Friday, 4 May 2012

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)Frankenstein Created Woman was the fourth entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle, and marks Terence Fisher’s return to the Frankenstein movies (the third film had been directed by Freddie Francis). It’s also one of the best of their Frankenstein films.

This one really hits the ground running. We start with a rather scene of the guillotining of a laughing murderer, witnessed by his young son Hans. Then we switch to a superbly atmospheric scene in which Baron Frankenstein himself is returned from the dead by his two assistants, one of whom is the boy who had watched his father’s execution. The other is the dotty but devoted Dr Hertz (Thorley Walters).

Baron Frankenstein’s latest experiments are concerned with the soul. He regards the conquest of physical death, the death of the body, as being almost too easy. But what of the soul? When does it leave the body, and can it be captured? What he needs are some more experimental subjects, people only just dead so that their souls are likely to be easier to capture. He will soon get the subjects he wants.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
He has sent Hans off to the local inn to buy some champagne. There we are introduced to three degenerate upper-class ruffians, Anton, Karl and Johann. They are amusing themselves by tormenting the innkeeper’s daughter Christina (Susan Denberg). She has been disfigured and crippled in an accident and is an easy target for their cruel games, except that Hans happens to be in love with her and in the fight that subsequently breaks out one of Christina’s tormentors is left with a bloody nose. The local constabulary are called and we find that Hans is regarded with some suspicion - as the son of a murderer he is considered to be potentially violent by definition plus he works for Baron Frankenstein, a man universally regarded with fear and dislike.

This assumption of inherited violence will have unfortunate consequences for young Hans.  It will lead him to the guillotine as well, and indirectly lead to poor Christina’s death. But the story is not over yet for either of them. Baron Frankenstein gains possession of Christina’s body and Hans’ soul, and restores Christina to life, but with Hans’ soul as well as her own in her body. Her body is no considerably better than new - the disfigured broken girl is now a stunning young woman. But Hans wants revenge.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)This is the kind of movie that always interested Terence Fisher, offering the opportunity to examine issues of good and evil, guilt and punishment, the soul vs the body. It’s also the sort of movie that Peter Cushing could really get his teeth into.

This is Peter Cushing at his best. His Baron Frankenstein isn’t quite evil but he is in his own way monstrous. He’s monstrous because he has convinced himself that his genius gives him the right to disregard society’s rules, but he is still troubled by twinges of conscience. The mad scientist whose arrogance and determination to pursue knowledge at any cost leads him to commit crimes against humanity is of course a cliché, but it’s not a  cliché the way Cushing plays it. In most cases such characters end up as comic-book villains, but Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein is much more subtle. And he’s aware of his own ethical dilemmas.

Susan Denberg plays Christina, both the crippled ugly duckling Christina and the beautiful Christina created by Frankestein. Her qualification for the role was that she’d been Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for August 1966. But she’s actually quite good in what is a reasonably demanding dual role. Her acting career went nowhere but this was apparently due more to personal problems than to a lack of talent.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)Thorley Walters gets more screen time than usual. It’s the kind of role he could play in his sleep but he’s delightful as always. Robert Morris as Hans is pretty good as well - the casting for this movie really was very successful.

This is Hammer’s A team in action - Terence Fisher directing, Anthony Hinds writing the script, Bernard Robinson doing the production design and Arthur Grant as director of photography. The result is a stylish, classy, intelligent and very entertaining horror film. One of Hammer’s best.

Optimum’s Region 2 DVD is a pretty good widescreen print (the screencaps are not from this release).

No comments: