, which makes it very much a battle of wills. I only wish Elizabeth had a more distinguished character; she almost has nothing to do with the story.

The Monster is played by Christopher Lee; again, modern movie-goers know him as Count Dooku in "Star Wars" or as Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings." He's not quite as memorable in this role as Boris Karloff was; let's face it, was it possible for anyone to do so? But he works well with several different facial expressions, although again, we don't really feel much sympathy for him. But I guess it doesn't matter; the Hammer films aren't really about the Monster, they're about the mad doctor. One thing I admire about their horror films is how mature and sophisticated the characters are. We're not just rustling through silly bilge; I feel like everything they say has a degree of weight to it.

Now with that said, this movie isn't always very engaging. Some of what happens just feels unnecessary; like I alluded to, the whole subplot with Elizabeth feels really underdeveloped. There's also a scene where the Monster escapes and meets an old blind man by the woods, which sounds inspired by the scene in "Bride of Frankenstein." But this man just freaks out completely when he hears someone approaching him; why would he just instantly assume that this random person standing near him wants to hurt him and start pointing his cane at him? Well, maybe this sort of thing has happened to him before. The ending is a mixed bag for me. While I do enjoy the final confrontation between Victor and his creation, the last scene where we're back in the jail cell feels off. Some of what's being said just doesn't feel very in-character to me. But it's just a minor tidbit.

Like I said, the Hammer films haven't exactly reached "classic" status, mostly because the Universal films are so famous. But these movies deserve some recognition; Peter Cushing would play Dr. Frankenstein five more times following this movie, and cemented his status as an English horror icon. Anyway, this is probably one of the best ways you can remake a film: by staying true to the source material while also giving it its own identity. It's top-notch and well worth a watch.
January 31, 2014
We're not hurting anyone, just robbing graves.

Victor Frankenstein is an ambitious scientist that is doing everything possible to create human life and prove to everyone he is a genius. His best friend, Paul Krempe, reluctantly helps but quickly sees the error of Dr. Frankenstein's ways. Krempe will try to protect Frankenstein and his lover, Elizabeth, from the experiments.

"And build what?"
"The most complex thing known to man...man himself."

Terence Fisher, director of Horror of Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, The Hound of Baskervilles, Island of Terror, The Earth Dies Screaming, and The Mummy (1959), delivers The Curse of Frankenstein. The storyline for this picture is classic Frankenstein mixed with some dynamic side characters and remarkably good acting. The cast delivers very solid performances and includes Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, and Valerie Gaunt.

"The birds didn't waste much time, did they? The eyes. The head is mostly eaten away."
"Remove the head. I don't have much use for it anyway."

I DVR'd this picture this past Halloween season as I try to grab all of the Cushing and Lee pictures that are brought out of various vaults around the dark holiday season. This picture is one of their better films and is definitely a must see for the fans of classic horror pictures!

"Stop what you're doing before it is too late!"

Grade: B
January 23, 2014
This is the first in the now expansive, legendary horror output Hammer Studios unleashed in the 50s, 60s and 70s. It lays down the framework that the studio would continue to expand upon in years to come; specifically, it presents its story of terror via detailed color compositions and psychologically complex characters and monsters. Unlike the black and white James Whale classics that Hammer was trying to revamp (which, despite this film's many pleasures, are still much better), these films are less expressionistic and tell more of their stories literally, with sequences of quite chatty dialogue. This may sound like a bore to some, but it's an absolute delight to hear endlessly-talented British actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee engage each other in moral debates and intelligent arguments, especially when they are laced with the sense of doom that the titular monsters bring to the shaping of the story. I can't help but compare THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN to its follow-up the next year, the similar gothic retell THE HORROR OF DRACULA. The latter is a much better picture, with surer footing and more balanced measurements of talk and shock. Still, there is much fun and terror to be had here, especially with Cushing in the lead role as Victor Frankenstein. I would consider myself a great fan of his work, and this is among his most nuanced performances, even better than Colin Clive's phenomenal turn in the original Universal Classic. It is a darker and even more morally provocative performance, and Cushing was born for the part. And even if the monster's makeup can't match that of the 1931 chiller, Christopher Lee does great with the role of the man-made man, though any effort to outdo Karloff was and is, of course, futile.
January 6, 2014
Along with Dracula and The Mummy ,The Curse of Frankenstein was the film which gave Hammer films its breakthrough in the horror market and made it a genre classic at the same time.

Having not been able to adapt the orginal book Director Terence Fisher takes Mary Shellys classic story and gives it a grand guignol spin which adds to your enjoyment of the film no end .
Peter Cushing plays the Baron Victor Frankenstein with a mixture of Arogance and sympathy which proves that despite acting in all thses so called genre pictures Cushing was one of the best actors in British Cinema.
Christopher Lee is also on top from here as the creature and though he hardly says a word his performance as the murderous pathetic creature is straight out of the top drawer.
The other great thing thing here is Terence Fishers assured directon ,his use of lurid Technicolour and plenty of Kensington gore gives the film a high sheen of Quality which many critics of the time missed becuase they didnt like horror films .
So while some of the sequels may me a touch ropey this is possibly one of the best versions of the Frankenstein story
December 29, 2013
An excellent adaptation of the Frankenstein story with Cushing once more shining like a beacon. Another Hammer Horror classic
½ November 1, 2013
Frankenstein, the classic 1931 film from Universal Studios, has left a lasting impact in the horror genre, featuring an unforgettable performance from Boris Karloff as The Monster. In the world of Britain, in the 1950's, a studio named Hammer was in development, and the film that began the studio's legendary success is The Curse of Frankenstein, a remake of the American classic. While it is by no means an essential classic, and it definitely does not outdo either the 1931 Frankenstein or my all-time favorite horror classic Bride of Frankenstein, there's things to enjoy here in Hammer's breakthrough picture.

Told in flashback, The Curse of Frankenstein tells the story of the arrogant scientist Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who has the idea of recreating life. Using portions of dead bodies, Victor manages to create a human being, but his creation (Christopher Lee) ends up as a villainous monster with a villainous mind.

The film also stars Hazel Court as Victor's fiancée Elizabeth, Robert Urquhart as Paul, Victor's tutor and inspiration for the monster creation, Melvin Hayes as a young Victor, and Valerie Grant as Victor's maid Justine.

Let me make one thing clear; I did not enjoy this as much as the American 1931 classic. While there are moments of suspense and terror, the atmosphere of Victor's home and the locations of the place in general were not convincing, due to the poor set designs. The color cinematography was lacking a spark as well, and I truly believed that filming it in black-and-white would have been much more suspenseful. But then again, Hammer's Horror of Dracula had sets and was made in color, and that film was 100% suspenseful, but it was made after this and Hammer improved in the suspense department by then.

As for the differences between the two films (this and the 1931 American version), some were brilliant, some were lacking and filled with inner stupidity. Strong ideas presented here include the idea of telling it in flashback, Victor gaining his brain by killing off a professor inside his own house, and allowing one of his victims to get killed off by the monster. Things I was not to fond of include the monster becoming murderous due to the damage of the smart brain (by a fight between Victor and the tutor), the disappointing ending leaving the idea of a certain character leading to the guillotine, and a very dumb and uninspiring love triangle between Victor, Elizabeth, and Justine the maid. Hazel Court and Valerie Grant were both poor in the roles, and I think they needed to get more experienced acting lessons before doing roles as this.

But the good news is, Christopher Lee was a good monster, though he was nowhere as sinister and menacing as Boris Karloff. I had a feeling beforehand that Lee was not going to outdo Karloff, and even though Lee did not express the evil intentions of his schemes as Karloff, or like his excellent role as Count Dracula, Christopher Lee still convinced me with his makeup and was an entertaining monster. Robert Urquhart has a strong acting role as Paul, Victor's tutor. But the best acting role here is, surprisingly, Peter Cushing as Victor. Despite the poor ideas the producers made in his character, particularly the love triangle part, Cushing managed to be emotionally strong and brilliant in the role of the mad scientist.

As for the score, it's OK. It's forgettable once the film is over, but the score managed to get the job done, with some decently creepy cues.

Christopher Lee is no Boris Karloff, and some of Hammer's takes on the story is not fully convincing, but The Curse of Frankenstein is a decent Hammer film, with a very strong performance from Peter Cushing as Victor, and without this film, Hammer probably wouldn't have survived the business nor have made their brilliant remake Horror of Dracula.
November 1, 2013
I had never seen this version before.
cosmo313
Super Reviewer
½ October 15, 2013
This was the breakthrough film for now legendary British film studio Hammer. This was their first color film, and the first of their films that rebooted classic Universal horror franchises, starting with this slick retelling of Frankenstein.

Set up as a flashback driven frame story we follow Baron Victor Frankenstein, an overly ambitious and truly mad scientist who takes it upon himself to play god. His experiments with bringing the dead back to life spiral out of control when his first reanimated human goes on a rampage.

Hammer was practically forced (by threat of lawsuit) to make this as different as they could from Universal's Frankenstein. So they did it by shooting it in color, giving it some supremely awesome gothic touches, having a different looking creature, and favoring some more gruesome aesthetics, even though by today's standards they're pretty tame. Peter Cushing's portrayal of Frankenstein is also a lot more callous, cold-blooded, and evil...and it's a strong, memorable turn as well. Christopher Lee isn't quite as iconic as Karloff as the Creature, but, along with CUshing, this film nevertheless cemented them as Hammer's go-to actors for their various horror films.

Director Terence Fisher does a really good job here, and I love the stylish gothic touches that he uses to enhance the mood and atmosphere. This film is admittedly a bit on the slower side, and is sometimes uneventful, but the build ups do lead to some nice payoffs, so it's not that big of a deal.

Overall this is a fun and creative reboot, and it kicked off it's own lengthy series, so, if you want to see how the Brits brought their own unique touch to a classic, then give this a watch.
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2013
Karloff may have delivered the seminal performance as Frankenstein's monster, but the Hammer horror films were always delectable revisionist versions of the Universal classics. Rather than a titular character with an obsessive tenacity for his experimentation, Cushing portrays Frankenstein as a deranged scientist who is so amoral he is willing to murder oblivious victims to gratify his perverse God complex . After a strong buildup where it is incontrovertible that Frankenstein won't heed his mentor Paul's advice about a "revolt of nature", the reveal of Lee as the malformed monster is extraordinarily spine-tingling. The explanation behind the grisly, cobbled amalgamation of the monster is pretty ingenious with the main framework being a hung man whose face has been savaged by crows (and therefore Frankenstein discards of the heinous visage). The gothic atmosphere looms over the film like an ominous cloud and with the advent of film colorization, the disjointed limbs and body accessories are truly galvanizing to behold in their visceral glory. 'The Curse of Frankenstein' is an intelligent, rococo and grandiloquent rendition of the Mary Shelley novel and it expertly psychoanalyzes the ceaseless inquisitiveness of scientists ("The problems with us scientists is we quickly tire of our discoveries.").
October 2, 2013
Hammer's Big Breakthrough Film Is An Extremely Well Made Piece Of Cinema. Told Through A Flashback The Film Has A Creepy Gothic Atmosphere, A Creature Which Doesn't Look Like The Stereotypical Monster (Which Was Made Famous By Boris Karloff) & Also Features An Early Team-Up Of Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee. A Great Piece of British Cinema.
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