Frankenstein Created Woman bears a misleading title. In fact, it’s nothing more than a mere pun and in fact has little relation to the plot of the film, which as far as about 30 minutes into the film is completely unpredictable. It’s not as predetermined as some of Hammer’s most famous outings (ie every Dracula film: Dracula is resurrected, seduces an uptight lady and is killed), and it seems to ignore the events of past outings: Pete Cushing’s doctor F. here may as well have never created his infamous monster: it is never mentioned. He suffers burns on his hands, apparently carried over from Hammer’s previous entry in the canon (The Evil Of Frankenstein), but other than that this film is totally self-sufficient. There’s an oddness to that, overall, that I’m really fond of; the whole business of taking inspiration from Shelley’s character, but instead of just exploiting the name actually hypothesizing how he might have continued his experiments after his disastrous failure, that’s something I really admire about this film. Let’s crack onwards, shaw we?
1: As with a few other Hammer films, it sports the archetype of the Hammer Jerk, typically a young wealthy male with no responsibility and a serious attitude problem. FCW gives us not one but three in Karl, Johann and their ringleader and Prime Hammer Jerk Anton, and each the three of them is the perfect asshole. From their torturous mocking of Christina to their ransacking of her father’s cafe/bar and eventual murder of him, they’re pitch-perfect wankers the lot of them, and wishing for their swift comeuppance increased my enjoyment of the film tenfold
2. Frankenstein isn’t evil it it. Of course, you could argue that he was never truly evil, though the blasphemy-wary censorship board of the 1930s would take you up on it. Still, Colin “It’s ALIIIIVE” Clive’s version of the doc is clearly manic and at times just a little too INTO his whole obsession- Cushing’s doctor seems like a passionate scientist, and although he’s a little condescending to his ‘creation’ later in the film, he’s never anything less than, in every sense of the word, our hero throughout the film.
3. The first half of the film is set on the one night, as Hans is dispatched to the Kleves’ cafe to pick up a bottle of wine and gets embroiled in a confrontation with the Jerk Triumvirate before heading back to Christina’s while her father is done in by said wankas. There’s a really lovely sense of early morning to the whole thing that I find massively comforting and can’t really describe in words better than this, the final sentence of the paragraph you’ve just read.
4: It’s far less shlocky than you’d expect given that a) it’s a late 1960s Hammer production and b) there’s a scantily clad lady on the film’s DVD cover. The film is hugely story driven and despite a few (tastefully off-camera) moments of extreme violence in the final reel the whole affair feels remarkably dialled back. Kudos of course to Terence Fisher, responsible for some of the studio’s most successful features both commercially and critically, and screenwriter Tony Hinds, also responsible for…
5: The ace dialogue. The film’s script is in a single word exciting. In so many of these movies story and action takes precedence over the screenplay, but with FCW’s ponderous, restrained plot, there’s plenty of room for engaging dialogue. Frankenstein in particular is written well: my favourite example is his eloquent defeat of the boorish commune of the courtroom, as he retorts “To the best of my knowledge, doctorates are not awarded for witchcraft— but in the event that they are, no doubt I shall qualify”, verbally smiting the messer that challenged him so. In a mini-tradition emerging in this particular instalment of Ten Reasons, I am once again led directly to my next point…
6: The performance of Peter Cushing. He’s all over this film, and is arguably the most charming actor in history. He’s distinctly English, but doesn’t carry any of the snobbishness that one might lumber the term “distinctly English” with in their crap minds of stupid wrongness. His Frankesntein is witty, clever and erudite and one of my favourite performances of all time.
7: I really enjoy the camaraderie between Frankenstein, Hans and Hertz, from the film’s early scene where they’re all hanging out in the lab ’til Frankenstein’s defence of Hans in court (as mentioned earlier). There’s just a nice warmth to the activity of the doctor, the scientist and the ruffian what runs errands for them and that. Best buds, the lotta them. Sure, it might on Frankenstein’s head that Hans is found guilty, but he has every intention of keeping the boy’s soul alive. Also, though I just called him a boy, he’s a full grown man in the film, despite an implied age of 20-something.
8: The soul. The film’s about the preservation of the soul. That’s dead interesting that is. It doesn’t require any messing on its characters parts: Frankenstein does most of his experimentation on himself before the film begins, and his later corpse acquisition is achieved through coincidence and a little good-natured (I’ve decided) blackmail. He has no delusions of godliness in this picture: he’s simply a forward-thinking scientist with wrecked hands and a nice coat. That his extraction of Hans’ soul and its fusion with Christina’s body is never witnessed or explained is either to the film’s favour or its detriment, depending on your point of view. Me? I lapped it up like an ignorant hound. Where’s my Pedigree chum come from? I not know (I a dog) but it good for the story.
9: The two Christinas. Susan Denberg spends half her screen time in heavy prosthetics and sporting a limp. She’s cruelly taunted by the Hammer Jerks and later kills herself as her friend and lover Hans has been executed. She’s then, erm, remodelled by Hertz (under Frankenstein’s guidance) and six months later awakens, in possession of two souls but no memory. She soon after sets about avenging the deaths of both her personalities by seducing and moidering those ever-present Hammer Jerks, culminating in a creepy male-voice-in-female-body slaughter that’s just as mental to see onscreen as it sounds on paper (you are reading the magazine version of Rambleast, right?). Hammer actresses weren’t given a lot to do back in the day other than play sexy or play stuffy, but Susan Denberg’s Christina is as believable on both sides of her death and her undeniable second-half allure makes her knifey reckoning all the sweeter.
10: I saved Thorley Walters to last for no good reason, but in Dr. Hertz he gives Cushing a run for his money in the petty stakes of scene-stealing. Another Hammer veteran, Walters lends his unique touch to the role, infusing the doctor with a kind of doe-eyed wonder at his companion’s genius as well as a complicity tinged with resentment later in the film. That his and Cushing’s characters are of alike ages makes his fondness for his friend so much more laudable.
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