My brother was only seven years older than me, yet it was a generation apart in terms of horror sometimes. While I’m thrilled that inheriting his collection vastly expanded my personal collection of movies from a specific time period in horror history, I still don’t see what he loved about this series. Here’s a brief rundown of each of the six films starring Peter Cushing.
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)
Peter Cushing stars as Doctor Frankenstein, about to be executed, so he tells his story….
This seems to be a Hammer favorite among fans of the production company, but to me it’s as generic as the Frankenstein story gets. I do like that it is self-contained and focuses on very few characters, though.
When Frankenstein inherits his family’s fortune, he hires a man who becomes his assistant in scientific research. They re-animate a dog, then Frankenstein decides to create a man out of body parts.
The assistant is not feeling the idea, and when Frankenstein’s female cousin shows up, the assistant wants to protect her from the horrors of Frankenstein’s plans.
Cushing’s Doctor Frankenstein is quite amoral, doing whatever it takes to get his body parts. There’s no elaborate “it’s alive” moments. Instead, I absolutely love that the monster, played by Christopher Lee, is wrapped in bandages, and unwraps them himself to reveal his gruesome face.
After that initial shock scene, the monster becomes a lot less ominous as he lurks around causing trouble. Cushing tries to battle the monster but it backfires, which is how he ends up in prison.
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
This one picks up right where the first leaves off. Somehow, Frankenstein swaps himself out for someone else when it’s time to go to the guillotine and moves on to a new town to practice medicine under an assumed name…Dr. STEIN. Sigh.
Some dude figures out who he is and blackmails him into being a mentor…in resurrecting the dead. As they build a new body, their deformed assistant sees a hot woman and decides he wants to be pretty to hook up with her. Sooooo…he offers them his brain!
Once he’s the new “monster”, which isn’t all that monstrous, he slowly begins to morph into a killer. This is a really bland film and even less satisfying than the first film.
And get this. In the end, Dr. Frankenstein dies, so his partner in crime plants his brain in a lookalike body so Peter Cushing can be in the next movie. And we 80s kids thought JR’s resurrection forcing a whole year of Dallas to be a dream was ridiculous.
THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964)
Frankenstein (or Frank’s brain in a new body, which isn’t mentioned at all) is back to stealing bods and doing experiments, but he’s found out. So he and his assistant return to his estate, despite him dodging execution previously. But just so it all makes sense, he says the people in the town have a short memory.
No, they really don’t.
There’s a flashback to him creating the monster, but it’s all new footage that looks much more in the style of the original Frankenstein movie, as is the monster, not played by Christopher Lee this time. So where has the monster been?
Frozen in a cave.
Frankenstein stumbles upon it and enlists a hypnotist to help him control and stimulate its mind. This is bad. This is soooooo bad. As if the creators knew it was, they actually give Cushing some humorous moments to at least add something vaguely memorable to this borefest.
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)
This soap opera just keeps getting more ridiculous. Okay, apparently Frankenstein didn’t blow up in his home at the end of the last movie but was somehow frozen temporarily. His assistant and some new random doctor working with him now defrost Frankenstein and he’s still alive. This convinces him the soul can be rescued from a body when it dies and transplanted into another body.
The assistant is dating a girl with a deformed face. There’s a murder and some dudes who torment her accuse the assistant. There’s a trial, he’s found guilty, he’s beheaded, his girl throws herself off a bridge, Frankenstein puts his soul in her body, and…
This becomes the most intriguing installment so far because of this unique trans twist that dare not speak its name. The female “monster” (somehow Frankenstein manages to make her beautiful and not a monster like he does men) goes out to get revenge on her accusers. Sadly, most murders are committed off screen. Tween horror of the 1960s?
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)
At least this one begins with a blood splatter kill on the streets and then a sort of monster attack. But I sure can’t understand how the previous generation of horror fans had the nerve to complain that the slashers we kids watched in the 80s were all the same…because this shit is all the same!
Let the soap opera continue. Frankenstein stays at a boardinghouse and learns that the woman running it is engaged to a man who works at the mental institution where one of Frankenstein’s old doctor friends is a patient. Desperate to know what goes on in the doctor’s head, Frankenstein transplants his brain in another guy’s body with the help of a young druggy doctor he blackmails.
Blah blah blah blah blah, and finally the new monster (a man with a scar around his head) follows his doctor brain’s impulses and goes to the wife of the doctor. She’s like, “You’re not my husband,” and he’s like, “But honey, it’s what’s inside that counts”. I’m paraphrasing. Actually I made it up completely, because it would have been great if the conversation went just like that.
In the end, the monster gets revenge on Frankenstein by carrying him into a burning house.
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974)
Don’t expect an explanation as to how the hell Frankenstein escaped the fire. But he’s back in business at a mental institution. A young doctor enamored with his work gets tossed in there too after he is found guilty of stealing and experimenting on bodies. Cushing reveals his latest creation, which looks like a big gorilla/Bigfoot hybrid. What a relief there’s a true creature this time.
Frankenstein gives the big goon some new body parts, and it goes on a murderous rampage through the mental institution.
Turns out Frankenstein has been murdering patients for the body parts, which begs the question for all Frankenstein lore—why kill or snatch multiple bodies for parts when you can just kill or rob one complete body, keep it intact, and try to bring it back to life as is?
And with that thought, I think I’m done with Frankenstein of any sort for good, forever.
Crap. I have Baby Frankenstein up next in my watchlist.