Another day, another film in the Frankenstein Hammer series! It’s time to see this wonderful sequel and how it adds up to the series and how it compares to the original. Here you can watch James Rolfe’s review of ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ (1958) and mine comes right now below. I’m in Valdivia right now, so forgive any delays in the posting of these reviews.
After ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957) what can we expect? It was such a perfet film, and its ending note was maybe the most perfect thing that could ever happen to the Hammer Productions company, it was a fitting end for the crazyness of the Baron, but the sequels and hence a franchise was born out of the complete incredible success that the original film had (until recently regarded the biggest moneymaker in the UK production history). So, what could they do? Well, they made the first great decission by maintaining Terence Fisher as the director of this sequel, bringing a similar color palette as the last film, as well as a visual eye that can’t be matched when it comes to the Hammer pictures. Fisher is the real Hammer auteur over any other director that tries to take credit, he made the most beautiful Dracula films and now he’s responsible of these two truly great Frankenstein films, what else is he capable of? Well, we’ll see soon enough if he maintains the greatness.
Anyway, back to the film that puts us in this conversation today. The film starts in the same moment that it ended, with the execution of Baron Frankenstein, just to then give us the news that the news of his death were grealy exaggerated, just the corpse of a priest (the same priest that listened to his story in the previous movie) can be found in his coffin while it’s being digged up by a couple of thieves. Frankenstein escapes and starts his experiments again in a different city, a different country, and under the new surname of Stein (hah, as if no one would caught on that one), he is quickly discovered but not by someone who wants justice because of what he did, but someone who is seeking the exact same knowledge that Frankenstein is being the pioneer of. These conversations and the way that Peter Cushing conveys the necessity and the expertise of Frankenstein is just astounding, he just kicks it out of the park in an incredible fashion.
So, this time the ‘creature’ that the crazy scientist makes is actually a simpler approach, he makes a new body for an assistant of him, Carl, who is a hunchback with a great brain, but that can’t seem to prosper because of his appeareance. It’s a nice gesture from the doctor to give him that kind of treatment, specially when he could’ve been much more evil about it. But here Frankenstein seems less crazy, he just wants to protect his experiments and what he does as an advancement of the modern science, he just wants to be the next one to be the very best, recogniced among his peers… but the only thing he manages is to be the most despised name of the whole world because of his awful crimes, and he can’t seem to escape that. How a poisonous name could haunt someone forever is one of the strongest themes of this particular sequel.
Maybe one of the elements that were missed in the sequel that was mostly interesting was how ambiguous it was towards the reality and existence of the creature that Victor Frankenstein had created, It’s a much more straightforward picture about how a succesful experiment turns awry because of the personality of the brain that was changed around. Carl doesn’t want to be an attraction, he just wanted to be respected, and now that he knows that, he just wants to escape and be with the girl that he fell in love with. It’s confusing to find the reasons behind the wild behaviour that starts to take possession of the new creature, as if he suddenly remembered that he should just kill people because he was an experiment done by Baron Frankenstein.
The film isn’t devoid of problems, but Cushing’s performance, specially in the last 15 minutes, is just stellar, as are the sets and the way that it constructs a new situation and life for Doctor Stein, with his charity work and how he helps the high society women in the neighbourhood. The ending is superb and maybe a bit more sequel-y than the last one, but it’s filled with such a great amount of awesomeness that you can’t help but grin. This is a really good movie, with some visible flaws, but that can still be enjoyed as a great time at the movies.