In this 1957 Hammer Films production, Peter Cushing is Frankenstein, although first some other dude is him as a 15-year-old hiring a new tutor named Paul (Robert Urquhart), and then he ages 20 years into Peter Cushing between scenes while the tutor stays the same. Together they do some science and reanimate a pretty damn cute dead dog.
Then Frankenstein decides he wants to make a new life from corpses (duh) and his Paul tutor does some qualms about it. Victor’s cousin Elizabeth (Hazel Court) shows up expecting to live with him, and Paul worries about what this means for his pederastic science-topia. Elizabeth spends a while in a nice cleavage/dress (it’s about half and half.) Otherwise, her acting is terrible.
Pretty soon, a monster! (Christopher Lee in his first major role.) By pretty soon we mean 50 minutes into an 80 minute film.
The monster doesn’t talk (kind of a waste of Christopher Lee, obviously) but has some good pathetic movements, although he’s more inherently violent than the one from the book (who begins simply scared, and rapidly becomes quite intelligent and even well-spoken. Ain’t no Paradise Lost quoting in this shit)
Hammer goes all-in on reshaping the plot completely to center on the relationship between Victor and Paul, a character they added (I guess he’s sort of like Henry Clerval, but not really. At times he felt like a Watson, making me want to look up who was Watson when Cushing played Holmes.) It’s a completely different story for a host of reasons, the main one being that this Frankenstein has no genuine relationships and can’t lose people he cares about to the monster, because he’s pretty much a sociopath. They make a movie where Frankenstein is the real monster and his creation is just a bit pathetic–which, at least, they don’t throw in your face in some stupidly heavy-handed way. Still, at the end, not much of a story is accomplished.
I always just wonder why someone can’t just make a movie of Frankenstein. Dracula is long and unfilmable?!?, hyper-aware of its being a text, and cobbled together from journals, letters, and telegrams. The beginning is heavily dramatized and then the pace changes completely as the action shifts to England, so any film has to, at very least, condense drastically. Frankenstein just isn’t like that. It’s a shorter book, mostly narrated straightforwardly, with a simple (enough) human story to tell. Why not tell it in a movie? It’d be nice. I do like the strange cultural phenomenon of everything everyone knows about Frankenstein being from Boris Karloff’s depiction and maybe some Young Frankenstein thrown in, none of the iconic images we associate with Frankenstein are actually in the book. And that’s a fun concept to have floating around in the whatever. I still want to see this book’s story done sometime in more than just my mind’s eye. Me too.