Friday, September 24, 2010

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
--- horror/science fiction

Dir: Terence Fisher

Where the last film, "The Evil of Frankenstein", seemed to pay homage to the original Universal Studios productions of Frankenstein, you would think now is the time to do the Hammer version of "Bride of Frankenstein". Well they did, but not quite as expected. When I first watched this film, I filed it in the category of, "Wasted Potential", mainly because I was comparing it to the previous entries. Instead, "Frankenstein Created Woman" has a much more interesting premise. As mentioned, upon first viewing, it does seem to veer into a supernatural slasher film, leaving us with little sympathy for anyone. Having said that, the film seems to open up some deep questions about the soul, something the predecessors only hinted upon in conversation.

The film opens with the famous Hammer Frankenstein trademark of the guillotine. Except the head razor has little or nothing to do with the Baron at all this time around. It is actually a flashback to this film's Hans' father. This sets up one half of the vengeance plot of the film.

Next we see Hans join a dotty old Dr. Hertz (played by Hammer Studios regular Thorley Walters) as they rush to resurrect a body in a coffin, until it is revealed to be none other than Baron Frankenstein himself. One could take this in two ways, first as it would appear the filmmakers are telling the audience Frankenstein has become a full on monster, even of his own doing. The other could be this is a sly reference to Hammer's other recurring cinema monster, Count Dracula.

Nevertheless, it's revealed Dr. Frankenstein is indeed dead, and having been on ice for an hour, has just successfully risen from the dead, proving the soul shall return to the body. Another banal experiment well done, and so to celebrate, they send Hans out for wine. Hans happens to be in love with the deformed daughter of an inn keeper. The daughter, Christina (played by Playboy model and Star Trek guest star from "Mudd's Women" Susan Denberg), it would appear has been constantly harassed by a trio of young elites who would normally fit right into a Hammer Dracula film.

When Hans defends his lover and gets into a brawl with the trio, he is later framed for the murder of Christina's father, the innkeeper. Hans is arrested by local authorities and after a trial is found guilty, sending him to the same fate of his father, the guillotine. Christina happens upon the execution and witnesses the death of her lover, sending her into a tearful hopeless act of suicide by jumping into the river. Where death can be found, Frankenstein, of course is not too far behind. He orders Dr. Hertz to retain the body of Hans for his experiment immediately after the beheading. As an added bonus, the townspeople go to Dr. Hertz with the body of Christina, and Frankenstein takes up the task of surgically altering her while using his soul transference apparatus to save Hans in Christina's newly formed body. The experiment is a success, but Frankenstein is careful to not yet reveal to her her true identity.

The rest of the film just serves as a catalyst for a formulaic revenge climax. Christina systematically goes after her lovers killers,using her new found sexual wiles, as a mysterious blond bombshell. When bodies turn up around town, the authorities immediately suspect the Baron. It is now he realizes completed what he was waiting for, that his experiment has worked, and that Hans' soul has returned from beyond the grave.

However, this film's reception has been, it is well written and balanced enough to get its message across. I believe there may have been some scenes in this film exist somewhere, or were left on the cutting room floor, as there is evidence of Frankenstein carrying Christina who's wearing a kinda little white bikini. Not sure what more of the story it added or not. Anyway, besides the wonky science of a rudimentary machine that can virtually upload the soul of a person, one can trust the films script thoroughly. If you forgive them bypassing the notion of an afterlife.

The cinematography is again well done, as are most of these Frankenstein entries. As much as it owes tribute to the Universal classic "Bride of Frankenstein", Hammer's attempt seems more like a homage to other films that dealt with facial surgery that did not yet exist. The French film "Les Yeux Sans Visage/Eyes Without A Face" both incidentally using the female protagonist name of Christina (Christiane in Eyes), and a mad doctor of a father.