Drawing from Mary Shelley’s original 1816 gothic novel, director Terence Fisher’s 1957 adaptation recounts the grisly tale of how aristocratic scientist Baron Victor Frankenstein’s obsession with creating the perfect human brought out the monster within himself.
The Curse of Frankenstein was Hammer’s first colour horror film and an international box office hit that turned the studio into the house that dripped blood. It also made stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who would cement their horror credentials in Hammer’s 1958 follow-up The Horror of Dracula. But they certainly proved their star quality in this flamboyant melodrama – Cushing’s Baron is an elegant, restrained performance that neatly avoids tipping over into parody, while Lee’s skillful exercise in mime imbues his mute brain-damaged creature with real emotion.
55 years after its original release, The Curse of Frankenstein has been given a longed-for high definition restoration, with the inclusion of an eyeball shot that was deemed too scary back in the conservative 1950s. It’s also gorgeous to look at, especially the Baron’s lab – which is littered with smoking vats of coloured liquids and whirring machines emitting electrical sparks – and the bosomy period costumes worn by the film’s leading ladies, Hazel Court and Valerie Gaunt.
The Lionsgate 3-disc Double Play includes a Blu-ray disc and two DVDs shock-full of exciting new content that vintage horror fans will appreciate. These include three documentaries – there’s a lovely one devoted to Peter Cushing, whose 100th anniversary is next year – plus two bonuses, Terence Fisher’s rarely-screened 1953 sci-fi Four Sided Triangle, and the 1958 TV pilot Tales of Frankenstein, starring Anton Diffring.
October is becoming a bumper month for vintage Hammer as Studio Canal are also rolling out more of their restored versions of classics from the studios’ archives with The Devil Rides Out, The Mummy’s Shroud and Rasputin, The Mad Monk all due out on 22 October. Look out for my full reviews in my Halloween Hit List post on 26 October.
Released on Double Play (Blu-ray and DVD) 15 October 2012