With Halloween looming large at the end of the month, and Hammer Horror recently making its return to the world of comics courtesy of the fine folks at Titan Comics, we figured now was the perfect time to take a look some of the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.
So this month, Jules is planning to watch every single Hammer Horror movie and share his thoughts with you fine, horror loving people.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee
Director: Terence Fisher
Between Universal running their classic characters into the ground and the very real specter of nuclear warfare being a constant presence, traditional horror was very much out of fashion in the 1950s.
Hammer had other ideas though. After scoring a couple of hits with weird science of Quatermass and X: The Unknown, the studio made the game-changing decision to go back to the original weird scientist himself, Baron Frankenstein.
With Universal’s lawyers keeping a close eye on proceedings, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster avoided any element from the American films (and most of Shelley’s original book for that matter) and crafted a new story, one that put the focus firmly on the real monster- the Baron himself.
Told in flashback as an unrepentant Frankenstein tells his story to a priest while waiting on the gallows for his crimes, this is where Hammer really hit the ground running.
Initially shown as merely a young man with a thirst for knowledge, Victor Frankenstein’s complete lack of morality and obsession with lust to master death itself soon becomes apparent.
Alongside his mentor Paul Krempke, the Baron’s early experiments into re-animating the dead were supposedly for the good of mankind, but before long body-snatching, grave-robbing and flat-out murder are all acceptable in his mad quest. Frankenstein doesn’t just want to bring the dead back from life, he wants to create life itself, no matter the cost.
As Baron Frankenstein, Peter Cushing positively shines in this first outing for what would become one of his signature roles. Cold, calculating and with just a hint of madness bubbling under the surface, it’s a testament to Cushing’s skills that he can turn on the charm so effectively when he has to.
Much like the parts he scavenges or just takes, Frankenstein sees other people as nothing more than objects for his use, whether it’s the knowledge of Krempke, the body of his maid Justine or worst of all, the brain of his friend Professor Bernstein.
Unlike the Universal horrors of before, the creature is very much a bit part player in this, but when Christoper Lee finally makes an appearance in that hideous make-up, all eyes are firmly on him. Tall, imposing and with a feral snarl never far from his lips, this is surely one of the least empathic and most horrific versions of the famous monster ever created. Saying that, Lee still imbues his creature with a streak of humanity with only a few subtle gestures.
For Hammer, the potential of their first venture into full colour horror was grabbed with both bloody hands. Vivid pastels abound, while the most vivid reds are used sparingly but couldn’t be more effective. The bubbling crimson chemicals in the laboratory hint at the danger to come, while the glorious spurt of Kensington gore that erupts from the creature’s eye as a bullet rips through it must have had them screaming in the aisles at the time.
Giving birth to Hammer’s Gothic heyday while making stars of both Cushing and Lee, it’s impossible to understate the importance of Curse Of Frankenstein, but at its rotten heart it’s a timeless classic in it’s own right.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy