The Curse of Frankenstein (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 3 – The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

The Curse of Frankenstein is the first color film in the Hammer Horror production series and arguably the one which launched its revival of Gothic horror into the spotlight. Like the best of the Hammer films, it features Peter Cushing (aka Grand Moff Tarkin) and Christopher Lee (aka Saruman) presented in beautiful 1950's Eastman Color (a late version of Technicolor with rich, vibrant color which was eventually discontinued because it was slow and expensive to produce).

Hammer Horror films fascinate me. They seem like they ought to be trashy, throwaway, b-grade horror films: they hover right around the 90-minute range (this one is only 82 minutes) and recycle monster stories we've already heard before. But this is never actually the case—in fact, it's often quite the opposite. Maybe it's the wonderful color, maybe it's the talent of the central character actors, or maybe it's the little twists they throw into their retellings. Whatever the case, the films are filled to the brim with class and style. Nobody wears a bright green overcoat quite like Peter Cushing.

As with yesterday's Dracula, the sets are also fantastic, although in quite a different way. Doctor Frankenstein's laboratory is every mad scientist's dream: glass beakers and rubber tubes are scattered everywhere, bubbling away with colorful liquids and overflowing with strange gasses. It's fun in an almost goofy way, where black and white horror films were instead restricted to a more grim and austere visual style. And then there's the Monster makeup, which is without a doubt my favorite of the various incarnations I've seen (although, admittedly, none of the others were played by Saruman).

But despite my love for the beauty of Hammer Horror films, they've still never quite succeeded in hitting me at an immediate level. I can see what's there to like, but instead of being frightened or intellectually stimulated I have a sort of abstract appreciation for the films, as if I can only enjoy them from a distance. I love Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and I love the gorgeous Technicolor, but the storytelling feels slightly inert. I'd still recommend it for fans of Frankenstein or classic horror though, and I'm sure my fascination will lead me to continue my exploration of director Terence Fisher and his other installments in the Hammer Horror franchise.

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