Friday, 20 January 2012

'THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN' REVIEW TWO ANNA LABARBERA


Last week I continued my exploration of the Hammer Horror portion of Peter Cushing’s distinguished career by watching The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) As a rule, I tend not to like sequels but I have to say that as usual with Peter’s films I was more than impressed. The film does show the usual signs of the low budgets for which Hammer is known and loved. I noticed a few takes that probably should have been re shot because an actor fumbled a line and of course most of the detail on the sets was painted on much like a theatre set. But as usual Peter’s performance was completely flawless and carried the film. I can imagine most of his shots were done in a single take because of his ability.




The story was quite interesting and took the Frankenstein story in a different direction entirely from The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). The new monster looked decidedly more human than in the previous film. There was more interaction with the monster. The story was more sophisticated. It made me curious. I had not yet actually read the classic novel so I decided to go to the source. I downloaded Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and found something that did not entirely surprise me, that none of the spin off films really are much like the book, however, The Revenge of Frankenstein comes closer to the classic novel than any other films that I have seen.


In the book, the monster speaks with a sophisticated voice. He reasons. He observes. He is quite sympathetic as is Dr. Frankenstein. The original story is about a man, crushed by his mother’s death, who decides to learn how to cheat death by reanimating a corpse only to have his creation run away. He later finds that the creature has killed someone and catches up with him. At this point the creature speaks perfect English and articulates in quite an educated tone what his thoughts are about the society that he was ‘born’ into.



It was very instructive to me to read the book and compare it in my mind to Revenge. I understand that the Hammer Horrors were originally devised as remakes to the then already classic horror films of the 1930’s and in the case of Curse, that is exactly what you will see. But Revenge is something more. Before reading the book, I noticed that Peter was playing Frankenstein in a much more sympathetic way then he had in Curse.


As I discussed in my last article Peter has a way of working likability into even the most heinous characters actually adding to the creep factor of those characters. In Revenge we still see that Frankenstein is a sociopath but we also see greater depth. We see him take pride in caring for the poor, though of course he takes advantage of this, and he does seem  actually to care about them when it is convenient for him of course. Classic Peter.


I very much enjoyed Revenge. I liked a Frankenstein creation that can articulate his desires, think for himself, liberate himself In Revenge, just as in the original novel by Shelley, the creature escapes to gain greater freedom and control over his life only to kill someone. In Revenge the creature shows up at a social event begging for assistance from Frankenstein before his death.


What I enjoyed most about the film was its end. Frankenstein finds that the poor men who he treats in his clinic turn on him and beat him almost to death. Before he dies, Frankenstein is preserved by his assistant who is able to recreate him in the same way that he had created the two previous creatures. The film ends with Dr Frankenstein opening a clinic in England under an assumed name. 




I find it brilliant, bringing Frankenstein to the country of the author’s home country and making him a Frankenstein creature. One of the last shots in the film is Peter as the creature version of Frankenstein smiling perhaps a little manically into a mirror, adding a further nuance the character further. I really do enjoy Peter’s work.

REVIEW: Anna Labarbera
IMAGES: Marcus Brooks

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