Greatest Film Scenes
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The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, UK)

In Hammer Studio's version of the Frankenstein tale (based on the classic story by Mary W. Shelley) that was directed by Terence Fisher, the famed Universal monster Frankenstein appeared for the first time in color. This monster film starred Peter Cushing as the insane Baron Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and Christopher Lee in his first (and last) appearance as the Monster (or "Creature").

It marked the advent of a long cycle of the studio's stylistic gothic horror films, with Lee also playing the famed Dracula vampire, as in Fisher's Horror of Dracula (1958) the next year. The success of a new generation of horror films was often credited to this first film in the series, one of the most profitable films (to date) in Britain.

The Hammer horror films boldly and riskily substituted a new actor for the square-shaped monster (replacing Boris Karloff), added colorful cinematography and impressive and lush art direction, and more blood, gore and sex than their predecessors.

The remaining six sequels of the Hammer Frankenstein series were:

  • The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958, UK)
  • The Evil of Frankenstein (1964, UK)
  • Frankenstein Created Woman (1967, UK) (aka Frankenstein Made Woman)
  • Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969, UK)
  • The Horror of Frankenstein (1970, UK)
  • Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974, UK)

The low-budget film opened with a title screen: "More than a hundred years ago, in a mountain village in Switzerland, lived a man whose strange experiments with the dead have since become legend. The legend is still told with horror the world over...It is the legend of..." (THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN - title credits)

Then in 1860 Switzerland, Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) was imprisoned (and awaiting execution by guillotine) - for the murder of his maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt). He was visited in his cell by a Priest (Alex Gallier), and he begged not for "spiritual comfort," but for the Priest to listen to his life story and learn of his innocence - his story was told in a flashback, beginning with: "I suppose it was when I was a boy at school. I always had a brilliant intellect....And when my mother died, I inherited the Frankenstein fortune, and this enabled me to begin the life and the work I had always planned for myself" -

  • teenaged and motherless young baron Victor (Melvyn Hayes as youth) lived in his inherited Frankenstein estate with his Aunt Sophia (Noel Hood) and her daughter Elizabeth (Sally Walsh as youth), Victor's cousin
  • the "brilliant intellect" of a precocious and maturing Victor was tutored for two years by gentlemanly scientist Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart); with various chemical and electrical equipment, the two became research colleagues and succeeded by bringing a puppy back to life (had they killed it ? offscreen) - an extraordinary breakthrough; Victor was emboldened: "We’ve only just started; just opened the door. Now is the time to go through that door, and find what lies beyond it..."
  • the determined, grown-up Victor described his life-long dream, mostly to realize his arrogant ambition of restoring life to dead tissue; he would assemble and create a synthetic human body from scratch, and with god-like powers give it the "spark of life": ("We must move on to the next stage. We've restored life when life was extinct. It's no longer sufficient to bring the dead back to life. We must create from the beginning, we must build up our own creature, and build it up from nothing....We must create a human being, a man with perfect physique, with the hands of an artist and matured brain of a genius"); Paul disagreed and refused to collaborate any further: "What you're saying is nonsense, a revolt against nature. Such a thing could only end in evil"
  • the ruthlessly-devoted Victor scavenged for a framework - human remains for his increasingly-obsessive experiments - he embarked on an unethical, illegal, and unorthodox mission to steal body parts, including a highwayman's (robber's) corpse hanging on a gibbet-gallows (with a mutilated head from carrion birds); he deftly amputated the head with a scalpel and lowered the body part into an acid bath; Paul became more and more opposed to Victor's mission and vehemently objected: "I don't think we should continue with this thing"
  • Victor's childhood cousin-sweetheart and fiancee Elizabeth (Hazel Court as adult) arrived unexpectedly and moved into the estate, the same night when Victor returned with the purchased hands of a famed sculptor; vowing no further assistance to Victor, Paul decided to remain in the estate in order to protect Elizabeth from Victor's perceived madness and ensure her safety, while continuing to object to Victor's "dangerous" experiments: (Paul: "You can't see the horror of what you're doing!...I will not help you anymore!...Stop what you're doing before it's too late!")
  • although engaged to marry Elizabeth, Victor was having an affair with the maid Justine, and had promised to marry her
  • Victor also purchased a pair of eyeballs from a worker in the Municipal Charnel House (a repository for skeletal remains); his dedication bordered on insanity - never realizing the terrible consequences ("I'm harming nobody, just robbing a few graves!")
  • Victor further desired the brain and mind of a learned and reknowned genius-scholar ("A brain of superior intellect, a lifetime of knowledge already behind it. Imagine that, Paul. My creature will be born with a lifetime of knowledge!"); Victor invited distinguished visiting Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) to his estate with the implicit intent to murder him; while viewing a painting and encouraging the Professor to back up, Victor pushed him over the upstairs railing or bannister onto the floor below, and then claimed it was an accident
  • after the Professor's burial in the Frankenstein family vault, Victor immediately dug up the body and extracted the corpse's brain for his own diabolical creation; the horrified Paul suspected that Victor had killed the old man and confronted him in the vault; they struggled together and the extracted brain in a glass jar broke during their scuffle, and embedded shards of glass in the soft tissue; later, Victor blamed Paul for damaging the brain when the glass jar in which it was held broke
  • in a memorable sequence in the attic lab during an electrical storm, the monstrous Creature (Christopher Lee) that Victor had wished for was brought to life; an electrical spark from lightning activated the equipment and drained the tank - and the Creature began to visibly breathe; when Victor returned to his lab, the mummified Creature had already emerged from the tank and stood to confront its creator; it flung off the bandages covering its head to reveal a scarred and hideous face - due to its damaged brain, it was actually a mute, murderous, psychotic and brutishly-violent humanoid with a hateful stare; its first act was to grab and choke Victor, before Paul saved him by smashing the Creature from behind with a chair; Paul screamed out: "This thing must be destroyed before it regains consciousness...A criminal lunatic that tried to kill you...Don’t you see? – you’ve created a monster!"
First Scary View of the Creature - Who Choked Victor
  • the dangerous Creature was locked up (Victor planned to operate and repair the brain), but it escaped its bonds, destroyed the lab and fled through a broken window; it savagely killed an old blind man (Fred Johnson) in the woods
  • in pursuit, Paul shot the Creature in the eye with a shotgun, and it presumably died; the Creature was buried in the ground; however, later by himself, Victor returned to the gravesite and dug up the remains; the dead Creature was suspended in mid-air in Victor's lab area where he promised to reanimate the Creature ("I'll give you life again")
Creature Shot in Eye by Paul
Creature Suspended in Mid-Air
  • in the meantime, Justine decided to blackmail Victor by claiming that he had impregnated her, and threatened to tell both Elizabeth and the authorities about his strange experiments in his lab if he didn't marry her ("If you don't marry me, I'll tell"); when Justine secretly ascended into the lab area that night in a white nightgown, Victor locked her in the room with the homicidal Creature, knowing that she would be killed - he listened to her dying screams through the door; at the breakfast table (a week later), Victor calmly asked Elizabeth: "Pass the marmalade, would you, Elizabeth?"
Justine Entering Lab
Justine Attacked by the Creature in Locked Lab
  • the evening before a marriage ceremony between Victor and his fiancee Elizabeth, Paul arrived for a dinner party and was told by the proud Victor that the Creature was still alive (it was chained to the wall with a partially-shaved head after brain surgery and new facial scars) and could obey simple commands; Paul despised Victor for creating such an atrocious "animal"; Victor blamed the monster's imperfections on Paul: "There you see the result of your handiwork as much as mine. Oh yes, I gave him life. I put a brain in his head. And I chose a good brain, a brilliant one, but it was you who damaged it, you who put a bullet in the wretched thing. This is your fault, Paul"; Paul threatened to report him to the authorities for continuing his brain experiments: ("I shall go to the authorities and have them destroy that Creature – and see that you pay for these atrocities!")
  • the Creature broke free from his chain, spied upon a curious Elizabeth (with exposed cleavage and low decolletage, infuriating censors) through a skylight, and fled to the terraced rooftop; there, Victor pointed his gun at the Creature and fired, but his first shot hit Elizabeth (who had been grabbed); a second gunshot wounded the snarling Creature; it approached Victor, who threw Elizabeth's oil-lamp at the monster, setting it on fire and causing it to fall through the roof's skylight and directly into a vat of acid below where it was completely dissolved; Victor (the real monster of the tale) was charged with Justine's murder and other killings
Creature Threatening Victor on Terraced Rooftop
Creature Set on Fire by Oil Lamp
Creature Crashing Through Skylight
  • as the flashback ended, Victor exclaimed to the Priest: "My life's work destroyed. Destroyed in a moment. And by the same hand that gave it life"; when Victor begged Paul (who had just arrived) to confirm his story to the Priest ("He'll tell you it's true, he knows!"), Paul denied complicity or knowing anything about Victor's work, although he agreed with the official determination that Victor had killed Justine (Victor asserted instead that the Creature had killed her); as Paul abandoned Victor and refused to save him, he departed from the prison with Elizabeth while telling her: "There’s nothing we can do for him now. Come on, I'll take you home"
End of Flashback: Paul Denied Complicity
Paul and Elizabeth Leaving Prison
Silhouette of Guillotine
  • Victor was led to the guillotine (seen in silhouette) as the end credits began to scroll upward

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) in His Cell - Before Flashback to His Youth

(l ro r): Tutor Paul Krempe with the Baron Victor

Resurrection of Dead Puppy

Victor: "We must build up our own creature"

With The Stolen Body From the Gibbet-Gallows

The Headless Corpse in a Vat

Hands of Sculptor

Victor's Fiancee Elizabeth (Hazel Court)

Victor's Secret Affair with Maid Justine

Victor's Obsessed Work - Examining Eyeballs

Professor Bernstein

Bernstein Pushed to His Death

Paul and Victor Fighting Over The Extracted Brain in a Glass Jar

The Creature's Attack on Blind Man in Woods

Justine Blackmailing Victor: "You've got to marry me"

The Revived Creature After Brain Surgery

The Curious Elizabeth Entering the Lab

Elizabeth Spied Upon by the Creature Through Skylight

Elizabeth Grabbed by the Creature on Rooftop and Hit By Victor's Gunshot


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