Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Jimmy Sangster
Cast: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, John Welsh, Lionel Jeffries, Oscar Quitak, Richard Wordsworth, Charles Lloyd Pack, John Stuart, Arnold Diamond, Margery Gresley, Anna Walmsey, George Woodbridge, Michael Ripper, Ian Whittaker, and Avril Leslie
Composer: Leonard Salzedo
Release Date: 6/1/1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After escaping the guillotine, Baron Victor Frankenstein flees to Germany to continue his experiments. With the assistance of a young pupil named Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews), Frankenstein—now assuming the moniker of Dr. Stein—creates a new body (Michael Gwynn) for his crippled lab assistant Karl (Oscar Quitak), with an unforeseen complication.
Focusing on the titular Baron over his original monster, this film provides a clever and unexpected follow-up story to The Curse of Frankenstein. Especially deserving of praise are the new concepts explored in The Revenge of Frankenstein, which will appeal to enthusiasts of the sci-fi/horror genre.
Despite lacking the iconic square head and protruding neck bolts of Universal Studios’ Frankenstein monster, the creature in this film benefits from the pathos of his original human self (i.e., Karl). Prior to receiving his new body, for example, Karl elicits sympathy with his desire to fall in love and live a normal, happy life. While deteriorating into a savage beast, however, the creature evokes pity due to his extraordinary physical and mental struggles—much in contrast to the Christopher Lee monster, who acts only as a killing machine both before and after his traumatic brain injury.
This offering contains all the tropes of a classic Frankenstein narrative: a hunchbacked assistant, a rampaging monster, and a brilliant mad scientist. Nevertheless, The Revenge of Frankenstein fails to embody the rich atmosphere and Gothic suspense of a typical Hammer horror production—likely a consequence of the languid pacing and limited set designs that plague this film throughout.
Also underdeveloped is the character of Margaret (Eunice Gayson), who, though a potential romantic interest for Karl, has almost no connection to the conflicts of Baron Frankenstein, Hans Kleve, or the monster in his final form.
Alluding to the possibility that a healthy body could inherit diseased traits from a transplanted brain, The Revenge of Frankenstein offers a science fiction twist on physiognomy—the belief that a person’s outer appearance will reflect the inner character of an individual.
The Revenge of Frankenstein is a tragic and thought-provoking, albeit drawn-out, installment in Hammer’s lineup of films. Peter Cushing fans and British horror buffs will therefore enjoy this entry, which serves as a worthy sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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