Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Frankenstein Created Woman

Sign # 53 That You’re Jogging Too Much: Both knees crackle like you just added milk to them when you take your socks off to shower. Not good. It’s good, then, that this film was quality enough to take my mind off how my quest for a trim belly is slowly ensuring that I’ll have none of my original leg joints when I’m forty.

I’ve always enjoyed Hammer Studios’ take on Frankenstein, as they gave him a more gentle edge and had him and the monster slowly becoming friends together over a series of years. It’s an interesting twist on the whole story. This one, late in the series, dispenses with the monster altogether, in favor of having the doctor taking up shop in a small ignorant town with another doctor and an assistant, experimenting on a new bid to cheat death by capturing the soul shortly after the end of life before it can move on. This comes in handy when his assistant is falsely accused of murder and is executed, with the assistant’s girlfriend, witnessing his death by guillotine, throwing herself in the river as a result. This proves invaluable to the good doctor, who now has a soul available for capture in his wrongly executed assistant, as well as having a fresh body to place it in, in his girlfriend (why he couldn’t have put the soul back in its original body is unclear, but as Frankenstein has gotten in a spot of trouble here and there in the past for just such things, I’ll leave him to his own judgment on such matters). Sure enough, the experiment has its problems, as the newly-revived girl, possessed by the spirit of their assistant, now takes his revenge on the three punk rich kids who had actually committed the murder and got him wrongfully convicted.

It’s the acting that really elevates this to one of the top tier Hammer Frankenstein movies. Peter Cushing had already had a good deal of experience with the character; here he is so manically obsessed with his work that he’s still reading up on it while on the witness stand. The three punk rich kids are all suitably loathsome as well, with their obnoxious laughter sneering at the stupid commoners they are surrounded by, and their delicious fear when they realize what’s now going to happen to them as a result of their wicked misdeeds.

This isn’t a great film, but as I was only expecting an adequate movie and nothing more (it came as the first feature in a two-pack of Hammer films along with The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, making it the best double bill I’ve gotten from them since The Devil Rides Out/Rasputin the Mad Monk), it certainly exceeded my expectations. It’s got everything you could ask for from a film like this – quality acting, a good visual flair (something Hammer films were always known for), and an appropriate amount of ghoulishness from the unsavory proceedings going on. It’s well worth checking out, particularly given that it comes with an equally good second feature.

Rating: *** ½

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