THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (REVIEW)
Dir. Terence Fisher
Reviewer. Dan Cook
The first sequel in Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN series, Terence Fisher’s THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN is a worthy follow-up to the terrific 1957 movie which set Peter Cushing on the road to becoming the definitive screen iteration of the most famous mad scientist in literary history. Shot literally 3 days after wrapping up THE HOUSE OF DRACULA, REVENGE... picks up the story immediately following the events of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and sees Cushing’s Baron miraculously escaping the blade of the guillotine to continue his diabolical body-swapping work - this time helping his loyal deformed hunchback servant Karl (Oscar Quitak) by placing the latter’s brain into a new, seemingly perfect body (Michael Gwynn). Of course, it doesn’t take long for things to go awry and soon, another rampaging monster is on the loose.
Unlike Universal’s 1935 sequel THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN which took direct inspiration from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, the Hammer sequels instead created wholly original plots - the majority of which were conjured by screenwriter Jimmy Sangster - and this narrative freshness allowed the FRANKENSTEIN movies to follow new stories which could focus on Peter Cushing’s charismatic Baron rather than a particular monster. It was a wise choice indeed and as was the case with all of the increasingly preposterous subsequent movies in the series, Cushing remains a forceful and memorable presence, bringing to the screen a truly maniacal character whose seemingly calm and gentlemanly persona hides a cruel heart filled with insane passion and gruesome ambition.
As was often the case with Hammer, the production value is high, Sangster’s script is tight and witty, the story is enjoyably convoluted and over-the-top and the performances are unanimously solid. However, it is the ever-reliable Cushing who makes THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN such a delightfully macabre watch which, when compared to what would follow, easily stands out as the second best film in the series as well as one of my favourite early Hammer productions.