LAST NIGHT: FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, 1967.
*Well, not quite last night. But close enough.*
I cannot put into words how much I love 1) Hammer Studios and 2) Peter Cushing. So there is absolutely no reason for me not to love this movie.
Frankenstein Created Woman is a later entry in Cushing’s extended tenure at Hammer; a 1967 film coming after The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein and The Evil of Frankenstein, making it the fourth (but not the last) time he played the mad doctor. And while I admit to preferring Cushing’s work as Van Helsing in the Dracula films, the Frankenstein movies have their own deliciously lurid cache, not least because the kindly blue-eyed gent transforms into one cold, evil sonofabitch.
Frankenstein Created Woman takes up about half its running time with the build-up: Hans (Robert Morris), the son of a convicted murderer who watched his father go to the guillotine, has grown up very good-looking but very angry. He’s Baron Frankenstein’s assistant and in love with the innkeeper’s daughter Christina (Susan Denberg), a lame young lady disfigured by a large mark on one side of her face. The opening scenes depicting Hans’s nasty temper, Christina’s gentleness, and the cruelty of three dandies, are all well and good, but I admit to waiting for the blood and sewing together of dead bodies.
I should not have worried. Despite being slow-burning at the beginning, the second half of this one erupts when Hans is wrongfully executed for the murder of Christina’s father – the dandies did it – and Christina kills herself. Enter the Baron, who has been wandering in the background talking about capturing the immortal soul of man and putting it into another body, a latter day expositionist. With the help of his faithful doctor friend Hertz (Thorley Walters), Frankenstein rebuilds Christina’s body, captures Hans’s soul and presto! We’ve got a dual-personality, bi-gendered and buxom monster!
Frankenstein Created Woman is not quite so lurid as even Horror of Dracula or the original (and best) Curse of Frankenstein. But it is a satisfying revenge story with the typical combination of very good actors speaking very bad lines that one comes to expect from a Hammer product. The rest of the film proceeds much as you’d think. While there are not buckets of blood, there are several shocking and grotesque moments as the new Christina sets about taking revenge for Hans’s death. The theology and philosophy espoused by the Baron especially and the film in general gets to be quite weird, as the soul of Hans apparently possesses some residual memory that turns Christina into a split personality. The Baron even begins paraphrasing the Bible, as we should have expected he would. Much is left unexplained, but if you came for cohesive philosophical constructs, you should really have read the plot synopsis first.
My one real quibble with the film is how long it takes to get going, and how little Cushing is utilized. Of the handful of British thespians who graced Hammer films – Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Herbert Lom, Oliver Reed – Cushing stands at the top. It seems criminal to give him so little to do in a film that proclaims our Franky as the creator of life.
That aside, Frankenstein Created Woman is good fun. I’m sometimes bothered by how much I enjoy Hammer films. Probably shouldn’t think too deeply about that one.