The Curse of Frankenstein

Peter Cushing in The Curse of Frankenstein (dir. Terence Fisher, 1957).

The first in Hammer's Frankenstein series. After seeing some of Fisher's early crime films, with their distinctive, not unappealing, British drawing-room dullness, I have a whole new perspective on his and writer Jimmy Sangster's Shelley adaptation (Sangster, by the way, was assistant director on all the Hammer noirs I've seen so far). What makes Fisher interesting, in an anthropological case-study kind of way, is the same thing that makes him minor: he has no idea how to handle the sensationalistic material he is drawn to. Or he has an idea that flickers to life from time to time, but it is always damped by his obsessive urge to present scenes of basically polite--albeit sometimes homicidal--people engaging in long, repeated bouts of mildly heated disagreement. This is only offset in Curse by Christopher Lee's lurid creature makeup: he looks like he has moldy birthday cake all over his face. That and Fisher's ongoing professional interest in cleavage, which he indulges in this case with both Helen Court as Elizabeth and Valerie Gaunt as the maid Justine. Somehow Fisher's lack of natural feeling for the conventions of the crime and horror genres translates into a queasily repressive formalism that results in a distinctive style after all. And as I write this, it occurs to me ... couldn't the same thing be said, on a much larger scale, about Hitchcock?

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