Halloween Special 2: Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney,Jr., Lee, and Cushing Talk Monsters

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Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff

Welcome back to another Halloween Special.

Once again I’m conducting a mock interview with horror greats Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing. And while this interview is completely imaginary, their answers to my questions are real, taken from quotes they really said.

So, without further hesitation, let’s get started.

MICHAEL:  Welcome everyone to a very special treat.

Joining me today on this Monster Panel are Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing. Thank you all for joining me today.

Today I want to talk about monsters, specifically, your thoughts on just who is the greatest movie monster of all time.  And before you answer, I’m going to guess that you all will be partial to the monsters you played in the movies.  And as a famous comedian once said, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Bela, let’s start with you.  Your thoughts on the greatest movie monster of all time.

BELA LUGOSI: Every actor’s greatest ambition is to create his own, definite and original role, a character with which he will always be identified. In my case, that role was Dracula.

dracula-1931-bela-lugosi

Lugosi as Dracula in DRACULA (1931).

MICHAEL:  So, you’re going with Dracula?

(Lugosi nods)

CHRISTOPHER LEE:  I agree.

Dracula is different; he is such an exciting person.

And it doesn’t bother me to be remembered as Dracula.
Dracula-Prince-of-Darkness_lee

Christopher Lee as Dracula in DRACULA – PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

MICHAEL:  It doesn’t?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Why should it? What does bother me is when people say, “Ah yes, there goes Dracula,” or “There goes the horror king.” It simply isn’t true. I’m quite annoyed when people don’t acknowledge that I’ve done anything else.
PETER CUSHING:  People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can’t think why.
 (Everyone laughs)
 PETER CUSHING: In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I’m a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I’m in the country I’m a keen bird-watcher.
 MICHAEL:  Boris, what about you?
 BORIS KARLOFF: The Frankenstein Monster.
Yes, the monster was the best friend I ever had.
Frankenstein-1931-Boris-Karloff

Karloff as the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

 PETER CUSHING:  I know what you mean.
It gives me the most wonderful feeling. These dear people love me so much and want to see me. The astonishing thing is that when I made the Frankenstein and Dracula movies almost 30 years ago the young audiences who see me now weren’t even born yet. A new generation has grown up with my films. And the original audiences are still able to see me in new pictures. So, as long as these films are made I will have a life in this business — for which I’m eternally grateful.
curse of frankenstein - you're going to help me paul

Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

CHRISTOPHER LEE:  Yes, and for me, quite frankly, I’m grateful to Dracula.
If people today remember me in the role and still enjoy it, I’m flattered. If, through some strange twist of fate, I was able to take a character some 25 years ago and create an impact where by I suddenly became known throughout the world, how can I complain?
 BELA LUGOSI: And never has a role so influenced and dominated an actor’s role as has the role of Dracula.
 MICHAEL:  We haven’t heard from you yet, Lon.  What’s your opinion on these classic movie monsters?
 LON CHANEY JR.: All the best of the monsters played for sympathy. That goes for my father, myself and all the others. They all won the audience’s sympathy.
  The Wolf Man didn’t want to do all those bad things. He was forced into them.
wolf man fog

Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolfman, in THE WOLFMAN (1941).

 MICHAEL:  So, monsters are pretty special.
BORIS KARLOFF: My dear old monster. I owe everything to him. He’s my best friend.
 LON CHANEY JR.: The trouble with most of the monster pictures today is that they go after horror for horror’s sake. There’s no motivation for how monsters behave.
  CHRISTOPHER LEE:  That’s one of the reasons I will play no more monsters.
 Now villains are different.
Most people find my villains memorable because I try to make them as unconventional as possible. They are not overt monsters.
It’s easy to play a “heavy” straight down the middle, 100%, but it’s boring. I don’t think I’ve ever played a villain who didn’t have some unusual, humanizing trait. When I look back at my men with the black hats, they’ve always had something else going for them, whether it be a sardonic sense of humor or a feeling of desolation. I always try to throw as many curves the audience’s way as possible. That’s probably why people enjoy my villainy.
 LON CHANEY JR.:  There’s just too much of that science-fiction baloney.
 BELA LUGOSI:  Science fiction, perhaps.  Baloney, perhaps not.
Dracula has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, he has drained me of everything.
It’s a living, but it’s also a curse. It’s Dracula’s curse.
chaney lugosi

Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi in THE WOLFMAN (1941).

 PETER CUSHING:  Yes.  In the early days I played a lot of comedy in the theater and on television. But once an actor becomes well-known in any kind of part, he tends to get stereotyped.

After I played Frankenstein, I was only thought of in that light. Of course, some actors are better at drama and some are better at comedy. But they can certainly have a stab at both. An actor should be able to do it all.

(Laughter)

BORIS KARLOFF: Before we go, since we’re talking about movie monsters, I just want to acknowledge Jack Pierce— the best make-up man in the world.

I owe him a lot.

MICHAEL:  Thank you all for joining me tonight.  I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions.  And that’s all the time we have.

Thanks for reading, everybody!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

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LEADING LADIES: VERONICA CARLSON

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Veronica Carlson

LEADING LADIES:  Veronica Carlson

By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in horror movies, especially from years gone by.

Today we look at the career of Veronica Carlson, the Hammer starlet who burst onto the scene in the Hammer Dracula movie, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) and would go on to add her beauty and elegance to several more Hammer Films before leaving the business altogether for two decades.  She returned to films in the 1990s and has since appeared in a few low budget movies.

But she’s best known for her roles in the Hammer movies, and if you’ve seen her, you know the reason why.  Sure, she was stunningly beautiful back in the day— she was a former model, after all— but she was also a decent actor.  It’s really too bad she didn’t make more movies.

In DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE Carlson plays Maria, a young woman who ends up being Dracula’s most sought after victim.  In this, the third film in the Hammer Dracula series, Dracula (Christopher Lee) seeks revenge against the Monsignor (Rupert Davies) who had exorcised his castle, and he does this by pursuing the Monsignor’s niece, Maria (Veronica Carlson).

Carlson is absolutely beautiful in this movie.  She shares most of her screen time with her goofy intellectual boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) who eventually gets to be the hero in this one, and she’s very convincing as a young lover infatuated with her handsome boyfriend.  She’s also sufficiently frightened and mesmerized by Dracula.

Carlson followed up this performance with the female lead in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), Hammer’s darkest Frankenstein movie.  She plays Anna, engaged to a young doctor Karl (Simon Ward), and all is well until these two young lovers are blackmailed by Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) into helping him with his latest creation.  This film also contains the most controversial scene in the entire series, where the Baron rapes Anna, a scene that Peter Cushing is on record as saying he did not want to do.

Anna (Veronica Carlson) tormented by Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing)

Anna (Veronica Carlson) tormented by Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969).

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is a lurid, brutal movie, and Veronica Carlson is up to the task at playing the tormented victim of Baron Frankenstein.  One of her best scenes finds her dragging a dead body which has been unearthed by a busted water main in her courtyard, and she has to do this while she’s pummeled by a forceful water spray, because if she doesn’t hide the body and the authorities discover it, she’ll either be arrested or worse, have to face the wrath of Baron Frankenstein.  It’s a chilling suspenseful scene.

Carlson also appeared in the next Hammer Frankenstein movie, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), the only film in the series not to star Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN was Hammer’s failed attempt to re-boot the series with Ralph Bates playing a younger Baron Frankenstein in what amounted to be a remake of sorts of their first Frankenstein movie, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN was directed by longtime Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and unfortunately, he proved to be a better writer than a director. THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN is the worst film in the series with very little to offer other than a fine cast, which included Ralph Bates and Veronica Carlson.  Carlson is quite good yet again, but she’s simply not enough to save this movie.

Veronica Carlson would star with Peter Cushing one more time in THE GHOUL (1974), a mediocre horror movie about an attic holding a sinister secret. This one also co-starred a young John Hurt.

Carlson may return to the big screen here in 2015.  She’s listed in the credits of a still unreleased horror movie called THE RECTORY.  It would be nice to see her on the big screen again, even now at 70 years old.

Here’s a partial list of Carlson’s 21screen credits, concentrating mostly on her horror films:

SMASHING TIME (1967) – Movie Actress At Premiere- Carlson’s first screen credit, a bit part in a musical comedy starring Michael York and Lynn Redgrave.

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) – Maria- Carlson impresses in her first starring role in this third Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula movie, the studio’s most profitable horror movie ever.  A box office smash.

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969) – Anna – tormented and terrorized by Peter Cushing’s evil Baron Frankenstein.  Probably Carlson’s most riveting performance.

CROSSPLOT (1969) – Dinah- small role in this thriller starring Roger Moore which also features Moore’s future Bond boss “M” Bernard Lee as well as Hammer supporting actor Francis Matthews.

PUSSYCAT, PUSSYCAT, I LOVE YOU (1970) – Liz – comedy starring Ian McShane with a screenplay co-written by Woody Allen.

THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970) – Elizabeth Heiss – stars in her second Frankenstein film for Hammer, the only one without Peter Cushing.  Ralph Bates is OK as the devilish Baron Frankenstein, but Darth Vader himself David Prowse plays a pretty ineffective monster.

OLD DRACULA (1974) – Ritva – awful horror comedy starring David Niven as Count Dracula, released the same year as Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, no doubt trying to cash in on that film’s success.  Also stars fellow Hammer actress Linda Hayden and Carlson’s FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED co-star Freddie Jones.

THE GHOUL (1975) – Daphne – Mediocre horror film starring Peter Cushing as a man with a sinister secret.  Also stars John Hurt.  Carlson’s last film appearance for 19 years.

BLACK EASTER (1994) – Veronica Carlson returns to horror movies in this B movie terror tale.

FREAKSHOW (1995) – Grace Harmsworth – Carlson in another B movie, this one an anthology, also starring Leatherface himself Gunnar Hansen from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974).  Reportedly Carlson’s segment is the best.

THE RECTORY – An as-of-yet unreleased horror movie evidently in production at present with Veronica Carlson’s name in the credits.

I was fortunate enough to meet Veronica Carlson at a horror movie convention in the late 1990s.  It was one for the ages, as it was the same convention where I met Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, and Michael Ripper.

Veronica Carlson will be forever remembered for her notable performances in two of Hammer’s best shockers, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, and FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED.

Hopefully we’ll see her on the big screen again.

Veronica Carlson was born on September 18, 1944, in Yorkshire, England, UK.   At present she is 70 years old and living in the U.S. where she enjoys a successful painting career.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

BREAKING NEWS: CHRISTOPHER LEE HAS DIED

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Christopher LeeCHRISTOPHER LEE – May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015

By Michael Arruda

 

BREAKING NEWS:  Christopher Lee has died.

Lee, the last of the classic horror movie icons, passed away on Sunday June 7, 2015.  He was 93.

I will be posting an appreciation on Lee’s remarkable career shortly.

As for right now, RIP Christopher Lee.  You will be missed.

Look for the appreciation to be posted at this site very soon.

Thank you.

—Michael

LEADING LADIES: HAZEL COURT

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Hazel Court as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957, as the Creature (Christopher Lee) peers down at her through the skylight.

Hazel Court as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).  That’s Christopher Lee’s Creature peering down at her through the skylight.

LEADING LADIES:  Hazel Court

By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in horror movies, especially from years gone by.

 

Today we look at the career of Hazel Court, the beautiful actress who graced many of the horror period pieces of the 1950s and 1960s.  She played Elizabeth opposite Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), and her performance as Elizabeth in this movie just might be my favorite Elizabeth performance in a Frankenstein movie, with perhaps the possible exception of Madeline Kahn’s over-the-top performance in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

 

Hazel Court enjoyed a long career, appearing in movies and TV shows beginning in 1944 and continuing all the way up to 1981.  She has 71 screen credits.  While I know her most from her horror movie appearances, she also appeared in a bunch of TV shows in the 1960s, appearing on such shows as TWILIGHT ZONE (1964), THE WILD WILD WEST (1966), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1967), MANNIX (1967), and MCMILLAN & WIFE (1972).

 

I will forever remember her for her appearance as Elizabeth in the Hammer classic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  What I enjoy about her most in this movie is the class she brings to the role.  Peter Cushing is an absolute devil as Victor Frankenstein, and Court’s Elizabeth is so beautiful, charming, and genuine, it makes what Victor does to her all the more painful, as he lies to her continually and cheats on her as well.

 

Her character seemed so genuinely interested in Victor’s work, I often wonder what her reaction would have been had Victor made good on his promise to tell her the truth about his work and show her his creation.  Would she have been horrified?  Or would she have been supportive?  Judging from her character in this movie, I’d guess it would be the latter, that she, unlike Victor’s former tutor-turned-assistant Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) would not have been offended but would have offered her help to her husband to make his dream of creating life come true.  But alas, this doesn’t happen, as Elizabeth is nearly murdered by the Creature (Christopher Lee), and thanks to Paul’s betrayal, Victor is sent to the guillotine.

 

My favorite Hazel Court scene as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is when she boldly decides to search Victor’s laboratory on her own, to learn for herself just what it is that has caused such a rift between Victor and Paul.  She picks up a candle—the same one that Victor would use moments later to engulf his Creature in flames— and searches the area, and when she comes to the acid vat where Victor had been disposing his body parts, she brings her hand to her nose just as the Creature looks down upon her from the rooftop skylight. She looks up and cries out, “Who’s that?”  But the Creature is no longer there.

 

Here is a partial look at Hazel Court’s career, concentrating mostly on her horror film appearances:

 

CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE (1944) – Hazel Court’s first screen appearance, an uncredited bit in this comedy musical.

 

GHOST SHIP (1952) – ghosts on the high seas!

 

DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) – Hazel Court’s not the Devil Girl, but she is terribly sexy in this campy science fiction tale about a woman alien from Mars dressed in leather who’s come to Earth to dominate men.  Court plays a fashion model named Ellen Prestwick, and she definitely looks the part.  She’s never looked sexier!

 

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – plays Elizabeth to Peter Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein in Hammer Films’ first horror hit.  That’s Court’s real life daughter Sally Walsh playing the character of Elizabeth as a child.  My favorite Hazel Court performance.

 

THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959) – Janine Du Bois- reunited with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN director Terence Fisher, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and star Christopher Lee in this thriller from Hammer Films.

 

BONANZA (1960) – Lady Beatrice Dunsford – guest spot on the popular TV western in the episode named “The Last Trophy.”

 

DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN (1961) – Nurse Linda Parker- low budget horror movie written by director Nathan Juran, who directed such classics as 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) and THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), both films featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen.

 

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1958-1961) – appeared in four different episodes of this popular television show.

 

THRILLER (1961) – Leonie Vicek- appeared in the episode “The Terror in Teakwood” in this horror show hosted by Boris Karloff.

 

PREMATURE BURIAL (1962) – Emily Gault – stars opposite Ray Milland in this handsome horror movie directed by Roger Corman based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.

 

THE RAVEN (1963) – Lenore Craven – gets to star with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Jack Nicholson in this horror comedy by Roger Corman, loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem.

 

TWILIGHT ZONE (1964) – Charlotte Scott – stars in the episode called “The Fear” in this iconic science fiction series.

 

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) – Juliana – in danger from Vincent Price’s evil Prince Prospero in this horror movie by Roger Corman based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.

 

THE WILD WILD WEST (1965) – Elizabeth Carter – appears in the episode “The Night of the Returning Dead” directed by Richard Donner, in this western TV series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin.

 

MISSION:  IMPOSSIBLE (1967) – Catherine Hagar – appeared in the episode “Charity” of this spy television series starring Peter Graves.

 

MCMILLAN & WIFE (1972) – Frances Mayerling – appeared in the episode “The Face of Murder” in this mystery TV series starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James.

 

 

Hazel Court passed away from a heart attack on April 15, 2008 at the age of 82.

 

Hazel Court.  February 10, 1926 – April 15, 2008.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

—Michael

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

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Curse of Frankenstein - lobby card - creatureThis IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) was my 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, originally published in the HWA Newsletter in December 2010.  It’s reprinted there now in the December 2014 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter .

Thanks for reading.

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

Welcome to the 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column.  Woo hoo!  It’s been a fun ride.  Thanks for coming along.

In honor of the occasion, let’s look at THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Hammer Films’ first horror hit.

To make their Frankenstein movie different from the Universal 1931 original starring Boris Karloff, Hammer Films decided to concentrate more on the doctor rather than on the monster.  Enter Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Hammer Films’ signing of Peter Cushing to play Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a major coup for the tiny studio which made low budget movies.  In the 1950s, Peter Cushing had become the most popular actor on British television.  To British audiences, he was a household name.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was Cushing’s first shot at being the lead actor in a theatrical movie, and he doesn’t disappoint.  In fact, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN belongs to Peter Cushing.  He dominates this movie and carries it on his shoulders.  He’s in nearly every scene.

Cushing succeeded in creating a character who was the perfect shade of gray, a villain who was also a hero.  He’s so convincing in this dual persona that we want to see Victor Frankenstein succeed in his quest to create life, even though he murders a few people along the way.

Peter Cushing went on to become an international superstar.  He delivered countless fine performances over the years until his death from cancer in 1994.  Yet, his performance as Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is arguably his best.

Like the 1931 version of FRANKENSTEIN before it, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, while based on the book by Mary Shelley, is not overly faithful to the novel and takes lots of liberties with the story.

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) enlists the aid of his former tutor Paul (Robert Urquhart) to conduct his experiments, to “create the most complex thing known to man- man himself!”  Victor wants his creation to be “born with a lifetime of knowledge” and so he invites the brilliant Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) to his house for dinner.  After dinner, Victor promptly murders him.  Later, when Paul confronts Victor and says he’s going to stop him from using the brain, Victor replies with one of the better lines from the movie, “Why?  He has no further use for it.”

Lightning strikes and starts the lab equipment while Victor is out of the laboratory, and the Creature (Christopher Lee, also in his starring role debut) is brought to life without Victor present, saving him from an “It’s alive!” moment.

Victor opens the door to the laboratory and finds the Creature standing in the doorway alive.  In the film’s most memorable scene, the Creature rips off the mask of bandages covering his face, and the camera tracks into a violent grotesque close-up of the Creature’s hideous face.  It’s a most horrific make-up job by Phil Leakey, and it’s unique to Frankenstein movies, since in all six of the Hammer Frankenstein sequels to follow, this Creature, so chillingly portrayed by Christopher Lee, never appears again.

Lee’s Creature is a murderous beast, and he quickly escapes from the laboratory.  Victor and Paul chase him into the woods, where Paul shoots him in the head, killing him.  Or so he thinks.  Victor promptly digs up the body and brings it back to life again.

Victor performs multiple brain surgeries to improve the Creature, but eventually things get out of hand, as Paul goes to the police just as the Creature escapes again.  The film has a dark conclusion which I won’t give away here.

Over the years, Christopher Lee has been criticized for his portrayal of the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Sure, Lee’s Creature is not the Karloff monster.   However, the Creature, who appears fleetingly here and there, has an almost Michael Myers quality in this movie, a killer who creeps in the shadows, here one moment, gone the next.

Lee is scary in the role.  His Creature is an insane unpredictable being.  As the Creature, Lee doesn’t speak a word, and he hardly makes a sound, using pantomime skills to bring the character to life.  His performance has always reminded me of a silent film performance, a la Lon Chaney Sr.  Lee captures the almost childlike persona of a new creation born into the world for the first time, albeit a child that’s a homicidal maniac.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has a great music score by James Bernard.  It’s haunting, ghastly, and memorable.

Director Terence Fisher, arguably Hammer’s best director, is at the helm here.  As he did in all his best movies, Fisher created some truly memorable scenes in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  The Creature’s first appearance is classic, one of the most memorable scenes of its kind.  The scene when Victor murders Professor Bernstein features a great stunt where Victor pushes the Professor off a second floor balcony to his death, and we actually see the stunt double hit the floor head first with a neck breaking thud.  It’s a jarring scene.  And this is 1957.

There are lots of other neat touches as well.  When Victor’s fiancée Elizabeth (Hazel Court) peers into the acid vat in which Victor has been disposing unwanted bodies and body parts, she covers her nose- a great little touch.

Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay is one of his best.  Probably the best written scene is the scene where Victor tries to convince Paul how well he has trained his Creature by having the Creature stand, walk, and sit down.  Paul is unimpressed, saying “Is this your perfect physical being, this animal?  Why don’t you ask it a question of advanced physics?  It’s got a brain with a lifetime of knowledge behind it, it should find it simple!”  It’s also a great scene for Christopher Lee, as it’s one of the few times he invokes sympathy for the Creature.

But THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN sinks or swims with Peter Cushing.  Rarely has an actor delivered such a powerful performance in a horror movie.  Cushing is flawless here.  He draws you into Frankenstein’s madness and convinces you he’s right.

If I could give you one gift this holiday season, it would be to watch THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Rediscover it today, more than 50 years after it was made.  It’s time this movie received its due as one of the best ever, which isn’t news to those who saw it in 1957. After all, it was the biggest money maker in Britain that year.

One of its original lobby cards reads “THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN will haunt you forever.”

It will.

—END—

PICTURE OF THE DAY: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – French poster

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Curse of Frankenstein - foreign posterPICTURE OF THE DAY: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – French poster

Here’s a colorful French poster from the Hammer classic, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), starring Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the Creature.

It’s the film which launched the Hammer Films horror phenomenon, as it proved so successful at the box office in 1957 that Hammer quickly followed suit the following year with DRACULA (U.S. title HORROR OF DRACULA) which was also a success, and they never looked back. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was the biggest box office money maker of the year in England in 1957.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was also the first time that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee co-starred together in a horror movie.  They would go on to star in over twenty movies together.  Interestingly enough, it’s not the first time they both appeared in the same movie.  That had already happened twice before,  as Cushing and Lee were both in the Laurence Olivier version of HAMLET (1948) and John Huston’s MOULIN ROUGE (1952).

Anyway, I love this poster, especially the colors.  I particularly like the vibrant colors used on Peter Cushing and Hazel Court.

There are some really neat French horror movie posters.  If you get a chance, check them out online.  Likewise, you can find some excellent Spanish, German, and Japanese posters.  Why stop there?  Check out as many countries as you can.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Looking for a different kind of Halloween treat this year?   Treat yourself to some fun international movie posters.

Happy Halloween!

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)

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"I wonder if I can trust you?" Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing) asks young doctor Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) in this atmospheric scene from THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN  (1958) .

“I wonder if I can trust you?” Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing) asks young doctor Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) in this atmospheric scene from THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) .

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING:  THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)

By

Michael Arruda

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.

Let’s listen:

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.

HANS:  Ah!

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.

HANS:  Yes.

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?

ASSISTANT:  Pick-pocket.

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.

STEIN: Congratulations.

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?

STEIN: No.

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!

—Michael