This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Sam Buitrago’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Both Dr. Frankenstein and his creature have always been in the popular psyche over the decades. There is something scary about creating life from nothing, it is the ultimate challenge of a scientist, to have the power to be God. Many of you may be familiar with the 1931 James Whale’s version, which created the many tropes that are now associated with Frankenstein movies, like the hunchback assistant, the lightning bolt that gives life to the monster, the classic look of the monster and many other things. But today I want to talk about the 1957 Terrence Fisher’s version, The Curse of Frankenstein.
The film, in contrast to the universal version, focuses on Dr. Frankenstein. This is something that we have oddly forget throughout the years, the fact that the real monster isn’t the creature but the man who gave it life. In the universal series, the focus is always on the creature and how he is responding to being alive, how his life is constant torture, all of this represented in the classic line, “I love death, hate living”. But in the hammer films, we don’t focus on the monster, in fact, he is only a reflection of the horrible doing of the doctor. That is the main difference between these two series, universal chose the creature and hammer chose the doctor. Perhaps saying that the real monster is the man.
Dr. Frankenstein is played by Peter Cushing, a perfect match. The way that Cushing plays Frankenstein is very unique, he doesn’t go for the mad doctor of Colin Clive, instead he goes for a performance of a doctor who will do anything in the name of science, he is quiet and calm, always thinking about his experiments and he doesn’t hesitate when killing someone for his experiments. There is something horrific in seeing a man sacrificing everything in the name of science, there is a slow descent to evil, is not until the final act that we see the true face of the good doctor.
The film is told from the perspective of Frankenstein, in prison, waiting for the guillotine. How he went from a young orphan child to a brilliant scientist. This way of narrating the film creates an atmosphere in which we don’t know which things are the truth and which things were created in the mind of Frankenstein. Through the film, we see how Frankenstein, aided by his mentor Paul, is planning on creating a man from scratch. Although Paul is very suspicious about the results of this experiment, he is not willing to stop Frankenstein, until Frankenstein fiance arrives. Then Paul starts taking interest in her and warns her to go. The creature doesn’t do much, his only purpose is to show the audience the evils of Frankenstein. After he is created, he escapes Frankenstein laboratory and encounters a blind man, the monster doesn’t speak so the man feels threatened, he tries to defend himself, so he attacks the monster and the monster kills him. Frankenstein and Paul find him and they shot him. Paul now thinks that Frankenstein would give up, but he doesn’t. He keeps doing experiments with the monster until he manages to control him. There is also a subplot in which we learn that Frankenstein is having an affair with his maid. She wants him to marry her but Frankenstein laughs it off and then she threatens to tell the authorities about his experiments, so Frankenstein uses the monster to kill her. In the finale, the monster again goes out of control, attacks Frankenstein wife. Frankenstein accidentally shoots his wife. But he still manages to kill the creature with fire.
In the end, Paul goes to visit Frankenstein in prison, just before he is sent to death and we learn that the wife of Frankenstein is alive and is with Paul. Revealing what it could be a murder plot of jealousy, who was by drawn either Paul or Frankenstein. Or that all was fabricated in Frankenstein’s mind.
This film is a great entry into the Frankenstein series, it shows how the real monster was Dr. Frankenstein, how a man can go evil without appearing to be and how the search for knowledge is his ultimate downfall. Perhaps there are things that humans shouldn’t mess around with.