Friday, October 14, 2016

Frankenstein Month: 'Frankenstein Created Woman' (1967)

After the break with continuity in 1964's The Evil of Frankenstein, Hammer's Frankenstein series pretty much gave up on the idea that the movies had any connection to each other, other than featuring Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. In Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein has taken up residence in yet another new small town, this one with seemingly only a single street and a handful of residents, possibly due to budget constraints. For reasons that are never explained, he's forced to work in the attic of the befuddled local doctor, Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters), as he conducts his latest experiment, this one involving transferring souls into new bodies.

It's a decidedly less scientific (or even pseudo-scientific) pursuit than Frankenstein's endeavors from previous Hammer movies, and it turns into a vehicle for a fairly dull revenge story, in which Frankenstein himself becomes a secondary character. Having perfected an apparatus for extracting the soul from a recently deceased body, Frankenstein seizes on the opportunity to resurrect his young assistant Hans (Robert Morris), who's been executed after being falsely convicted of murder. Conveniently, Hans' beloved, Christina (Susan Denberg), has committed suicide by drowning upon learning of her lover's fate, and so Frankenstein has an intact body in which to place Hans' soul (since Hans' body is without a head).

This whole process takes up nearly two-thirds of the movie, much of which is spent on setting up the three arrogant rich bullies who set up Hans for the murder charge. There's disappointingly little of Frankenstein's mad science going on, and far too much of Hans tangling with the bullies, mooning over Christina and suffering silently in court. (This is the third Hammer movie in which Frankenstein has had an assistant named Hans, but none of the characters have any relation to each other, and they're all played by different actors.) Eventually Frankenstein performs his procedure, helpfully also curing Christina's facial scarring and changing her mousy brown hair to blonde in the process. The revived Christina becomes a total sexpot, seducing and dispatching Hans' tormentors at the behest of the soul now residing in her body.

Or something like that. It's not quite clear how the soul combination process works, and Christina appears to retain her own soul while experiencing Hans' soul as a voice inside her head. Instead of exploring ideas of identity and mortality, as in the series-best entry The Revenge of Frankenstein, screenwriter John Elder (returning from the previous movie) and director Terence Fisher (back after taking one movie off) focus on lurid sex and violence, luxuriating in Christina's seductions and gruesome murders. Even the sets and costumes are garish and grotesque. Frankenstein is back to being the arrogant sociopath of the first movie in the series, and Cushing is as effective as ever. But as his character becomes increasingly less important to the story, he's left with nothing to do but bluster impotently.

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