Starring: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Robert Morris, Thorley Walters
After witnessing his father’s execution as a child, the unfortunate Hans is framed for the murder of a local innkeeper and sent to the guillotine. Before his death, Hans was working as the assistant of Dr. Frankenstein, recently arrived in the village. Hans’ girlfriend, Christina, throws herself into the river and drowns after Hans’ death, but Frankenstein decides to use the dead bodies of the two young lovers in a wholly unorthodox experiment. He manages to put Hans’ soul into Christina’s body and brings her back to life. But the merging of two souls has a surprisingly violent effect and Christina is quickly driven towards murderous revenge.
In my opinion, this is the finest sequel in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. It is an unusual, odd film that may be off putting to those not already obsessed with Hammer. It is not simply another generic mad doctor film and focuses on metaphysical themes, blending sci-fi, horror, philosophy, love story, and revenge flick. The grim opening, where the young Hans witnesses his father’s executions, sets the stage for the film’s serious, bleak tone, which is not shared by many of the campier o more misguided Frankenstein sequels.
An improvement over the unfortunate third film, The Evil of Frankenstein, this fourth entry shows the Baron Frankenstein moving another step beyond in his experiments with life, death, and rebirth. He is equally ruthless here, not showing concern for his assistant, Hans, or Hans’s girlfriend, and gleefully experiments on both. It’s interesting to view Frankenstein Created Woman in comparison with a contemporary film, like Hammer’s Hands of the Ripper, another movie about a possessed female murderer, as well as against modern crime dramas like Hannibal, Sherlock, or Luther. These shows, like Frankenstein Created Woman, revolve around brilliant characters with scientific minds who -- due to narcissistic personality disorders or perhaps Asperger Syndrome -- are unable to relate to other humans. Baron Frankenstein certainly falls in with this theme and his amoral charm and near psychopathic experiments help make this one of the finest in the series. Cushing is excellent here, as always, and deftly balances the role of sympathetic hero and cold, reptilian scientist.
Alongside Baron Frankenstein is, of course, Christina, who transforms from invisible, deformed girl into a seductive and murderous woman. Playboy model Susan Denberg (Star Trek) gives a fine, likable performance here. Unlike most of the other Hammer horror series, this has a strong sense of exploitation revenge film about it. As with the aforementioned Hands of the Ripper, Christina cannot help being a killer, but there is a sense of satisfaction as she generally only kills bullies and murderers. Again, as with Hands of the Ripper, this is another Hammer film that criticizes British aristocracy and puts an emphasis on the callous, uncaring nature of wealth and privilege. The script, credited to the pseudonym John Elder, is from Hammer producer and writer Anthony Hinds and I think this is his finest in the Frankenstein series.
The return of one of Hammer’s most beloved directors, Terence Fisher, is another major benefit. There is some beautiful photography, colorful period settings, well-made effects, and generally all the things that Hammer came to be known for. In addition to good performances from Cushing and Denberg, the film is rounded out with an excellent supporting cast made up of Duncan Lamont (The Evil of Frankenstein), Robert Morris (Quatermass and the Pit), Thorley Walters (Vampire Circus), and others from Hammer’s stock of regular actors.
Hammer fans with be delighted with the excellent presentation Frankenstein Created Woman has received with a blu-ray release from Millenium. There are a number of nice special features, including two episodes of World of Hammer, “The Curse of Frankenstein” and “Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing,” as well as an entirely new documentary, Hammer Glamour. This looks at some of Hammer’s female stars, including Caroline Munro, Madeleine Smith, and Martine Beswick. There’s also an audio commentary from actors Derek Fowlds and Robert Morris, along with horror scholar Jonathan Rigby. Also included is a restored trailer, an animated stills gallery and collectible cards. And fear not - if you aren’t already a Hammer fan, the films in the Frankenstein series are largely stand alone. Frankenstein Created Woman is a great place to start for fans of darker, weirder British horror.