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Film / The Curse of Frankenstein

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The film that single-handedly launched the Hammer Horror brand, The Curse of Frankenstein was released in 1957. Directed by Terence Fisher, the film stars Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as The Creature. Besides being Hammer's first horror outing, it is also notable as the studio's first colour release.

Owing more to the Universal Horror films than the original novel, this film once again tells a story of a scientist who creates life with terrible consequences.

Fascinated with Creating Life, Baron Victor von Frankenstein starts conducting experiments of such with the help of his tutor Dr. Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart). Unlike the well-meaning scientist from the Universal films, Frankenstein is depicted as an unfaithful womanizer who has no qualms against killing people for body-parts and having those who obstruct his work murdered.


It was during this film when Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee met in person and struck a lifelong friendship.

Followed by several sequels beginning with The Revenge of Frankenstein in 1958, and semi-remade as The Horror of Frankenstein in 1970.

This film is cursed with:

  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Victor and Justine are not romantically involved in the book, but in the film they have a clandestine affair.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: We get two examples. Frankenstein himself is totally blind to common concepts of morality, and the monster he creates doesn't need to be molded by a cruel upbringing, as he is just evil from the get-go.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Oh, sweet Jesus, Christopher lee's take on the monster is EASILY the hardest to look at, even giving a Pazuzu-possesed Regan a run for her money. The other actors even refused to sit near him in his make-up during the filming of this movie.
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  • Adaptational Villainy: Victor is depicted as much less sympathetic and well-meaning than in the original book or the earlier movies. The creature too, seems to be in a state of constant rage and appears to hate everyone. Although the poor bastard's brain WAS damaged by shards of glass, so he may simply be in a state of constant pain.
  • Arranged Marriage: Victor is arranged to marry his cousin Elizabeth, an arrangement that she doesn't mind at all. Victor couldn't care less.
  • Batman Gambit: Justine tells Victor that she is pregnant and that she will reveal his secrets unless he marries her like he promised. Knowing that his laboratory is the first place that she would look, Victor tells her that she'd need evidence if anyone is to believe her. His laboratory being the place where he keeps the Creature captive, this leads to her death at its hands.
  • Blind and the Beast: The film subverts its source material by having the monster meeting a blind man and his grandson, and he immediately murders both.
  • Bottle Episode: Famously made on a low budget, the film features a tiny cast and takes place almost entirely within the Baron's house, aside from the framing story in the prison and a few scenes in the woods. Paul keeps mentioning the town nearby but we never see it or any of the townspeople because Hammer literally couldn't afford to build another exterior set or hire that many extras at the time.
  • Bury Your Disabled: The creature kills an old blind man.
  • Canon Foreigner: Frankenstein, Elizabeth, Justine and the creature are all from Mary Shelley's novel, but Paul is an original character created just for the movie to give Frankenstein someone to play off of in his lab, just like Fritz in the first Universal film.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: The creature is subdued after its initial revival when Paul hits it with a chair.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The acid pool.
  • Creating Life: After discovering the means of resurrection, Victor decides to bring a human being to life.
  • Destination Defenestration: The Creature meets its end when it crashes through a window and falls to the acid pool below.
  • Disney Villain Death: The monster falls into an acid pool.
  • Dramatic Unmask: The Creature dramatically removes the shroud from its face after Victor comes face to face with it.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The film is told as a flashback story by the Baron who is in jail for murder and awaiting execution. The ending leaves it uncertain whether the events really happened. Especially given Victor's personality, we can usually rely on him to be an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Not shown, but Paul remarks how the first corpse that he and Victor steal is missing its eyes due to the birds getting to it first.
    • When the Creature escapes the first time, Paul shoots it in the eye.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The priest's arrival at the prison is underlined by the tolling of the bell.
  • For Science!: Paul helps Victor with his work early on, but becomes reluctant to help him after Victor's ruthlessness becomes evident.
  • Framing Device / How We Got Here: The film's story is told by Victor in prison as he awaits his execution.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: A more murderous example.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Professor Bernstein is described as one of the most brilliant minds in Europe, but reminds Dr Frankenstein that men of science are human, too, and must take time out of their work to enjoy life and the company of others. He appears to be an engaging conversationalist and a pleasant houseguest.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The main characters are mostly upper class, so their clothes are appropriately fancy.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Baron Frankenstein's attic laboratory features a nice array of curvy Victorian retorts and such. Loads of bright, colourful liquids and heavy on the dry ice, it's definitely a feast for the eyes.
  • Grave Robbing: Victor and Paul pick their material from the gallows.
  • Hate Sink: The monster. He lacks the lonely and rejected side seen in other adaptations, and, subsequently, he has absolutely no interest in even attempting to befriend anyone, and takes glees in murdering innocent people. Frankenstein himself falls under this trope to a lesser extent.
  • Hollywood Acid: The acid pool, which can disintegrate bodies completely.
  • Hollywood Kiss: There is an intense make-out session between Baron Frankenstein and the maid Justine. It quickly becomes clear, however, that although Justine is in love, to the Baron she is just a fling.
  • Instant Thunder: Prevalent in the night when Victor's creation comes to life.
  • Kill It with Fire: In the monster's final demise, Victor shoots at it to try and save Elizabeth. While the monster releases her, it is not enough to kill it and it begins to approach Victor with deadly intent. As it comes near him, Victor throws an oil lamp which smashes against the monster's body and causes it to catch fire. The monster tries to subdue the flames but ends up falling to its death in an acid pool.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Thanks to an unplanned lightning strike, Victor's creation receives the energy it needs to come alive.
  • Love Triangle: Victor's maid Justine loves him, his arranged wife Elizabeth loves him, but he cares about neither of them, as there is science to be done.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Victor keeps the Creature chained to the wall of his laboratory after its second revival.
  • Mad Scientist: Guess who?
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Victor's laboratory is filled with colourful beakers and electric machinery.
  • Man on Fire: The Creature catches on fire when Victor throws an oil lamp at it.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: The bodies used for Victor's experiments are in various sates of decomposition, which forces him to pick the best parts from a variety of corpses.
  • Moe Greene Special: Paul shoots the Creature's right eye out during its first escape.
  • Neck Lift: Upon facing its creator, the Creature starts strangling Victor while lifting from the ground.
  • Never My Fault: Victor cannot stand to face responsibility for what he's done, and prefers to blame Paul instead.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Victor speculates that the only reason the Creature is homicidal is because Paul damaged the brain before implantation, then damaged it further when he shot it in the head. If true, this would mean Paul is just as culpable (albeit indirectly) for the Creature's murders as Victor was. Of course, it could also be argued that the fact that Frankenstein killed the original owner of the Creature's brain pre-disposed it towards homicidal revenge.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We are not shown how the monster murdered the little boy.
  • Off with His Head!: Victor is charged to face the guillotine in the end.
  • Opening Scroll
  • People Jars: The resurrectable subjects are kept in a container filled with liquid.
  • Pet the Dog: Victor gets one in the end when he saves Elizabeth from the Creature.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Elizabeth is an heiress, and she wears a number of fancy dresses.
  • Precious Puppy: When Victor is still relatively likable, he and Paul bring a dead puppy back to life.
  • Pretty in Mink: Some of Elizabeth's outfits to help show her wealth. Two have ermine muffs, and one is a blue dress lined with brown fur.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Paul to Elizabeth.
  • Shooting Superman: Baron Frankenstein shoots the monster with pistol to no effect. He then throws the pistol at the monster. Again, no effect. Thankfully he throws a lantern next time and that seems to work.
  • Smug Snake: Baron Frankenstein, particularly with Justine. In the middle of making out with her, he gloats about how she will be required to wait on her rival Elizabeth.
  • The Sociopath: Victor Frankenstein, in spades. He has no comprehension of right and wrong, only of what he wants.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Unlike her counterpart in the novel, Elizabeth barely survives her encounter with the Creature.
  • Stepford Smiler: Elizabeth increasingly becomes one as she realizes that the Baron is obsessed with his mysterious, possibly evil experiments and cares little for her.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Victor insists that his mistress the maid Justine address him as Baron Frankenstein even when they are kissing.
  • Überwald
  • Villain Protagonist: Dr. Frankenstein, whose villainy would be continued on other films.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Frankenstein has a major one at the end when Paul refuses to testify on his behalf.
  • The Von Trope Family: Victor von Frankenstein.
  • The X of Y: The Curse of Frankenstein.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Despite being engaged to Elizabeth, Victor has an on-going affair with Justine the maid.


Example of: