Film Review: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Also known as: Frankenstein Made Woman (Portugal)
Release Date: March 15th, 1967 (US)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters

Hammer Film Productions, 86 Minutes (UK), 92 Minutes (US)

Review:

“Bodies are easy to come by, souls are not.” – Baron Frankenstein

I was working my way through the Hammer Films Frankenstein series but I had to jump ahead to this, the fourth installment, as it’s the only one I don’t own on DVD and I can only see it on FilmStruck, which is sadly closing up shop November 29th.

This one is a bit different than the three before it, as Baron Frankenstein actually seems pretty level headed and exhibits some empathy. While I prefer the mad scientist role for Cushing, he was never quite as mad as Colin Clive’s Frankenstein and he actually seemed fairly rational at times. I guess, he was less cartoony but at the same time, his evil nature felt more pure and less like a caricature.

I do enjoy seeing Cushing’s Frankenstein seeming to have learned from his past mistakes and shitty behavior. That doesn’t mean he’s stopped his work but he is more responsible and less reckless with it.

Also, his work has strangely evolved, as now he’s found a way to trap the souls of the recently deceased in an effort to put them in a new body and give them life again. It’s a really bizarre turn but I’ll accept it, as this is the fourth of these films and it allows for some creative freedom and not just a rehash of the standard Frankenstein plot.

The monster in this chapter is a young girl with a disfigured face. But before she becomes a monster, we see her and her father constantly bullied by three rich assholes from the village. The girl’s boyfriend is one of Frankenstein’s assistants but he is blamed for the murder of the girl’s father, which was actually committed by the rich assholes when they were trying to steal wine. The assistant is executed but Frankenstein is able to trap his soul and return it to his deceased body.

The girl is severely upset over the death of her boyfriend so she drowns herself. The body is eventually brought to Frankenstein, who is able to not only revive her but to cure her of her disfigurement and physical handicaps. But she loses her memory while Frankenstein and his assistant Hertz try to slowly bring her back towards a normal life.

As she starts to remember things, she is taken over by the vengeful spirit of her dead boyfriend. Possessed, she exacts revenge on the three assholes who killed her father, allowed her boyfriend to be executed and eventually drove her to suicide.

There are a lot of twists and turns and the plot is absolutely bonkers but it’s pretty exciting if you are a fan of Hammer.

Cushing gives a solid performance and I really liked Susan Denberg, as she had a lot of different angles and personalities she had to convey within the 92 minute run time.

This is not a great Hammer movie or anywhere near Terence Fisher’s best but it reinvented the wheel a little bit and for some, that might not work, but for me, I welcomed it, suspended disbelief and just accepted the insanity of the plot.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer Frankenstein films, as well as the Hammer Dracula and Mummy series.

Film Review: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Also known as: Frankenstein (Netherlands)
Release Date: May 2nd, 1957 (UK)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart

Hammer Film Productions, 83 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve harmed nobody, just robbed a few graves!” – Baron Frankenstein

It’s Halloween season and since it’s been a couple years since I watched through the Hammer Horror Frankenstein series, I felt that revisiting it was needed.

This is really the point where Hammer hit the right note, at the right time. The success of this film not only led to a slew of Frankenstein sequels, it also opened the door for their Dracula and Mummy film series and a bunch of other classic monster movies reinvented for the time.

This also sort of solidified the working relationship of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who ended up doing nearly two dozen pictures together. Plus, they became best friends and were forever linked. This is the film that also gave them long lasting careers and established them as horror movie legends. Without this film Gran Moff Tarkin and Count Dooku may have never existed in the forms that we know. Not to mention, without the longevity that this gave to Lee’s career, we might not have ever gotten to see him as Saruman, a role he was absolutely perfect for.

The Curse of Frankenstein is a very important motion picture for the reasons I just mentioned and because it changed the horror genre going forward. Hammer would inspire other studios like Amicus in the UK and American International in the US, who probably took cues from Hammer’s movies when they produced their Edgar Allan Poe films of the 1960s.

However, looking at this film, apart from all that context and it’s importance in film history, it still stands pretty damn tall on its own.

This isn’t quite on the level of Universal’s Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein from the 1930s but after those two films, this is the best version of the story out there. It’s very different from the literary source material but I like the changes and that was Hammer’s thing. They often times rewrote the classics in an effort at keeping them fresh and not just rehashes of the same thing you’ve seen before. Besides, as a series, Hammer’s Frankesntein films are a better complete body of work than the Universal ones. This series did get really weird but it was cool because, at its core, Frankenstein is already a weird story.

The Curse of Frankenstein was a good foundation to what Hammer would build for a solid fifteen years after this with all of their iconic horror pictures. Sure, they took creative liberties but they always seemed to respect the material and to look at these classics from new and interesting angles.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer Frankenstein films, as well as the Hammer Dracula and Mummy series.

Film Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Release Date: May 4th, 1959 (UK)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Peter Bryan
Based on: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee

Hammer Film Productions, United Artists, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I warned him! What could have possessed him to come out here alone?” – Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlock Holmes franchise is possibly the biggest of all-time, as the character has had more literary stories than I care to count and an endless stream of movies and television shows going back to the invention of celluloid. Maybe there are more live action Dracula adaptations but one can’t deny that Holmes has owned pop culture before the term “pop culture” entered the mainstream lexicon.

It’s only natural that Hammer would take a crack at a Holmes story after their success at adapting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, along with their versions of The Mummy and their other horror successes. Plus, they had the uber talented Peter Cushing at their disposal, who was definitely Hammer’s perfect man to play the world’s most famous detective. Add in Cushing’s best friend and the man he worked with the most, Christopher Lee, and you’ve got a solid cast. However, this also teamed the great duo up with Hammer’s third best male lead, André Morell. And then on top of that, this was directed by Hammer’s premier director, Terence Fisher. To put it simply, Hammer assembled their dream team to give life to the literary work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What I most enjoyed about this film, is that even if it takes some liberties, it doesn’t do what you would expect Hammer to do. What I mean is that it doesn’t give the story a supernatural twist. It could have been easily turned into a werewolf movie or had a bunch of black magic stuff but it kept things grounded in reality and honestly, that made for a better picture than conjuring up some sort of unnatural threat.

While I always loved seeing Cushing and Lee together, Cushing spends more time with Morell, which is fun stuff to watch, as I love both men and wish that they got to play off of each other more often. Morell should have been in more films with Cushing and Lee, as the three men are sort of Hammer’s Holy Trinity.

This is a very straightforward Holmes picture that does the material some justice and is a nice experience, overall. It has that standard late ’50s/early ’60s Hammer visual aesthetic, which just makes this cooler and helps to make it fit within their catalog of horror titles from that time.

I love Holmes pictures and I love Hammer, so this is certainly a film I really enjoy and appreciate for a myriad of reasons.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other early Hammer films starring Cushing and Lee. Also, the Hammer film with André Morell that deals with the undead: The Plague of the Zombies. I also like pairing this with another Hammer classic that stars the super cool Oliver Reed: The Curse of the Werewolf.

Film Review: Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Release Date: August 5th, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terry Nation
Music by: Barry Gray, Bill McGuffie
Cast: Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Ray Brooks, Jill Curzon, Roberta Tovey, Andrew Keir

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[over the radio] Surrender now and you will live. Resist and you will be exterminated. Show yourselves in the streets immediately and obey the orders of your masters, the Daleks!” – Dalek

I know that these non-canonical Doctor Who movies get a really bad wrap, as they exist in their own universe and ignore some of the established continuity of the television show, but I have always liked them for what they are, B-movie sci-fi adventures with hokey effects and the legendary Peter f’n Cushing as this version of The Doctor.

Like its predecessor, this theatrical and colorized Doctor Who adventure is a remake of a famous Dalek serial from the William Hartnel era of the television series. Where the first Cushing movie was a re-imagining of the first ever Dalek story, this picture is a re-imagining of the second Dalek story. Where the first film took place on the Dalek homeworld of Skaro, this one brings the Daleks to a future version of Earth, where they have invaded and conquered humanity. The Cushing Doctor and his companions have to outwit and outright battle the Daleks in an attempt to survive the proceedings and to return to a much safer place like the Earth of their present time.

One really cool thing about this movie is that it also stars Bernard Cribbins, who would go on to play the much beloved companion Wilfred Mott from the David Tennant era, some forty years later. In this film, Cribbins plays a beat cop that stumbles into the TARDIS and ends up in the future with the Doctor and his other companions: Louise, his neice, and his young granddaughter from the first movie, Susan.

This film has a larger budget than the first one and its apparent, even if this feels like an old B-movie. Where the first one was on closed sets in a bizarre forest and a Dalek fortress of boring corridors, this one took to the streets of London and felt much more like it was on location in the real world. Granted, I liked the vivid and otherworldly feel of the previous picture.

Still, this one is a bit better. It feels more refined and even though Cushing was ill during filming and it was rewritten to use his character less, the other characters held their own and made the film a worthwhile experience for fans of this sort of thing.

This was originally supposed to be the middle chapter in a trilogy of Dalek movies but it did not get a sequel and would be the last of the non-canonical Doctor Who stories.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Dr. Who and the Daleks and the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who.

Film Review: Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1965 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Daleks by Terry Nation
Music by: Malcolm Lockyer, Barry Gray (electronic music)
Cast: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 82 Minutes

Review:

“How interesting! This is most interesting!” – Dr. Who

Dr. Who and the Daleks is a pretty interesting piece of pop culture. Really, it is an adaptation of the Doctor Who episode The Daleks. It was made in color and released theatrically but this Dr. Who, is not the Doctor Who.

Horror and sci-fi legend Peter Cushing plays this version of the Doctor but he is not an alien Time Lord, he is a human scientist that somehow built his own TARDIS. This isn’t canon with the rest of the Doctor Who mythos but it did get a sequel, which was also an adaptation of a classic Doctor Who episode featuring the Daleks.

This movie gets a pretty bad rap but I think it’s just because it exists as its own thing. Truthfully, it isn’t that bad, if classic cheesy science fiction is your thing. It certainly looks better than the Doctor Who that was on television, at the time. This is in color, unlike the show and it is actually pretty damn colorful, almost like an Italian giallo film from the late ’60s or early ’70s. There is a great vivid use of colored lighting between the emerald green petrified forest to the hokey yet opulent looking base of the Daleks. Plus, the Daleks are colorful and each seems to have its own unique visual flair. Even the humanoid aliens were colorful.

This is the type of film you’d expect to see pop up on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 but it would definitely be one of the better films they could feature. The former MST3K guys who run RiffTrax recognized this, as they did lampoon this film and its sequel.

I have always really like Dr. Who and the Daleks. I get why other people don’t but I feel as if they aren’t giving it a fair shot because it has major differences with its source material. The film, like the show, is full of fun and adventure and well, it has Daleks.

Film Review: Madhouse (1974)

Release Date: May 22nd, 1974 (San Francisco)
Directed by: Jim Clark
Written by: Ken Levinson, Greg Morrison
Based on: Devilday by Angus Hall
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, Natasha Pyne, Michael Parkinson, Linda Hayden, Barry Dennen

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Miss Peters, as they say in horror movies, you will come to a bad end.” – Paul Toombes

American International Pictures and Amicus Productions, two great B-movie horror studios of their day, teamed up to bring us Madhouse. It also teams up two of their biggest horror stars, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. It doesn’t end there though, as the film features Count Yorga himself, Robert Quarry, and Hammer Horror ladies Adrienne Corri and Linda Hayden.

Coming out a year after the Vincent Price starring Theater of Blood, this film shares a lot of similarities with it. Both movies deal with an actor that is tied to the murders of several people around him. In Theater of Blood Price played a stage actor. In this, he is a horror movie icon most known as a character called Dr. Death. The people who die in this film are killed by someone dressed as Dr. Death. Is it Price committing the crimes or is it someone else trying to drive him mad?

While this isn’t the best work Price or Cushing did in their long careers, it is still a fun and entertaining ride for ninety minutes. Plus, seeing Price and Cushing share the screen is never a bad thing.

I really like the character of Dr. Death and it would have been cool seeing this spinoff into some Dr. Death movies but they never really thought like that back in the 1970s. The filmmakers created a character that could have been a cool brand, all to himself. Plus, at this point, Price didn’t have a permanent vehicle like he did in the 1960s with those Edgar Allan Poe pictures he cranked out annually with Roger Corman.

This is a violent whodunit mystery and it very much plays like an Italian giallo picture but without the vivid colorful flourishes. Still, it feels giallo in spirit, as it is a good prototype for the slasher formula and features a cool mysterious killer with an even cooler outfit. And like a giallo, it has hints of noir in its story, although it is lacking the noir visual style. Had this film been a bit more stylish, it could have actually been something exceptional.

Madhouse is still pretty good and I like it a bit more than the more popular Theater of Blood. But really, the two films are just good companion pieces to one another and also play well as a double feature.

Ranking Every Doctor of Doctor Who

This is a hard list to compile, as I haven’t disliked a single Doctor in the long history of Doctor Who. However, some were better than others and this is my attempt to quantify that in some fashion.

Just because someone ranks in at the bottom spot, doesn’t mean they weren’t worthy of the role. The people behind the show have always done a great job in finding people that fit The Doctor.

Some of the ones at the bottom are also only there because they made only a few appearances and didn’t have the time to really shine in the role over a season or more.

1. Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)
2. Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)
3. Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)
4. Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)
5. Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
6. Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)
7. Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
8. Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)
9. Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
10. Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)
11. First Doctor (William Hartnell)
12. Movie Doctor (Peter Cushing)
13. Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)
14. War Doctor (John Hurt)