“The luckiest thing to ever happen to Hammer is Peter Cushing”
-Freddy Francis(Director, The Evil of Frankenstein)
While I’ve never been a huge fan of the Frankenstein story, you have to admit there are some really great movies. It does seem we see some new encarnation of the mythos, even in new forms. Most of the talk of these movies goes directly to the monster, who he looked, who played the monster. Some going as far as the call the monster “Frankenstein”. The Hammer Frankenstein franchise does it right, we know who Frankenstein is more than any other Frankenstein film, it’s Victor Frankenstein played by Peter Cushing and I say played because he is an actor. Peter Cushing becomes Frankenstein in six film and I’d argue he is not only the best Abraham Van Helsing, but an even better Frankenstein.
One of the biggest problems these days and likely through they existence of these films, is availability. Hammer Films of course is a British studio and for a long time because of distribution rights for each film were allover the place. Even as an avid video renter in the 1990s, I had to have multiple memberships to different rental houses to marathon these films, it was the same for the Hammer Dracula films. But, over the last 5 years, Scream Factory, WB and Indicator fixed that problem and now you can own each film on blu ray and they look amazing. But if streaming is your game…Not all are available, some through Max, Prime and Revenge and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed are on Youtube. I would watch them as soon as you can. You can never tell how long they’ll stream. I’d suggest buying the blu Rays. While streaming is great, nothing streams forever.
Before we get started, I want to mention a few things that make these films much better than anything before and after. Hammer made these films about Victor Frankenstein and Cushing plays him very selfish and sinister. It seems most films portray Frankenstein different, almost sympathetic and the focus is more on the monster, with one exception, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1994). Cushing’s Frankenstein was more than willing to take lives which is evident nearly immediately to push forward his insane experiments. Cushing was a cold Frankenstein who believed his science came before anything in life, he even escaped death and continued on with his work.
As always, these are my personal feelings on the Hammer Frankenstein franchise. I’ll rank the six Peter Cushing films. I will leave out The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) because it is a remake. I also seem to be in the minority, I like it. But you drop Cushing for one movie, learn your mistake and bring him back for two more, that’s on Hammer and ultimately, Horror of Frankenstein is not in the timeline. But, check it out, it’s worth a watch, just remember, there is no Peter Cushing and Ralph Bates just comes off as pompous, as he does as Lord Courtley in Taste the Blood of Dracula, also released in 1970. One cool thing, the man who would become Darth Vader, David Prowse plays the monster in The Horror of Frankenstein.
Let’s get on with the ranking!
6. Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)
Dr Simon Helder, sentenced to an insane asylum for crimes against humanity, recognises its director as the brilliant Baron Frankenstein, the man whose work he had been trying to emulate before his imprisonment. Frankenstein utilises Helder’s medical knowledge for a project he has been working on for some time. He is assembling a man from vital organs extracted from various inmates in the asylum. And the Baron will resort to murder to acquire the perfect specimens for his most ambitious project ever
5. The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) returns destitute to his home village to recommence his experimental research into the reanimation of dead tissue, and stumbles upon his old monster suspended in ice. Though he revives the creature, Frankenstein must seek the help of hypnotist Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe) to repair its mind. Zoltan then assumes control of the monster, using him to wreak havoc. But when Frankenstein tries to regain power over his creation, he becomes Zoltan’s next target.
4. Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
After being reanimated, Baron Frankenstein transfers the soul of an executed young man into the body of his lover, prompting her to kill the men who wronged them.
3. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
Having escaped execution and assumed an alias, Baron Frankenstein transplants his deformed underling’s brain into a perfect body, but the effectiveness of the process and the secret of his identity soon begin to unravel.
2. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
Baron Frankenstein travels to a new town to meet Dr. Brandt with whom his has been corresponding and with whom he had hoped to collaborate. He arrives however to learn that Brandt is in a mental institution, having lost his mind completely. He takes a room in a boarding house run by the pretty young Anna who just happens to be engaged to Karl, a doctor who works at the asylum where Dr. Brandt is being kept. When Frankenstein learns that Karl has been stealing drugs, he blackmails him and Anna to work as his assistants. He is desperate to learn a secret that Brandt was going to share with him and kidnaps him with the intent of extracting that secret by transplanting his brain into another body.
1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is a brilliant scientist willing to stop at nothing in his quest to reanimate a deceased body. After alienating his longtime friend and partner, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), with his extreme methods, Frankenstein assembles a hideous creature (Christopher Lee) out of dead body parts and succeeds in bringing it to life. But the monster is not as obedient or docile as Frankenstein expected, and it runs amok, resulting in murder and mayhem
While I know I usually give my little paragraph review for each, I decided to not do that in this one. These movies unfortunately do blend together at times, especially if you watch them back to back. But, each one is simply really fun, there are some dark moments and one in particular that is out if Frankenstein’s character. I’d like you the reader to seek these films out. Classic 1950s Gothic Horror starring the best of Hammer. Hammer Studios wouldn’t be what they are if not for Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I do think Cushing more so than Lee, he was the one who started each of the early franchises. The Curse of Frankenstein as Victor Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula as Abraham Van Helsing and The Mummy as John Banning. Peter Cushing was Hammer films and we should be thankful for him today.
If you only get the opportunity to watch one, please do check out the Curse of Frankenstein. I’ll bet you’ll want to see more of Cushing as the doctor, he is cold and calculating, all in the name of science.
Check out Dark Corners Reviews on Hammer’s Frankenstein. Here is part 1 of 2. If I can’t convince you, he can.
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