IN THE SHADOWS: FRANCIS MATTHEWS

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francis matthews

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at character actors in the movies.

Today our focus is on Francis Matthews. If you’re a Hammer Film fan, you’re familiar with Matthews’ work, because of two key performances in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

With his distinctive voice, which sounds an awful lot like Cary Grant’s, Matthews made a lasting impression in these Hammer sequels.

Here’s a very brief look at the career of Francis Matthews, focusing mainly on his genre credits:

BHOWANI JUNCTION (1956) – Ranjit Kasel- Matthews’ first big screen credit is in this drama about English/Indian relations directed by George Cukor.  Stars Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger.

francis matthews peter cushing revenge of frankenstein

Francis Matthews and Peter Cushing in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958).

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) – Doctor Hans Kleve-  Francis Matthews is memorable here as the new young assistant to Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein, or as he is known in this movie since he’s supposed to be dead and is hiding from the authorities, Dr. Stein. Matthews and Cushing share a nice camaraderie in their scenes together, and it’s too bad the series didn’t continue with these two actors. The character of Hans is notable here because at the end of the movie he successfully transplants Dr. Stein’s brain into another body.

CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958) – Jonathan Bolton – co-stars with both Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee in this standard shocker featuring Karloff playing a doctor who becomes addicted to the powerful anesthesia he has created and as a result becomes involved in murder. Christopher Lee plays a grave robber named Resurrection Joe, and his supporting performance steals the show. The best part is Karloff and Lee’s climactic battle, pitting one “Frankenstein monster” vs. the other. Neat stuff! Matthews plays it straight as Karloff’s son and protegé.

francis matthews christopher lee dracula prince of darkness

Francis Matthews and Christopher Lee in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Charles Kent – By far, my favorite Francis Matthews’ role. He plays Charles Kent, one of the four guests who find themselves spending the night in Dracula’s castle, and it’s Charles’ brother Alan (Charles Tingwell) who’s murdered by Dracula’s disciple Klove (Philip Latham) who then uses Alan’s blood to resurrect Dracula (Christopher Lee) in one of Hammer’s bloodiest and most gruesome scenes.

Charles then teams up with Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) to hunt down Dracula, but the vampire king complicates things by going after Charles’ wife Diana (Suzan Farmer) first.

This sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), arguably Hammer’s best shocker, is itself a really good movie, and its reputation has only gotten better over the years. Francis Matthews makes for a strong leading man, until that is, he has to face Dracula, which is as it should be. The later Hammer Draculas would stumble by having every random young hero best the vampire king when in all seriousness, that should have been something only the Van Helsings of the world could do.

Also, if you own the Blu-ray version of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, it includes a rare and very informative commentary by Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Suzan Farmer, and Francis Matthews. All four actors sat down together for a screening of the film, and for most of them it was the first time they had watched the movie in years. All four actors add really neat insights. For instance, during the film’s pre-credit sequence, which begins with the ending of HORROR OF DRACULA, Lee was quick to point out that the ending they were watching was cut from the original version, and this commentary was recorded long before the recent restored version by Hammer.

The Blu-ray also contains rare behind-the-scenes footage on the set of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS secretly filmed by Francis Matthews’ brother using an 8mm camera.

Sadly, of these four actors, only Barbara Shelley remains with us, as Lee, Matthews, and Suzan Farmer have all since passed away (Farmer in 2017).

RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK (1966) – Ivan – shot nearly simultaneously as DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the film uses the same sets and much of the same cast, including Christopher Lee, Francis Matthews, Barbara Shelley, and Suzan Farmer.

THE SAINT (1964-1967) – Andre/Paul Farley – “To Kill A Saint”/”The Noble Sportsman” – appeared in two episodes of the popular Roger Moore spy show.

THE AVENGERS (1966-1967) – Chivers/Collins – “Mission – Highly Improbable”/”The Thirteenth Hole”- appeared in two episodes of THE AVENGERS TV show.

RUN FOR YOUR WIFE (2012) – Francis Matthews’ final screen credit is in this British comedy.

Francis Matthews has 106 screen credits, and I’ll always remember him for his two noteworthy performances in two of Hammer’s better sequels, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

Matthews was born on September 2, 1927. He died on June 14, 2014 at the age of 86.

Well, that’s all we have time for today. I hope you enjoyed reading about Francis Matthews, and please join me again next time on the next IN THE SHADOWS when we’ll look at the career at another great character actor in the movies, especially horror movies.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

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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

CHRISTOPHER LEE – AN APPRECIATION

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CHRISTOPHER LEE – An Appreciation

Christopher Lee as Dracula in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

Christopher Lee as Dracula in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

By Michael Arruda

Christopher Lee has died.

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

Lee belonged to a class of actors that simply doesn’t exist anymore:  the horror movie icon.  Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee all made their living acting primarily in horror movies, and they endeared themselves to horror fans their entire careers.  You just don’t see that anymore.

Sadly, with Lee’s passing, these horror giants have all left us.

Lee enjoyed a long and prolific career.  He has an astounding 278 acting credits listed on IMDB, which is much more than Karloff’s 206, Price’s 197, Chaney’s 195, Cushing’s 132, and Lugosi’s 115.

In spite of his iconic horror star status, Lee did his best to distance himself from horror movies in the 1970s, as he starred as the villain Scaramanga in the James Bond movie THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) and appeared in other non-genre films like Richard Lester’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973) and AIRPORT ’77 (1977).  Later in his career, at an age where most other actors slow down, Lee sped up, appearing in not one but two blockbuster series in the 2000s, starring as Count Dooku in the second STAR WARS trilogy, and as the villainous Saruman in Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, as a result creating a new generation of fans.

Lee’s horror movie career began with his performance as the Frankenstein monster, or as he was called in the film, the “Creature,” in the first Hammer blockbuster THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).  This was the movie that put Hammer Films on the map and also served to revitalize the classic horror movie industry.  It was England’s biggest money maker of the year.

The film’s main star was Peter Cushing, who played Victor Frankenstein.  Cushing had spent the early part of the 1950s becoming a household name on British television.  Signing him to play Victor Frankenstein was a major coup on Hammer’s part.  As expected, Cushing dominates throughout THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and his masterful performance as Victor Frankenstein is one of the main reasons the film became an international success.

But another reason for the film’s success was the performance of an unknown actor named Christopher Lee who played the Creature.  It is largely believed and acknowledged by Lee that the only reason he got the part was because of his 6’5” height.

Early on, Lee was not recognized by critics for his performance as the Creature, which was viewed as inferior to Karloff’s iconic performance in the Universal Frankenstein movies of the 1930s.  But there’s much more to Lee’s performance than initially meets the eye.

It’s easy to look past Lee’s work in this film.  After all, the movie is largely dominated by Peter Cushing and his new villainous take on the role of Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Also, Lee had no dialogue as the Creature, and thirdly and most importantly, the Creature was not the main focus of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Unlike the Universal Frankenstein movies of the 1930s where the focus was on the monster, here in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN it was on Cushing’s doctor.

christopher lee - creature in woods- curse of frankenstein

Christopher Lee as the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

All this being said, Lee’s take on the Creature is actually very impressive.  With no lines of dialogue, he used his pantomime skills to a large extent in the role, especially in one of the film’s best scenes, where Cushing tries to show off his Creature’s intelligence, but the Creation looks more like a frightened obedient pet than a newly born genius.

Lee is terribly scary in the role.  Underneath Phil Leakey’s hideous make-up, Lee’s expressions are viciously frightening.  Lee also captures both sides of this Creature brilliantly.  While Lee’s Creature is less sympathetic than Karloff’s Monster, as Lee’s Creature is a psychotic murderer who kills without remorse for most of the movie, at times, as in the scene with the blind man, he acts like someone newly born and frightened.  Considering his minimal screen time, it really is an extraordinary performance.

There’s a funny story from the set of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Lee was upset that he didn’t have any lines of dialogue, until co-star Peter Cushing told him “You shouldn’t be.  You see, I’ve read the script!”  The two became lifelong friends and would go on to star in twenty-two movies together.

It would take one more movie for Lee to become a household name, and that film was HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).  Lee became an instant sensation as Dracula, the role for which he would become most famous, starring opposite Peter Cushing once again, as this time Cushing played Dr. Van Helsing.

HORROR OF DRACULA is widely considered to be Hammer’s best shocker.

horror-of-dracula-lee in coffin

Lee as Dracula reacting to the staking of his vampire bride in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

It’s another amazing performance by Lee.  Cushing again dominates this movie, but Lee matches his co-star’s intensity, which is even more remarkable when you consider that as Dracula he only has 13 lines of dialogue and is onscreen for something like 12 minutes.  Lee is so good as Dracula he remains in your head even when he’s not in the movie.

Though he resisted for many years, Lee finally agreed to play Dracula again in the Hammer sequel DRACULA – PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).  He would appear as Dracula in seven Hammer Dracula films.  The third film in the series, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) remains Hammer Film’s biggest moneymaker of all time.

My personal favorite Lee roles and movies are THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR OF DRACULA, DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, THE WICKER MAN (1973), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958), and THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959).

Lee as Scaramanga in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974).

Lee as Scaramanga in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974).

I was fortunate enough to have met Christopher Lee once, at a horror movie convention in Baltimore in the late 1990s.  It was a wonderful convention, as not only did I meet Lee that weekend, but also Forrest Ackerman, Michael Ripper, Ingrid Pitt, and Veronica Carlson.

I bought Lee’s autobiography that weekend and stood in a long line to have it signed by him.  I looked forward with great anticipation at finally meeting him.  What happened when I eventually reached him was the worst case of being star struck that I ever suffered.

I had thought of all the things I wanted to say.

“Mr. Lee,” I wanted to say.  “I’m a great fan of yours.  I’ve seen all your movies and I want to write about your work one day.  The movies you made with Peter Cushing influenced my life.”

What did I really say?

Probably something like “Um— hello— er— um—.”  It was truly the most tongue-tied moment of my life.  However, I’m pretty sure I managed to say “thank you.”

But the better story came later.  Of all the celebrities there that weekend, Lee was the least accessible.  While other stars were around mingling, Lee never seemed to be separate from his entourage.  I never saw him outside his scheduled appearances, until—.

I had to use the rest room.  After washing my hands, I headed for the exit when the door burst open and several gentlemen the size of football linebackers rushed inside.  They scoped out the rest room, and deeming me not a threat, they called out “all clear!” and the next thing I knew two men, one on each arm, whisked Christopher Lee into the men’s room.

It was like a moment from a SEINFELD episode.  With my back to the wall, I watched as my movie hero Christopher Lee was led past me to the urinal.  Lee said something as he passed by, something to the effect of “I can take care of things from here,” and the men let go of him.

They may not have seen me as a threat, but they also didn’t want me sticking around, as their intense gazes communicated to me.  As I left the restroom, I found my uncle, his son, and my brother waiting for me. They had seen Lee enter the restroom.

My uncle laughed.

“What?”  I said.

“Now you can always say you peed with Christopher Lee,” he said.

That might be my claim to fame.

Of course the big news that weekend was that Lee announced he would be appearing in not one, but two major blockbuster productions.  He wasn’t at liberty to tell us the names of these movies, but the news still generated enormous cheers from the audience.  Of course, he was talking about the second STAR WARS trilogy and the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

Lee as Count Dooku.

Lee as Count Dooku.

Christopher Lee has been an integral part of my entire life.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been watching movies starring Christopher Lee.  In fact, he’s been part of my life even before I was born.  Huh?  See, my mother saw HORROR OF DRACULA at the movies upon its initial release in 1958 when she was a teenager, and so growing up, I heard all about that movie as being the scariest film she had ever seen.

I’ve seen so many movie images of Christopher Lee, I truly believe his likeness is forever etched in my subconscious.  I close my eyes and there is Lee.

The world has lost a major star with the passing of Christopher Lee.  For those of us who love horror, we have to wonder, will the world see his likeness again?  Will Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Price, Cushing and Lee ever be replaced?  Who working today may step into that role?

I don’t know.

Sure, for me, Peter Cushing has always been my favorite actor.  But Lee is right up there, and he and Cushing complemented each other so well because of their contrasting styles.  Cushing was an active actor, constantly moving around, often using props.  Watch enough Cushing movies and you realize he can’t seem to stay still in his scenes.

Lee is the opposite.  He believed less was more.  He didn’t want to call attention to himself in a scene.  His strength was that he did more with less, which is why he was so effective as Frankenstein’s Creature and as Dracula.  He’d appear in just a handful of scenes, and yet he’d knock your socks off and scare the living daylights out of you.

I will miss Lee tremendously.  Through the magic of movies, we can continue to enjoy Lee’s performances throughout the years.  But I am still saddened to know that he no longer is with us.

A legend has passed.  But like the undead king of the vampires he played so well, his memory and his work are eternal.

CHRISTOPHER LEE – May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015

Thanks for reading.

—Michael

 

 

 

IN THE SHADOWS: VALERIE GAUNT

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Valerie Gaunt as Justine in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) prepares to search Victor Frankenstein's (Peter Cushing) laboratory, and come face to face with Christopher Lee's Creature.

Valerie Gaunt as Justine in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) prepares to search Victor Frankenstein’s (Peter Cushing) laboratory, but what she finds is Christopher Lee’s murderous Creature.

When I wrote this column in 2015, Valerie Gaunt was still with us.  She recently passed away, on November 27, 2016 at the age of 84.

R.I.P. Valerie Gaunt.

This column is dedicated to her memory.

—Michael 11/30/16

 

In The Shadows:  VALERIE GAUNT

 By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.  The subject of today’s column, Valerie Gaunt, compared to other actors we’ve visited in this column, did not amass a great number of screen credits.  In fact, she only has four screen credits, but two of them happen to be in two of the most memorable and influential horror movies of all time, Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

If you’ve seen these movies, then you definitely will remember Valerie Gaunt, because she makes quite the impression in both movies.

In THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, she plays Justine, the servant in the Frankenstein household.  Now, in the Mary Shelley novel, the character of Justine is rather innocent, which makes her horrific fate all the more tragic.  The Creature murders Victor’s younger brother William, and then he frames Justine for the crime.  As a result, Justine is wrongly hanged for the murder.

In THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Justine’s not so innocent, but she still meets a tragic end.  Justine in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is having an affair with Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), even while Victor is engaged to his cousin Elizabeth (Hazel Court).

Valerie Gaunt is exceedingly sexy as Justine, and you can easily see why Victor Frankenstein is so interested in her.  And in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Gaunt gets to appear in two of the more memorable scenes in the movie.

The first is when she tells Victor she’s pregnant with his child, to which he coldly responds, “Why choose me as the father?  Pick any man in the village.  Chances are it will be the right one.”

Justine begs Victor to marry her, because he promised her that he would, and when he refuses, she threatens him, telling him that she’ll go to the authorities and tell them what he’s been doing in his laboratory.  Victor tells her that she’ll need proof, to which she replies, “I’ll get proof!”

Poor Justine.  You should have left that house while you had the chance.

Which brings us to the second memorable Justine scene in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, when she decides to search Victor’s laboratory for evidence to bring to the police.  It’s one of the more suspenseful and scary scenes in the film.

We see Victor leave the lab, and then Justine sneaks inside, poking around the lab as James Bernard’s thrilling music plays in the background, and as she looks at some mice in a cage, Terence Fisher’s camera pans behind her where we see the shadow of the Creature’s hand reaching upwards.  As Justine turns and sees the Creature (Christopher Lee), she screams and runs for the door, but Victor is there, and he locks her in, to be murdered by his insane creation.

It’s a terribly frightening sequence.

There’s a still where we see Justine standing in front of the door with the Creature walking towards her, but this shot doesn’t exist in the final print, as the scene is shot from the point-of-view of the Creature as he closes in on Justine.

Gaunt returned in the next Hammer hit, HORROR OF DRACULA where she played the Vampire Woman who lives in Dracula’s castle, and she’s just as memorable here as she was in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Who can forget her first appearance as she silently approaches Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) inside Castle Dracula, wearing that long flowing white gown?  When she asks Harker for help, for him to rescue her from Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) what man would be able to resist?  (Okay, Peter Cushing as Van Helsing might have resisted, but really, who else???)

And Gaunt is involved in two of the more violent scenes from HORROR OF DRACULA as well.  The first is when she tries to bite Harker, and suddenly Christopher Lee’s Dracula explodes onto the scene, hissing, with his bloodshot eyes and bloody fangs.  It’s the first of many shots of Lee snarling as Dracula and it’s pretty much the first time in horror movie history that a vampire was portrayed this way, this violently.  Supposedly, for those who saw HORROR OF DRACULA at the movies back in 1958, this was the scene that got the ball rolling, that let them know that what they were seeing was different from the horror moves which came before it.  In short, it scared the heck out of them!

The second scene finds Valerie Gaunt’s vampire woman lying in her coffin, when Jonathan Harker makes the fatal mistake of driving a stake through her heart first rather than Dracula’s, giving Dracula time to make his escape.  Some have written that Harker staked the vampire woman first because she had attacked him, and for Harker, staking her first was personal.  I suppose that could be true.  Personally, I think the opposite was true, that Harker felt bad for her since she had asked him for help, and he let his emotions get the better of him and decided to free her first before destroying Dracula.  Either way, it was a bad decision.

In the shot afterwards where we see that the vampire woman has aged after Harker has driven a stake through her heart, that’s not Gaunt in make-up, but an entirely different actress, an elderly woman who famously fell asleep while lying in the coffin in between takes.

And here’s an interesting tidbit of a possible “in-joke” that I’ve noticed on my multiple viewings of HORROR OF DRACULA.  In the scene where Harker finds Dracula and the Vampire Woman in their coffins, if you pay attention, you’ll notice James Bernard’s music playing a theme from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, as if to say, here’s Christopher Lee and Valerie Gaunt together again.  You just saw them last year as the Creature and Justine.

Bernard does this again a short time later when Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing finds Jonathan Harker in the same crypt, another possible in-joke since Cushing also played Victor Frankenstein.

Valerie Gaunt appeared in just two Hammer Films, but these two appearances were enough to make a lasting impression.  Here are her two Hammer Film credits:

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – Justine –  has an affair with Peter Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein, and then makes the ill-fated decision to search his lab in search of evidence to force him to marry her.  The only evidence she finds is Christopher Lee’s homicidal Creature.

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) – Vampire Woman – begs Jonathan Harker to rescue her from Dracula’s castle but rewards him with a bite on the neck.  She’s eventually attacked by Dracula (Christopher Lee) and then gets a stake in the heart from Jonathan Harker.

Valerie Gaunt –   July 9, 1932 – November 27, 2016.

 

Hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS, and I’ll see you again next time when we look at another character actor from the horror movies.

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

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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—

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

PICTURE OF THE DAY: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)

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"I am your husband," Dr. Brandt (Freddie Jones) tells his wife Ella (Maxine Audley) in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969).  "But my brain is in someone else's body."

“I am your husband,” Dr. Brandt (Freddie Jones) tells his wife Ella (Maxine Audley) in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969). “But my brain is in someone else’s body.”

PICTURE OF THE DAY:  FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED!  (1969)

Here’s a still from one of my favorite Hammer Frankenstein movies, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), the fifth film in the Hammer Frankenstein series, most famous today because it features Peter Cushing’s most villainous screen performance as Baron Frankenstein.  Heck, in this movie, the Baron is both a murderer and a rapist, so yeah, things get pretty dark this time around.

Anyway, believe it or not, and I know you are going to find this next statement hard to believe coming from me, but the subject of today’s column on FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is not Peter Cushing!

You see, one of the other neat things about FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is the performance by Freddie Jones— in his film debut, no less— as the “monster.”  I have to put “monster” in quotes because Frankenstein’s creation in this movie isn’t really a monster, and that’s because he’s probably Baron Frankenstein’s most successful creation in the series.  That being said, it’s also the most likely reason this well-made Frankenstein movie underperformed at the box office in 1969— in spite of an above average story, some decent scares and scenes of suspense, and the presence of Peter Cushing, this one really didn’t have a monster, and fans go to Frankenstein movies to see a monster.

In FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, the fanatical Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is experimenting with brain transplants.  He can transplant brains from one body to  another, but another scientist, Dr. Brandt (George Pravda) perfected the method of freezing brains so they could be stored for future use.  Before Brandt could tell Frankenstein the secret of freezing brains, he went mad.

Years later, Baron Frankenstein learns that Brandt is housed in an insane asylum.  To get Brandt out, he blackmails a young doctor Karl (Simon Ward, also in his film debut) and his girlfriend Anna (Veronica Carlson) into helping him, but in the process of breaking Brandt out of the institution, Brandt has a heart attack.

Undeterred, Frankenstein transplants Brandt’s brain into the body of another surgeon, Professor Richter (Freddie Jones.).  When Brandt awakes and realizes what Frankenstein has done to him, he flees, returning to his home where he plans an elaborate scheme of revenge against Frankenstein.

In today’s picture of the day, we see Brandt (Freddie Jones)— in Richter’s body— returning to his wife Ella (Maxine Audley) but she of course doesn’t recognize him, since his brain is in the body of another man.  She even tries to kill him, because she believes her husband is dead, since the police had discovered his mutilated body, hidden underneath the floorboards of the house where Frankenstein had performed the brain transplant.

And so we have actor Freddie Jones begin the movie playing Professor Richter and end it as Dr. Brandt inside Richter’s body.  It really is an extraordinary performance!

This scene pictured here, where Brandt tells his wife that she won’t recognize him or his voice because it’s the voice of a different person, is one of the best in the movie.  Rarely has a Frankenstein film been this thought-provoking, or given this deep a look into what it feels like to be Frankenstein’s creation, and Freddie Jones performs these scenes wonderfully.  He’s as good as Peter Cushing in this movie, and dare I say it, perhaps even better!

If you’ve never seen FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, add it to your queue.  It’s one of the more unique Frankenstein movies ever filmed, directed in full “Hammer style” by their best director Terence Fisher, with a thought-provoking script by Bert Batt, based on an original story by Batt and Anthony Nelson Keys, and it features not only Peter Cushing as the most ruthless Baron Frankenstein ever, but Freddie Jones— pictured here with Maxine Audley— as one of the more cognizant of Frankenstein’s creations.  Better yet, he evokes sympathy without being wimpy.  After all, we feel bad for him even as he plans a brutal scheme of revenge against Baron Frankenstein, a plan which involves burning his house to the ground.

“You’d kill me?” He asks his wife in this scene.

“Of course I’d kill you!  You’re a monster!”  She screams.

How right you are, Mrs. Brandt!

Thanks for reading!

—Michael