The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

82-83 mins | Horror | 20 July 1957

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HISTORY

Before the opening credits the following written prologue appears: “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 title card then appears in gothic script: “ The Curse of Frankenstein .” Christopher Lee’s opening credit reads: “and Christopher Lee as The Monster.” The order of opening and end cast credits vary slightly.
       There are discrepancies between the onscreen credits and the list of credits in the Var review. Although the onscreen credits show Andrew Leigh as the “Burgomeister,” the Var lists Hugh Dempster in that role. For the role of the “Uncle,” the onscreen credits show Raymond Ray and the Var , J. Trevor Davis. The Var review also has a credit for Henry Caine as “Schoolmaster.” Although the onscreen credits list no “Schoolmaster,” they do include a role called “Lecturer,” which is credited to Middleton Woods. Although Var lists Leonard Salzedo as providing music for the film, no other source includes him and his contribution to the film, if any, has not been determined.
       The Curse of Frankenstein , which was shot entirely in England, marked the first collaboration of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and is considered by many film scholars to be one of the most significant horror movies ever made. The picture also marked the first of many horror films in which actress Hazel Court (1926--2008) portrayed the female lead. According to the Var ... More Less

Before the opening credits the following written prologue appears: “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 title card then appears in gothic script: “ The Curse of Frankenstein .” Christopher Lee’s opening credit reads: “and Christopher Lee as The Monster.” The order of opening and end cast credits vary slightly.
       There are discrepancies between the onscreen credits and the list of credits in the Var review. Although the onscreen credits show Andrew Leigh as the “Burgomeister,” the Var lists Hugh Dempster in that role. For the role of the “Uncle,” the onscreen credits show Raymond Ray and the Var , J. Trevor Davis. The Var review also has a credit for Henry Caine as “Schoolmaster.” Although the onscreen credits list no “Schoolmaster,” they do include a role called “Lecturer,” which is credited to Middleton Woods. Although Var lists Leonard Salzedo as providing music for the film, no other source includes him and his contribution to the film, if any, has not been determined.
       The Curse of Frankenstein , which was shot entirely in England, marked the first collaboration of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and is considered by many film scholars to be one of the most significant horror movies ever made. The picture also marked the first of many horror films in which actress Hazel Court (1926--2008) portrayed the female lead. According to the Var review, “The emphasis [of the film] lies not so much on the uncontrollable blood lust of the created monster as on the gruesome, distasteful clinical details whereby the crazy scientist accumulates the odd organs.” The HR review also noted Baron Frankenstein’s collecting of body parts, which were “lovingly and clearly photographed” in the film. Several reviews noted that the gore was shown in Eastman Colour (which was erroneously listed as Technicolor in the LAT review and WarnerColor in the copyright statement and HR review). The Var review stated that “this is the first time the subject has been depicted in color...all the grim trappings are more vividly impressive.” The HR review stated, “Blood is very red in a color film.” Despite the horrific and gruesome scenes, the monster is never seen killing anyone.
       The LAEx review reported that Warner Bros., which had a production deal with Hammer, called the film’s midnight-through-dawn series of premieres a “Horror-Thon” and that printed warnings in the form of legal notices were published in newspapers “admonishing those of faint heart...to come at their own risk.” However, according to a modern source, many lurid scenes were cut for Western audiences and the unedited version was released only in Japan.
       Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic has been the source for numerous films as early as the Edison Mfg. Corp.’s 1910 Frankenstein , which was directed by J. Searle Dawley (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-1910 ). For information on other films based on Shelley's novel, see the entry for the 1931 Universal production Frankenstein in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 . More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Jun 1957.
---
Cue
10 Aug 1957.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jun 1957.
---
Film Daily
25 Jun 57
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
18 Jul 1957.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
19 Jul 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Jun 57
p. 426.
New York Times
8 Aug 57
p. 15.
New York Times
11 Aug 1957.
---
Variety
15 May 57
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Kinney Company
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus comp
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Frankenstein
or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (London, 1818).
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 July 1957
Premiere Information:
London opening: 2 May 1957
San Diego opening: 10 July 1957
Los Angeles opening: 17 July 1957
New York opening: 7 August 1957
Production Date:
at Bray Studios, Windsor, England
Copyright Claimant:
Clarion Film Productions
Copyright Date:
20 July 1957
Copyright Number:
LP12108
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Eastmancolour by Humphries Laboratories Ltd.
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
82-83
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18481
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

An hour before his execution, Baron Victor Frankenstein calls for a priest. Refusing spiritual comfort, he begs the priest to listen to his story: As a wealthy, young orphan, dissatisfied with the local schoolteacher and eager for knowledge, Victor advertises for a tutor and hires Paul Krempe, who becomes his mentor and later his partner in scientific inquiry. In the laboratory above Victor’s mansion, they discover the key to life and are able to revive a dead puppy. Although Paul wants to share their discovery with fellow scientists, Victor wants to continue their work using humans. After bringing the dead back to life, he now wants to create life and convinces the reluctant Paul to help him retrieve the corpse of a recently hanged man to use as the basis for a new human. When Victor gathers high-quality body parts from the charnel house, Paul becomes increasingly uneasy, finally reaching the point of refusing to assist. While Victor travels to another city to obtain the hands of a recently-deceased, famous sculptor, his cousin Elizabeth arrives, after the death of her mother. Having loved Victor since childhood, she is eager to marry him, in fulfillment of an arrangement their mothers made. Although Paul hopes that her presence will persuade Victor to discontinue his grisly experiments, Victor, who is having an affair with the maid, Justine, behaves courteously, but remains unchanged. After mentioning that he needs the brains of a genius for his creation, Victor invites the elderly Professor Bernstein for an extended visit. The professor is grateful for the hospitality and for what he thinks is Victor's interest in his work. ... +


An hour before his execution, Baron Victor Frankenstein calls for a priest. Refusing spiritual comfort, he begs the priest to listen to his story: As a wealthy, young orphan, dissatisfied with the local schoolteacher and eager for knowledge, Victor advertises for a tutor and hires Paul Krempe, who becomes his mentor and later his partner in scientific inquiry. In the laboratory above Victor’s mansion, they discover the key to life and are able to revive a dead puppy. Although Paul wants to share their discovery with fellow scientists, Victor wants to continue their work using humans. After bringing the dead back to life, he now wants to create life and convinces the reluctant Paul to help him retrieve the corpse of a recently hanged man to use as the basis for a new human. When Victor gathers high-quality body parts from the charnel house, Paul becomes increasingly uneasy, finally reaching the point of refusing to assist. While Victor travels to another city to obtain the hands of a recently-deceased, famous sculptor, his cousin Elizabeth arrives, after the death of her mother. Having loved Victor since childhood, she is eager to marry him, in fulfillment of an arrangement their mothers made. Although Paul hopes that her presence will persuade Victor to discontinue his grisly experiments, Victor, who is having an affair with the maid, Justine, behaves courteously, but remains unchanged. After mentioning that he needs the brains of a genius for his creation, Victor invites the elderly Professor Bernstein for an extended visit. The professor is grateful for the hospitality and for what he thinks is Victor's interest in his work. In a conversation with Paul, Elizabeth and Victor, the professor suggests that having knowledge is different from knowing what to do with it and explains convincingly the scientist’s dilemma of handing over discoveries to people who mishandle the information. At the end of the evening, while leading the professor to his bedchamber, Victor maneuvers him into falling over the balcony’s banister to his death. Appearing to act out of generosity, Victor buries Bernstein, who has no living relatives, in his family vault, but later robs his grave. Knowing that Victor is using the professor’s brain for his experiment, Paul accuses him of murder and mutilation. When their resulting fight results in the lab being damaged, Victor orders Paul to leave. Before going, Paul enters Elizabeth’s bedchamber to beg her to leave with him, claiming he has stayed only to protect her. He tells her that Victor, although neither wicked nor insane, is so wrapped up in his experiments that he cannot see the consequences and warns her that she is in physical and mental danger. However, Elizabeth is in love with Victor and wishes to help with his work, even though she knows nothing about it. Later, when Victor is ready to use an electrical charge to bring his monster to life, he asks for Paul’s help. Paul at first refuses, until Victor threatens to train Elizabeth for the job. Fearing that Elizabeth would be traumatized to learn the truth about Victor's work, Paul unhappily agrees to help. Victor and Paul then harness electricity during a storm to bring the creature to life. Its first act is to try to strangle Victor, but Paul stops him and the creature is then strapped down. To no avail, Paul urges Victor to destroy the monster, but Victor refuses. The creature then escapes and kills an old blind man who is hiking in the mountains with his young grandson. Without alerting the police, Paul and Victor track down the monster, and Paul shoots it in the head, against Victor’s wishes. They bury the creature, but Victor later unearths it and resumes his experiments, soon returning it to life. Upon learning of Victor’s plans to marry Elizabeth, Justine tells him that she is pregnant. When he refuses to marry her, she threatens to inform the authorities about his sinister work. During the night, she sneaks into the laboratory, and after Victor locks her inside, she is killed by the creature. On their wedding night, Victor leaves Elizabeth to work in his laboratory. Paul, who missed the wedding ceremony, arrives that night and learns that the monster, which is now a brain-damaged, cowering creature, has been revived. Blaming Paul’s bullet for the change in the creature’s demeanor, Victor says he plans to find a new brain for him. Paul leaves to alert the authorities, and Victor follows, hoping to dissuade him. From the mansion's ground they see that the creature has broken his chains and wandered out onto a roof carrying Elizabeth, whom he captured after her curiosity led her into the laboratory. Victor shoots at the monster, but wounds Elizabeth instead, and the monster moves toward him. In the ensuing struggle, Victor attacks him with a lantern, causing the monster to catch fire and fall through the roof skylight into an acid bath. In his jail cell, Victor tells the disbelieving priest that his “life’s work” was destroyed. Paul, the only person who can confirm Victor’s story, arrives, but refuses to corrorborate his account. The priest, warden and Paul then leave Victor's cell. Outside, Paul, who has always cared for Elizabeth, tells her that “there is nothing we can do for him now” and takes her home. Later, Victor, who is sentenced to die for the murder of Justine, Bernstein and the old man, is taken to the guillotine. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.