FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN/1967/TERENCE FISHER/PETER CUSHING

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN
1967/Director: Terence Fisher/Writer: Anthony Hinds
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, Robert Morris, Duncan Lamont
Frankenstein Created Woman is the fourth of the Hammer Frankenstein films and sees the return of Terence fisher as director after a brief absence from the helm while Freddie Francis directed The Evil of Frankenstein. Anthony Hinds is back as script writer under the familiar pseudonym John Elder. We will get to The Evil of Frankenstein another day as I will eventually get all the Hammer Frankenstein efforts reviewed then move on to the Dracula films. But I did want to clear something up that puzzled me for a while regarding the film Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. In that film I made the error of stating in my review of that film that Baron Frankenstein shows the damage he received at the end of Frankenstein Must Be destroyed. I was recalling that from memory and I am far from an expert on the films but it would seem that in Frankenstein Created Woman Frankenstein already shows some damage to his hands. We may infer from this that the injuries were received at the end of 1964’s The Evil of Frankenstein when the castle burns down and then explodes (like in the James Whale version) though it not shown or explained. Anyway, I always wondered about his hands in that film and need to go back and rewatch Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, a fine Terence fisher film as well, and see if his hands are gloved in that one.
There are a few things that set Frankenstein Created Woman apart from the other Hammer Frankenstein features. The most obvious would be the selection of lovely Susan Denberg to the play the “monster.” The Hammer male monsters were all loathsome creatures to be sure with the possible exception being Frankenstein Must Be destroyed where Freddie Jones shows the scars of brain surgery but looks fairly human. The other monsters were mutilated messes that could not speak and were violently insane. Denberg as Christina is beautiful and intelligent (after her transformation, getting to that) though confused and possessed. She is gentle when she is not butchering the men who had her lover Hans take the fall for the murder of her father. This leads to another difference in this film with the other Hammer masterpieces; the Baron (played again with sheer brilliance by Peter Cushing) is more sensitive and caring towards his creation. And who wouldn’t show more affection towards doe eyed, victimized Playmate Denberg than Christopher Lee’s mutilated lunatic in The Curse of Frankenstein.
In this case Cushing’s Frankenstein is perhaps the most likable of his screen interpretations, though he still reeks of pompous arrogance and a tendency to see living humans as nothing more than potential for another of his experiments with the dead. But, unlike some of the other films, he does nothing to expedite anybody’s demise but he does not look gift horses in the mouth either. He is certainly an opportunist and manipulator but his goals in this film are not centered on stitching together rotted chunks of dead flesh to ultimately create a deformed mockery of humanity that is supposed to wow all the skeptics in Geneva but they are centered instead on the human soul itself. Yes, Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein in this film is concerned with the state of the human soul and how long it remains in the human after death. The only operating he does is when he performs the most miraculous example of plastic surgery in history on the deformed Christina and turns her from a scarred and limping bar maid into a stunning beauty. He shows concern and affection for Christina and other people as well, to some extent anyway. In one scene that takes place in a court room he is even shown thumbing through the Bible in a fashion that, while not indicating he was about to be born again, shows more curiosty than contempt.
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The story takes place in a small and remote village on the edge of the Balkan Mountains. This time the good Baron is assisted by the good natured but mumbling and sometimes addled brained Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters) and by the young man Hans Werner (Robert Morris). Though bright and a hard worker Hans has a tainted past I that his father was the village rascal who wound up with his head in a guillotine for killing a man. Hans witnessed this as a lad and while he is none the worse for the event on the surface he harbors a volatile temper that he sometimes loses control of. As stated already Frankenstein’s experiments center on the human soul itself. In most of the Hammer Frankenstein films the Baron is presented as a scoffing man of science who seems to have little use of religious gobbledygook or those who profess any sort of faith in any of it manifestations. Here the Baron does not even try to establish the existence of the soul and it is taken for granted it exists. What he is concerned with is how long the soul lingers in a body right immediately following death. After an experiment where he is revived from a frozen state the conclusion is about one hour. The success of the experiment is cause for celebration and the two men send Hans to the local tavern to get a battle of campaign on credit. The doctor and Baron between them cannot afford a bottle of campaign! To make sure he can get the drink Dr. Hertz gives Hans his nice over coat to offer in trade. When Hans arrives the inn keeper, Herr Klive, is out but his daughter Christine has in the kitchen preparing food. Christina has some scars on the left side of her face that are never explained and walks with a limp. She also seems to have some partial paralysis in her left arm and hand. Well luckily handsome Hans is one of those rare guys who looks for the beauty inside and he is smitten to the core with Christina though her father thinks he is not good enough for her because, as they say, like father like son. It is not like there are hordes of other suitors beating down the door to his house to court his deformed daughter but he seems to be holding out anyway.
Three local lads born with silver spoons in their rude drunken mouths show up as Hans is leaving. They are looking for another meal and drinks on their growing tab. They do not want Herr Klive to serve them and insist on petrified Christina being their hostess. They ten begin to tease and torment her and soon Hans loses his cool and a fight breaks out. One of the young men, Anton the leader, receives a knife slash across his forehead from a now out of control Hans. When the police arrive in their little pointy Balkan helmets and subdue him the knife is wrested from his grip by Herr Klive. Hans, in anger, says he will kill Herr Klive for that. Well, I think we can see where is going to head right? Soon the Baron and Doctor arrive and manage to get the spoiled little rich boys to pay for their meal for them in exchange for medical treatment. These guys can’t even buy a meal at the local tavern! Thing cut to Hans in bed with Christina. He likes chicks with scarred faces, gimpy legs and paralyzed hands. She helps to cool his anger at the three lads as they serenade Christina outside her window with songs about the ‘ugliest angel.’ We may have no clue as to what kind of creation the good Baron is going to come up with in this film but we know these three guys are monster fodder.
Later the lads go back to the inn and sneak in for free drinks and when Herr Klive returns they figure the only reasonable thing to do is cane the man to death. The police find Dr. Hertz’s overcoat and it soon linked to Hans. Since the apple never falls too far from the tree he is the only suspect and is soon before the judge in a kangaroo court that finds him guilty of murder. He will not tell them that he was in Christina’s bed the night before and destroy her reputation. Well, what reputation really. She is a crippled girl whose father was just murdered. She is away to another village seeking advice on her medical issues but returns in time to see Hans beheaded, the same way he saw his father executed years before. She is driven to commit suicide by leaping into a river. What does this mean? It means that the good Barn suddenly has two fresh bodies to try out his human soul experiments on. He bullied Dr. Hertz into threatening the jail guard with blackmail unless he was allowed to borrow Hans’s corpse for an hour or so. They extract his soul and keep it suspended in some sort of chamber. Soon the soul is being transplanted into the body of Christina who has also received miraculous reconstructive surgery from the baron and Doctor. If they did this as a sideline even they could surely pay for their own meals and a bottle of booze once in a while. Soon Christina wakes up looking like a Playboy Playmate and asking in a dubbed voice who she is. Frankenstein decides he needs to help jar her memory. Best to be delicate and sensitive in these areas. The mind of a such a girl must be a fragile thing. So with all the compassion Cushing Frankenstein has come to be known for he wheels her off in a carriage with her eyes covered then lets her get a sudden peek at¡­what, the old Inn she used to work at? Her old home? Nah, that would eb too brutal on her psyche. Better to uncover hher eyes and let her see the guillotine where, as the soul of Hans, she was executed. She screams and passes out and the Baron smiles and declares the entire event a success.
At this point the film takes another slightly different approach to the story than the other Hammer Frankenstein films in that the creation becomes more of a stalker/slasher type killer with revenge as her motivation. Rather than having people run in fear from a hideous monster or chase the creature through the streets with pitch forks the victims here are willingly lured to their deaths by meat cleavers and knives by the sultry Christina. The only other monster in the annals of Frankenstein history as pretty would probably be Michael Sarrazin in Frankenstein: The True Story. After Christina begins her killing spree the metaphysical theme of the film is all but forgotten about. Too bad. It could have explored it a bit further. Frankenstein seems to have a pensive and reflective moment at the films conclusion when he stares off into the sky after Christina, successfully this time, commits suicide by leaping from a rocky cliff into a rocky surf. Still his Cushing’s Frankenstein remains amoral at best through the film. His arrogance is born of his education and aristocratic upbringing. In fact he may well be above the ignorant town’s people. At the trial for Hans he does what eh can to vouch for the lad but the people in the court room are fueled by the knowledge that Han’s father was a killer and never are the character’s of the three well to do’s called into question but rather they are called on to testify against Hans. They are suspicious of the Baron and are convinced he is engaged in black magic and witchcraft, an accusation he denies but admits that if doctorates were presented for such studies he would no doubt have one. It may have been a strange move on the studio’s part to dub Denberg’s Austrian accent since the story takes place in the Balkan Mountain region. Sure, that would require maybe a Serbian accent but I think her real voice would have been fine. Luckily, in my opinion, this film was released before Hammer went into its nude phase in the late 60’s. While Denberg is lovely it may have ruined the film if the studio has slipped in gratuitous breast shots, which were soon to become common in their Gothic Horror films. I love Terence Fisher’s work but I am not an expert. Did he ever show any exposed breast in any of his films? There would be no need to as this master story teller was more than capable of doing his job while the actors kept their clothes on. Another pretty good Frankenstein outing from Fisher, Hinds (Elder), James Bernard (score) and Mr. Cushing.
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