Horror Classics—The Curse of Frankenstein, The Curse of the Werewolf, and Frankenstein

The Curse of Frankenstein – 1957, UK, 83m. Director: Terence Fisher. Streaming: Max

The Curse of the Werewolf – 1961, UK, 93m. Director: Terence Fischer. Streaming: Peacock

Frankenstein – 1931, US, 70m. Director: James Whale. Streaming: Peacock

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) Hammer Films’ first venture into the Frankensteinverse, this colorful (and loose) adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel brought Gothic horror back from the dead. In his desperation to create life, the cold-hearted Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) commits diabolical acts of grave robbery, mutilation, and murder. When he’s not cutting up bodies and playing with brains, Frankenstein is screwing his pretty maid (Valerie Gaunt), who unwisely threatens Victor with blackmail when he refuses to marry her—an act which seals her fate at the hands of Frankenstein’s latest creation: a hideously deformed monster (Christopher Lee) with a damaged mind. A particularly gruesome (especially for its day) version of the tale, Curse of Frankenstein sidesteps all of the book’s metaphorical subtext—although Frankenstein’s close relationship with his teacher-turned-best friend (Robert Urquhard) has a questionable gay undercurrent—and delivers the horror in eye-popping clarity. Cushing and Lee are both in fine form, the pacing is fast, and the action exciting. Highly recommended for the Frankenstein aficionado. Followed by whole slew of sequels. B+

THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961) A tyrannical 18th century marques (Anthony Dawson), to the distaste of his new bride, keeps a homeless traveler as a pet in his cellar dungeon. As years pass, the old prisoner becomes crazed and eventually rapes the marques’ mute housemaid (Yvonne Romain) who nine months later bears a cursed child born on Christmas Day. The child grows up to be ill-fated Leon Corledo (Oliver Reed), whose curse is the plight of transforming into a fanged beast once the moon is full. This proves disastrous for Leon’s love life when he starts courting the beautiful Cristina (Catherine Fuller) and ends up spending more time munching on the local peasants by moonlight. Leon’s curse eventually consumes him. With the help of his adoptive parents and a priest, he locks himself in a jail cell to try and subdue his werewolfism—a method subsequently used in future werewolf films. But the bloodlust within Leon is too strong as he breaks out in full wolf mode before he and Cristina can run away to be married. Reed is excellent in his star-making role, and the werewolf makeup is first-rate. The script is unfortunately bogged down in needless melodrama, especially during the first act—although once Reed is in his werewolf getup and prowling the hills looking for fresh blood the film is fun enough. In the end, however, the movie never delivers enough werewolf action. B

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) The original creature feature that influenced generations of monster-loving kids and became a staple of classic horror storytelling. Desperate to prove his “old fashioned” professors wrong, egomaniacal Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) creates life in the form of a hideous creature (Boris Karloff) stitched together from the moldy body parts of the recently deceased. Frankenstein’s success quickly erodes when the creature turns out to be a maladjusted, misunderstood killer—culminating with the murder of a little girl at the hands of the monster, which is both shocking and touching. The terrified villagers form an angry mob to hunt down the monster, building to a fantastic climactic battle between creature and creator inside a windmill. Jack P. Pierce’s iconic makeup merges with Karloff’s surprisingly sympathetic—and humane—performance help to make Frankenstein one of the defining horror films of the thirties. Followed by several sequels, many of which don’t feature Karloff. A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *