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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Curse Of Frankenstein

      By 1957, the last time we had seen Frankenstein's monster shambling onscreen was with Abbott & Costello. The shock factor had long since faded.  Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolfman,  had become somewhat stale by the late 50's- basically played for laughs at this point. And the boom of sci-fi/horror films that permeated most of the 50's had rendered the old Universal horror films as rather antiquated. However, a British film studio thankfully decided there was still some life and shocks left in the old monsters, and a film was released that would begin Hammer Films' long legacy in the re-imagining of Universal's Classic Monsters.  

    "The Curse Of Frankenstein" took the horror genre by storm and successfully re-invented the Universal monsters for a whole new generation of fans.  For the first time, movie audiences were treated to the classic tales of Frankenstein, Dracula, and other great horror icons of the past, only now dripping with Technicolor blood and gore.  Not to mention some downright delicious Gothic atmosphere.

      Critics absolutely hated  "The Curse Of Frankenstein" for its depictions of graphic violence, but audiences ate this stuff up in droves. "Curse" was actually the first Hammer film in color, and began the second wave of cinematic horror to pick up where the Universal films left off some 25 years prior.  Fans tend to compare "The Curse Of Frankenstein" to James Whale's original masterpiece, but in the end there's really no point.  The two films are so different from each other that there's really no proper way to compare them.   

     "The Curse Of Frankenstein" became a landmark horror film in its own right, for many reasons.  For one, it's an extremely well-made film.  It's lush, it's moody, and quite solid in its narrative.  Boris Karloff may be the definitive Monster for many purists, but Peter Cushing is arguably the definitive Baron Frankenstein.  He became a star with his portrayal of the mad doctor- he was born to play this role and it made him a horror icon forever.

    Christopher Lee, in his own right, is quite chilling as the Creature.  Maybe not quite as effective as Boris Karloff, but Lee's interpretation certainly terrified audiences of the day, and has become iconic in its own right.  (To be fair, seeing "The Curse Of Frankenstein" for the first time- it is hard to forget Boris Karloff in his shambling, legendary performance.  But there is something rather chilling about Lee's interpretation as well...)  It would also be the beginning of horror history's most famous partnerships- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

      "The Curse of Frankenstein" is lushly photographed and possesses a sinister, sordid atmosphere- an firmly sets the tone of all Hammer productions to come.  
       Gloomy castles, foggy grounds, and a colossal sense of dread and doom permeate this legendary take on Mary Shelley's classic tale- and are a big part of what makes Hammer Films so special in the first place.  Classic horror all the way. 

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