The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) Terence Fisher
Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Written by Jimmy Sangster
Cinematography by Jack Asher
Edited by Alfred Cox
Music by Leonard Salzedo
Hammer Film Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
(1:30) Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection Blu-ray box set, Mill Creek
Today I begin a new project (like I need another one…), a journey through all 20 films in the Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection Blu-ray box set from Mill Creek (still available at an incredibly good price).
With a set of 20 films, I’m not going into a lot of detail, but I hope to give you an idea of what to expect from each film, the extras, and maybe a bit more. Recognize that I’m not an expert on either horror films or Hammer titles. In fact, most of these films are new to me, but exploring the Hammer catalog is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so here I am. Think of this project as part of my education. Perhaps it will be part of yours as well.
I have to hand it to Mill Creek. They come out swinging with the set’s first film, and it’s a winner. The Revenge of Frankenstein opens with Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) going to the guillotine for his shenanigans of creating a dangerous monster. Although we don’t see the blade dropping, we hear it. Hours later a pair of grave robbers ready to claim the body are surprised by the sudden appearance of… Victor Frankenstein!
Skip ahead three years, where we find Frankenstein, now calling himself Dr. Stein (very clever, Victor!) practicing in Carlsbrück, where he lures wealthy patients from the local medical council’s physicians and treats the unfortunates in the paupers’ hospital. As luck would have it, the young and inexperienced Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) seeks to study with Dr. Stein. Lucky for Kleve, but more lucky for Stein, since he’s got this project he’s been working on…
Stein fesses up to who he really is and shares his plan with Kleve: If Stein can make sure a healthy, intelligent brain is transplanted into an intact body, he’ll improve upon his first creature, a man with enough intelligence to be an asset, rather than a danger, to the world. After all, Stein’s intelligent but deformed servant Karl (Oscar Quitak) is more than willing to have a new body, and the good doctor has assured Karl and Kleve that “The brain will continue its natural function despite its environment.”
Sure Doc, sure…
The Revenge of Frankenstein may not be the flashiest entry in the Hammer Frankenstein canon or feature the greatest monster, but it asks several intelligent questions, posing many dilemmas that run more-or-less through all the Frankenstein films, touching on religion, ethics, madness, pride, megalomania, and more. Perhaps the real monster here is the Baron, and if that’s the case, the ending - while not a show-stopper - will give you plenty to think about.
The film also stars future James Bond girl Eunice Gayson (Dr. No and From Russia with Love) as Margaret, an assistant at the paupers’ hospital. Although Margaret’s character doesn’t have much to do, she is responsible for one of the film’s most crucial plot elements.
The commentary track by filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr and writer/film historian Steve Haberman is excellent. These guys are well-versed in the histories of horror, Frankenstein, and Hammer, plus their behind-the-scenes comments and observations are enlightening. Don’t ignore this commentary.
I enjoyed The Revenge of Frankenstein very much, but was surprised to find that of all the Hammer Frankenstein films from 1957 to 1974, this title is the most critically revered (at least according to Rotten Tomatoes.) As far as the presentation, the video and audio are adequate, certainly not as impressive as the Indicator release, a 4K restoration from 2019, which is loaded with extras and, sadly, now out of print. But remember, this is Mill Creek, so even the presence of this audio commentary is cause for celebration.
Next up (eventually): The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)