Plot: What’s it about?
As a young man who lost all of his own family, young Baron Victor Frankenstein found solace with a teacher of his, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart). As time passed and the two became closer, the relationship evolved from student & teacher to colleagues, both in the field of research on life itself. The main focus turn toward reanimation, which interests Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) to no end, but soon causes some conflict for Krempe. When a deceased canine is revived by their techniques, Krempe sees the dangerous potential of their work and leaves the project, which causes Frankenstein to become even more involved in his work. While Krempe does cease to work on the experiments, he remains closeby to protect Frankenstein’s new bride Elizabeth (Hazel Court), whom he believes could be in serious danger. Meanwhile, Frankenstein is putting together a creation from various body parts, which when completed, he feels will produce a superior being, one who is loyal to only him, of course. But will his monstrous plans unfold as he has expected, or will he find himself to be the target of his monster’s wrath?
It took a long while, but it seems as though Warner has decided to open up its Hammer vault, as we’ve now seen a few of their releases on shelves. This one is one of Warner’s crown jewels as far as their Hammer titles, as it offers a memorable, highly effective take on Mary Shelley’s immortal horror classic. Unlike Universal’s rendition, Hammer chose to focus more on the madness instead of the monster itself, so Dr. Frankenstein, not his creation, is the primary element here. And of course, with horror master Peter Cushing in those shoes, it works to sheer perfection and his performance stands as a very impressive one. As good as Cushing’s effort is however, any Frankenstein movie needs a monster and this one is no exception, so the well crafted and visually fierce creature livens up the experience quite a bit. The makeup work is top notch for this time period, as is the amount and quality of blood & gore work, which amps up the horror more than a few notches, without question. If you’re a fan of classic horror, Hammer’s brand of chills, or just a genre buff, The Curse of Frankenstein is more than recommended.
As one of Hammer Studios’ main attractions, Peter Cushing sent chills down spines in numerous movies, including this one. And this one holds a special place in Cushing’s Hammer legacy, since it was not only the first of several excellent turns as Dr. Frankenstein, but also his debut picture for the studio. Of course, Cushing would go on to star in countless movies for Hammer and become a horror icon in the process, but this is where it all started. That would be enough reason for a recommendation, but Cushing delivers a stunning performance and drives home the madness, making it an easy choice for horror lovers to check out. He is able to bring an eerie, powerful presence to the screen, which he would become known for over time, but I can only imagine how audiences at the time reacted to his persona. Other films with Cushing include The Hound of the Baskervilles, Twins of Evil, The Brides of Dracula, The Flesh and The Fiends, and The Vampire Lovers. The cast also includes Hazel Court (Dr. Blood’s Coffin, The Masque of the Red Death), Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula, The Devil Rides Out), Valerie Gaunt (Horror of Dracula), and Robert Urquhart (The Looking Glass War, A Tale of Two Cities).
Video: How does it look?
The Curse of Frankenstein is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a welcome improvement over previous video editions, which often looked overly soft, worn, and most importantly, sported dull colors. In this new version, the hues have been restored to full impact, which means bold & bright colors in all scenes. The print is also quite clean and provides a sharp overall image, which should delight fans to no end. I found contrast to be solid also, with well balanced black levels and detail remains strong as well. I commend Warner for this treatment, as it finally gives the home video audience a respectable edition to experience.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono option is better than expected, but retains some of the expected flaws of an older mono soundtrack. There is no hiss to report, but a few small instances of muffled audio can be heard, though nothing too serious. And for a movie of this vintage, I was more than satisfied with the conditions of the materials, to be sure. No problems in terms of dialogue either, as vocals come through in fine fashion, while the excellent musical score is clean, never held back much by the limits of the soundtrack. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some production notes, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.