PICTURE OF THE DAY: THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
Here’s a picture from Hammer’s second Frankenstein movie, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958).
This film has always lived in the shadow of its predecessor, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), and it’s rarely listed by fans as one of Hammer’s best, but I’ve always liked this movie, and Peter Cushing delivers one of his best performances as Baron Frankenstein here, this time going by the alias “Dr. Stein” since the world believes Baron Frankenstein is dead.
In this photo, Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing) has placed his right hand on the tarp behind him and is just about to remove it to reveal to his young assistant Hans (Francis Matthews) the unborn body of his latest creation.
Stein had just been showing Hans around his laboratory, in particular an experiment involving a brain, eyes, and a hand, and Hans is astounded and says that Stein should be proud of this accomplishment. Stein dismisses this praise, lamenting the limits of what he has been able to do so far.
He asks Hans if he knows why Victor Frankenstein was condemned to death, and Hans says of course, that everyone knows, that he created a man who became a monster, to which Stein responds:
“I built him to be perfect. If the brain hadn’t been damaged—.”
And then, “I swore I would have my revenge. They will never be rid of me.”
Stein pauses, and just before removing the tarp, says, “This is something I am proud of.”
And then he reveals his latest unborn creation to the movie audience.
Many fans have complained that they don’t understand what the revenge in the title refers to, especially since Cushing does not portray the Baron as all that villainous in this movie. But the revenge in the title refers to Baron Frankenstein’s sticking it to the nonbelievers. He’s out to prove to the world that he was right the first time, that he can create life, and that the Creature in the first film was only a murderous beast because Victor’s assistant had damaged the brain.
By the way, Hans’ statement that everyone knows why Baron Frankenstein was condemned to death, because he had created a monster actually goes against the events in the first movie, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. In that film, the Baron is sentenced to death on murder charges, and his claims that he’s innocent and that his Creature committed the murders falls on deaf ears because there’s no evidence, as the Creature had fallen to its death into a vat of acid, destroying its body, and the only other man to see the Creature, Victor’s former tutor turned assistant, Paul Krempe, lied to the authorities and said there was no Creature, to make sure that Victor paid the ultimate price for the atrocities he caused. So, contrary to what Hans said here, the world shouldn’t have known about Frankenstein’s Creature.
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN actually has a better budget and a more creative story than THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, but it’s nowhere near as scary, and probably the biggest problem among fans is that the monster in this one is rather wimpy, as Michael Gwynne is no Christopher Lee. Sure, Lee’s Creature is intensely frightening. But the “monster” in this film is completely consistent with the movie’s plot. He’s less frightening because Victor Frankenstein has done a better job this time. It’s a very sympathetic performance by Michael Gwynne as the Monster, but unfortunately, it’s not what movie audiences wanted.
As always, Peter Cushing is terrific as Baron Frankenstein. He does a nice job of balancing the Baron’s heroic and villainous sides in this one, and he tends to be more of a hero this time around.
It’s Peter Cushing’s birthday this month, on May 26. He would have turned 101 this year. Wow.
Enjoy the photo!
And thanks for reading!