Frankenstein (1957)

Tag line : No one who saw it, lived to describe it!

Frankenstein (1957)This adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic novel from the now legendary Hammer films starts off in a squalid prison cell, where Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is awaiting execution for a crime he says he did not commit. Recounting his tale to the local priest, the film then goes into a series of flashbacks, as we see how the young Baron Frankenstein (played by a very young Melvyn Hayes) developed his interest in biology from his science tutor Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart).

As Victor gets older, the two become friends and through their experiments, discover a means of bringing dead animals back to life. Victor becomes convinced that they could actually create new life from dead body parts, so they take the body of an executed criminal and get additional parts by bribing the local morticians. But the more they go on, the less Paul becomes convinced they are doing the right thing. But Victor just seems to be more and more determined to finish the experiment.

With Victor clearly showing signs of megalomania and psychopathic tendencies, particularly when a distinguished professor has an unfortunate "accident" in Victors house, and Paul finds him plundering the tomb afterwards, so he can get his hands on the brain, Paul decides he's had enough and tries to convince Victor's new love interest Elizabeth (Hazel Court) to leave with him.

But when Victor's new creation (played by Christopher Lee) turns out to be a bit of a monster, which subsequently escapes the castle and goes on the rampage. Paul finds himself having to help Victor try to recapture it, as its goes around murdering the villagers and we see the events that lead up to Victors current predicament that sees him facing execution for a murder that he says he did not do.

Directed by Terence Fisher, who went on to have a very long and distinguished career with Hammer Studios, this version is notably different to other adaptations (presumably to try and distance itself from the Universal pictures version), but still contains most of the core elements of the original tale and is essential viewing for all fans of classic horror. Which not only launched Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee's film careers, but established Hammer films as an international production company.

This was actually one of the films, along with their adaptation of "Dracula", that got me into horror films in the first place when I was a kid, so holds a very dear place in my heart. So if you haven't seen this yet, then you should definitely add this to your collection.

Overall marks : 8/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • Alternate tag lines "Not recommended for people of nervous disposition", "...will haunt you forever!", "The creature created by man and forgotten by nature!", "Please try not to faint", "All new and never dared before!".

  • Hammer films first colour feature and the very first colour version of "Frankenstein".

  • According to Melvyn Hayes, who played the young Victor. The role of the monster was going to go to either Christopher Lee or comedy actor Bernard Bresslaw, as they were the only actors tall enough for the part. But as Lee's daily rate was slightly less than Bresslaw's, he got the role.

  • The film's budget was 65,000.

  • The monster make-up had to be created from scratch each day before shooting as the special effects artist wasn't able to create latex prosthetics prior to production.

  • Christopher Lee complained on set that he was furious he had no lines of dialogue, to which Peter Cushing quipped "You're lucky, I've read the script". After which, the two became the best of friends, which lasted up until Cushing's death in 1994.

  • Dr Who star Patrick Troughton had a small role as a mortuary attendant, but these scenes were cut from the final film and are now considered lost.

  • Peter Cushing apparently took the role because his TV work was in decline and wanted to get some money in the bank for his retirement.

  • The film was cut by the BBFC upon its original release, which heavily truncated a scene of Dr Frankenstein severing a man's head ,and completely removed the subsequent scene of him dissolving it in acid. The US release was cut further, which removed a shot of a severed eyeball as seen through a magnifying glass, though the UK cinema print, which contains this shot, was often shown on BBC television. The 2012 Lionsgate release features the restored version which includes the eyeball shot from the UK print, but is still missing the extended head severing scene as this footage is believed lost.

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