Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)


Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) and his mentor, Paul (Robert Urquhart) butt heads over Victor's latest dream of creating his own human being. While Paul sees this act as truly unforgivable, he stays behind to protect Victor's life-long fiancee, Elizabeth (Hazel Court) from the certain misery that awaits them all.

After last week's split on Yojimbo and Hound of Baskervilles, me and CommonSense are back into our Hammer/Kurosawa exchange, this week with me watching: Curse of Frankenstein and him watching Sanjuro. Bot containing much importance to their respective fields in terms of cinematic history. Curse of Frankenstein being the dawn of the Hammer Horror films, and Sanjuro being the last time Kurosawa would touch the now infamous wondering ronin.

As movie reviewing goes, Curse of Frankenstein is an interesting piece of film to review. On one hand it's in many respects the corner point of Hammer Horror fans, while on the other it's new take on the classic Mary Shelley tale gives it new life and narrative freedom. Unfortunately that's about the end for where this movie's interest goes. Why it became such a hit and cult classic is beyond me, to be quite frank. I suppose going back to see the violence it displays (or hints at) for the 50's was quite a shocking event. Even still, the word most that can be most aptly associated with my feelings towards this is indifference.

Curse of Frankenstein relies on a very key piece of knowledge: you know the monster will exist and terrorize at some point in the film, but when? So the movie spends nearly the entire first hour of it's roughly hour and twenty minute film, building up to these events. Constant moments of forshadowing (what basically boil down to 3 events), surrounded by characters lacking enough depth for any of us to care. With every turn Victor becomes a less and less likable character, and more and more distant being. He alienates both his family/friends and the audience to the point of dragging out certain events. Paul, whom I found most intriguing, is so incredibly underused he spends the last hour of the film basically saying the same variation on 2 lines with varying levels of gusto. While Elizabeth is such an undeveloped character, her and the other main female, Justine (Valerie Gaunt), wonder from scene to scene, buying time before the inevitable finale.

Always walking the thin line between intrigue and boredom, it's no wonder for fans of the series Curse of Frankenstein is a pinnacle film. Upon repeat viewings I imagine fans would grow a strong fascination for it, while I fear it would get bland and dis-interesting upon a repeat view. Much of the plot points come as little shock to the modern viewer, and the makeup on Frankenstein's monster (a once again unused Christopher Lee) came off rather comical too me. Curse never does enough to earn unabashed praise, nor does it do anything so badly to earn negative remarks. It manages to just flop around between the two, carrying its audience on a simplistic, and predictable, journey until we can get to the grand finale, where it's certain we'll have nothing left in ourselves but sheer admiration. Unfortunately all I had left was the hour and 20+ minutes of non-existent care for those involved.

While it's classic stature can't be argued, Curse of Frankenstein is a muddled affair, trying too hard to make you fear the unknown while laying everything out so it's perfectly predictable.

2 better thoughts:

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Well I'm not going to disagree with you on this. Although I figured I'd give it to you anyways because I can't seem to trust my own tastes to determine what you might like. I'm not quite sure why so many Hammer people love this film either, a of those on Netflix do seem to think the sequel is better. If we do this again maybe we ought to try choosing the films we watch ourselves. I was looking at a couple other Kurosawa films that might interest me. But a need a little break now, especially with this months 4 artsy films I have to watch for the club!

DEZMOND said...

I only watch Frankenstein movies when his bride is involved as well, somehow the horror seems more fitting with a bride around :)))

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