Hammer Films - Christopher Lee as Frankenstein's Monster

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – Definitive Hammer


The Curse of Frankenstein

The story of Frankenstein has been adapted as often as any other story in Hollywood. Despite the re-telling of this tale, the image of Boris Karloff with his boxed off head and bolts in the neck continue to serve as the iconic picture of Frankenstein’s Monster. The Curse of Frankenstein is the tale of a wretched creature that knows not why it lives and laments every moment it toils upon the earth.  The creature did not ask to be brought to life, but is forced to walk the earth alone because of the irresponsible hands of Dr. Frankenstein.

Legendary producers, Hammer Films, realized that the story is not in the monster, but rather the mind of Doctor Frankenstein. The more compelling story to behold is that of the madman that could create such a monster, and the incredible toll that this creator would take on the world around them. In doing so, Hammer Films re-imagined the Frankenstein story, and laid the foundation for several decades of quality Hammer Films horror.

A Familiar Tale

The Hammer interpretation of the story follows the traditional arc. A Young Victor Frankenstein, played brilliantly by Peter Cushing, inherits the families wealth. Frankenstein uses that wealth as a platform for his scientific pursuits. He has the means, but not the knowledge. Soon, he partners with Dr. Paul Krempe who servers first as Frankenstein’s mentor, then as his partner and ultimately his foil. The story moves with an intentional pace as Frankenstein’s mind evolves from creative to depraved. This journey starts at malpractice and then escalates to grave-robbing and murder. Peter Cushing becomes the embodiment of Victor Frankenstein. Much like Robert Downey Jr. is inseparable from Tony Stark, Peter Cushing wholly owns the character of Victor Von Frankenstein.

Victor von Frankenstein – A Case Study

When analyzing the character of Victor Von Frankenstein it is all to easy to point to his monster as the gold standard of his wickedness.  There is actually a more telling scene that involves a slimy exchange with his mistress.  Frankenstein belittles this woman in love as if she is nothing more than worm beneath his feet.  The exchange is as cold as it is cruel.  I find this particular scene to be masterful in portraying Victor Von Frankenstein as a man evil to the core rather than simply a man dedicated to his misguided work.

Hammer Films - Christopher Lee as Frankenstein's Monster
Christopher Lee as Frankenstein’s Monster

The Curse of Frankenstein – Making a Monster

The heart of this movie revolves around the mad Doctor, but Frankenstein’s monster is something to behold. Played by Christopher Lee, the monster is repulsive and for 1957, the make-up is phenomenal. Being pressured by Universal to ensure that their intellectual property was protected, artist Phil Leakey worked hard to create something new. Gone were the bolts in the neck and flat head and in their place is a wretched man full of stitches and misery.

For anyone else, Frankenstein’s Monster could be a limiting role. Lee excels by making no attempt to portray the monster as a soft-hearted behemoth that just doesn’t know its own strength.  The monster doesn’t hesitate to murder the old blind-man.  Much like in the original work by Mary Shelley, the monster is salty and hell-bent on revenge.

The Film that Built the House of Hammer

The Curse of Frankenstein is a Hammer Films classic. It is not be the best Hammer film ever, but this film formed the bedrock for the studio. Many Frankenstein sequels would further contribute to the franchise, but none better than the this. Peter Cushing steals the show as the Doctor and Christopher Lee lays down one of the best Monster performances of all.


The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) - Definitive Hammer - Malevolent Dark
curse of frankenstein christopher lee

Director: Terence Fisher

Date Created: 1957-01-01 00:00

Editor's Rating:

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