THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
Welcome to the latest edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we celebrate classic lines of dialogue from Peter Cushing movies. Why? Because I’ve been a fan of Peter Cushing my whole life, and it’s his performances in the movies which inspired me to become a horror writer.
Today we look at dialogue from the second Hammer Frankenstein movie, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958), a direct sequel to their mega-hit THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). It’s Peter Cushing’s second time playing Baron Frankenstein in the movies, and he would go on to play the Baron four more times.
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN usually gets a bad rap among fans, and some even consider it the weakest of the series, but I’ve always liked this one. The biggest problem it has— especially following the shock-filled THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN— is that it’s simply not all that scary. But it does tell a memorable story, one of the more intelligent and thought-provoking of the entire series.
Peter Cushing is once again superb as Baron Frankenstein in his second stint playing the role. This time he’s using an alias, Dr. Stein, and he makes the doctor a more likable character this time around, downplaying Frankenstein’s villainous side.
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN might be the most subtle film of the entire series, as there are lots of neat little nuances that lift this sequel to classic status. Here’s a look at some memorable Peter Cushing quotes from THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958), screenplay by Jimmy Sangster with additional dialogue by Hurford Janes.
Some of the best dialogue in the movie is the conversations between Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing) and his new young assistant, Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews). In this scene, the first time these two characters meet, Hans has snuck into Dr. Stein’s home and interrupted his dinner, with the bold assertion that he knows Stein’s true identity: Baron Frankenstein. This scene contains a neat bit where Peter Cushing uses a cloth to wipe a carving knife while speaking to Hans, and the young doctor can’t take his eyes off the sharp instrument while Dr. Stein questions his loyalty.
HANS: I’m the first, I suppose, to recognize you.
STEIN: For what I am, or for what you would have me be?
HANS: No, the resemblance is too striking. That, and your present activities lead to only one conclusion.
STEIN: So, and what if I am this Baron Frankenstein?
HANS: Are you?
STEIN: Just now you were telling me, now you’re asking. Dr. Kleve, why are you so interested in this gentleman?
HANS: I’m in search of knowledge.
STEIN: Oh, knowledge! Oh, so that’s it! My name is Frankenstein, I’ll admit.
STEIN: But it’s a large family, you know. Remarkable since the Middle Ages for its productivity. There are offshoots everywhere, even in America, I’m told. There’s a town called Frankenstein in Germany.
HANS: Are you the Baron Frankenstein?
STEIN: Then there are the Frankensteins emanating from the town of that name in Silesia.
HANS: Are you Baron Frankenstein?
STEIN: Yes, Dr. Kleve.
HANS: I was sure of it. I told you that I’m in search of knowledge. I want to learn more than any university can ever teach me. I want to be the pupil of the greatest doctor, the finest medical brain in the world, your pupil, Baron Frankenstein.
STEIN: Highly commendable. And if I refuse?
HANS: You won’t.
STEIN: So, either I employ you in my researches, or— surely this is blackmail? An ugly trait in a doctor.
HANS: I see it is an agreement of shall we say mutual reciprocation? Your knowledge in return for my assistance.
STEIN: And your silence? (gets up from his seat) I’m not an easy man to work for.
HANS: Few men are.
STEIN: And when you’ve learned all you want to know, you might change your mind about keeping silent. I wonder if I can trust you. (Picks up a carving knife) But then uncertainty is part of life’s fascination, isn’t it? (Wipes knife with a cloth, while Hans watches cautiously.)
HANS: I’ll take the risk if you will.
This is a very neat scene. It’s all very subtle, but it works.
Later, Stein and Hans are in the laboratory, when the discussion turns to the past.
STEIN: You know that I—that Frankenstein, was condemned to death.
STEIN: Do you know what for?
HANS: Well, surely everyone knows. The story’s become a legend. He created a man who became a monster.
STEIN: It should have been perfect. I made it to be perfect. If the brain hadn’t been damaged, my work would have been hailed as the greatest scientific achievement of all time. Frankenstein would have been accepted as a genius of science. Instead, he was sent to the guillotine. I swore I would have my revenge. They will never be rid of me. This is something I am proud of.
(Removes tarp and reveals to Hans a body frozen in a tank.)
HANS: Who is he?
STEIN: Nobody. He isn’t born yet. But this time he is perfect. Except for a few scars, he’s perfect.
There’s also a decent amount of amusing comic relief in this movie, like in this scene early on, when the Countess brings her daughter Vera to be examined by Dr. Stein, and it’s obvious the girl isn’t sick but that the Countess is only interested in Dr. Stein as a possible future husband for her daughter.
STEIN: I’m afraid there’s very little more I can do for your daughter. Doctors are not magicians. We cannot diagnose maladies which are not there.
COUNTESS: You are a man, doctor. You could do a great deal for her. Everything I have goes to Vera, when she marries. It was her father’s last wish. (Dr. Stein reacts with a knowing expression as he realizes where the Countess is going with this conversation) Now I’m having a musical evening soon. I so much hope you’ll be able to come.
STEIN: As much as I like music, I have very little free time.
COUNTESS: Ah, poor man. A life devoted to the needs of others. No time for a life of your own.
STEIN: There’s always time for the important things.
Then there’s this bit in the hospital room, where Dr. Stein treats the poor but also uses their body parts for his experiments. In this scene, he has his eye on the arm of a pick-pocket.
STEIN: You must have it off.
PATIENT #1: Have what off?
STEIN: This arm.
PATIENT #2: You’ll have to strangle him with one arm, Harry!
PATIENT #1: You ain’t going to have my arm off, that’s for sure.
STEIN: If you’d rather die, it’s up to you.
PATIENT #2: Let him have it, Harry.
PATIENT #1: The arm don’t pain me none.
STEIN: It’s of no use to you.
PATIENT #1: What do you mean no use—?
STEIN: Be quiet. (To his assistant): Five o’clock in the theater.
PATIENT #1: Doctor, I won’t be able to work no more.
STEIN (to his assistant): What is his work?
STEIN: You’ll have to find another trade or use the other hand.
A few moments later, the members of the medical council, including young Hans Kleve, who sees Dr. Stein for the first time, approach the doctor in the poor hospital with a special invitation.
Peter Cushing loved to work with props in his scenes. If you see enough of his movies, you’ll notice that he seems to be most comfortable acting when he’s doing more than one thing, whether it’s fiddling with a pipe, a diary, a pocket watch, or even a carving knife. He’s incredibly active in his scenes. In this entire sequence, he converses with the medical council while busily examining a patient. He barely looks at the council members.
STEIN: Well, what can I do for you?
PRESIDENT: Well, I am the president of the medical council.
PRESIDENT: At our last meeting, it was agreed that you should become a member.
STEIN: Really? (To his assistant) Have this new man washed, and then I’ll look at him. I am greatly honored, gentlemen.
PRESIDENT: Then you accept?
MALKE: Every doctor on the faculty regards your attitude as an insult!
STEIN: When I arrived in Carlsbruck, without means or influence, and attempted to set up in practice, I was met by a firm resistance from the medical council, which apparently exists purely to eliminate competition. I have built up a highly successful practice alone and unaided. Having grown accustomed to working alone, I find I prefer it. Do I make myself clear, gentlemen?
HANS: Quite clear.
STEIN: Thank you. Good day.
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN isn’t completely devoid of thrills. When Karl (Michael Gwynne) escapes and suffers from yet another damaged brain, he becomes a murderer with cannibalistic tendencies, and he kills a young girl in the park. When the police find the body, they ask for Dr. Stein’s assistance, in this atmospheric scene.
STEIN (to boy): Did you see who attacked her?
(Boy is too emotionally upset to answer.)
POLICE CONSTABLE: All he could tell me was when he heard the girl scream, he shouted, and then the man rushed off. If it was a man.
STEIN: What do you mean?
CONSTABLE: Well, sir, the boy said he had a strange shape, almost like an animal, but of course he only caught a glimpse of him. I think this is more than just an ordinary murder.
STEIN: Have you searched the park?
CONSTABLE: Thoroughly, sir.
STEIN: Well, there’s nothing I can do here. I’ll let you have my report.
CONTSTABLE: Thank you, sir.
I’d like to read that report. “Girl murdered by brain damaged patient. Not responsible for his actions. His brain needed more time to heal.”
And there you have it, some fun Peter Cushing quotes from THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
Hope you enjoyed them, and we’ll see you again next time on a future edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING.
Thanks for reading!