The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher / United Kingdom, 1957):

Further developments of Hammer Studios as a spook-house Ealing, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee finally cemented as their blood-red Alec Guinness. The Mary Shelley novel is soberly visualized from a convict's cell, told in the manner of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (or Amadeus) while the guillotine waits outside. Baron Victor Frankenstein as a young heir is a little snot, as an adult (Cushing) he graduates to scientific obsession alongside his mentor (Robert Urquhart), with whom he revives a pup. Far from content, he proposes a Promethean experiment ("Forget the whole. Now we must take the parts, and then we build") and a dissolve takes the two out of the Victorian drawing room and into the crossroads gibbet, where a brute's corpse dangles heavily. His associate complains of the body's chewed-off visage, the Baron just slices it off (Terence Fisher keeps the incision below the frame, yet makes sure to linger on him wiping his bloody hand on his coat). Hands come from a sculptor, a pair of eyeballs is purchased like contraband. The brain? "The trouble with us scientists is that we quickly tire of our discoveries," the old professor tells Frankenstein, before being pushed down the stairs. The cerebellum is dented in a scuffle, causing the Creature to stagger outside the tank once life's been zapped into it -- a sped-up zoom reveals the patched-up Lee under the gauze wrapping. Next to Colin Clive's high-strung anguish in the James Whale original, Cushing's doc is a subdued maniac with ice in his veins, calmly disposing of his servant-mistress (who's inconveniently pregnant with his child) by locking her in the lab with the beast. "Neither wicked nor insane. Just too dedicated to his work," Urquhart tells the Baron's fiancée (Hazel Court). Gothic horrors may threaten British society, but they do wonders for British cinema. With Paul Hardtmuth, Melvyn Hayes, Noel Hood, and Fred Johnson.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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