Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) Directed by Terence Fisher

A sci-fi drama that inadvertently morphs into a spooky revenge yarn. Is that supposed to be a Frankenstein movie? I don’t know, but this fourth installment in the Hammer-produced Frankenstein franchise captured my heart with its exquisite sensibility and metaphysical gravitas. Terence Fisher returns to directing after Freddie Francis took the helm for the disruptive The Evil of Frankenstein, however he doesn’t resume the continuity he laid out in his early Frankenstein films but rather follows the same philosophy of Freddie Francis’ film in seeking to reinvent the mythology of Mary Shelley’s literature. So, in that same spirit, Frankenstein Created Woman has its sovereign mojo, it has no ties to its predecessors thus giving it the latitude to be the least Frankensteinian of the Frankenstein films. Like The Evil of Frankenstein, this film has its quirks. It is eccentric and very original in its rendition of the Frankenstein myth. However, what sets it apart as a Frankenstein picture is not exactly its authentic treatment of the mythology, but rather its deconstruction of it and crafting something new out of it. Hammer’s fruitful creative ambition leads Terence Fisher to film a story heterogeneous in style, and miscellaneous in genre. What they end up achieving with this cinematic experiment is overwhelming. A mind-blowing film.

Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is of no particular interest to Fisher this time -something odd considering that in The Curse of Frankenstein he gave him an exclusive and hauntingly dramatic leading role- now the most striking character in the story is Hans (Robert Morris), Frankenstein’s sidekick and son of a criminal who was executed at the guillotine; a grisly event that Hans witnessed when he was just a child. This sequel’s Hans is a genuine guy, a character with a past and a present. He’s not at all prosaic like most of the supporting characters in Fisher’s other films. This is a character we can communicate with emotionally because you can tell that the script written by John Elder builds the whole story around the tragedy of his life, not Frankenstein’s or his monster’s. Dr. Frankenstein is now more enthralled by the metaphysical concept of the soul than in the reanimation of the body after death. The plot sometimes indulges in a preposterous colloquy about the incorporeal qualities of the soul once the body is no longer alive. Nevertheless, the nonsense and the scientific – or spiritual – mumbo-jumbo play a role too interesting to be just ignored or simply ridiculed. When we meet Hans’ romantic interest, the inhibited and fearful Christina (played superbly by Susan Denberg), the film automatically ceases to be about Dr. Frankenstein and his macabre experiments.

The film evolves into a full-blown tragedy and ultimately a revenge flick. Christina is a girl who has developed a shyness and self-loathing because she was born with a congenital malformation, half of her face is paralyzed and deformed, and one of her arms and legs are inefficient to move. This character is bullied by three cocky rich boys, who constantly tease Hans and Christina. Little by little, unfortunate events take place in the plot, and the pure and incorruptible romance of Hans and Christina is blighted by the judgmental sadism of the three ignoble troublemakers. Once the violent transgressions encroach on the story, the metaphysical balderdash of Doctor Frankenstein becomes relevant and is no longer seen as an abstract, clichéd device. Peter Cushing seems to understand that he is only a supporting actor and not a lead actor in this sequel, therefore the performances of Robert Morris as Hans and Susan Denberg as Christina stand out as very believable and very human characters in their supernatural catharsis.

Hammer may be peddling false advertising with a title like Frankenstein Created Woman – which sounds more like a histrionic Frankenstein horror movie than what we get here – but that’s inconsequential when you have a story with all the makings of an adventurous, freakishly good movie. Furthermore, it’s Hammer doing what Hammer does best, and that is, putting a thrilling, violent story on screen that looks classy and sexy. There’s plenty of that in Fisher’s third Frankenstein film, but he’s aware that that alone is not enough to monumentalize a film; that’s why Hammer delves into the Frankenstein lore with a poetic and theological earnestness, thus giving that elegance and superficial eroticism a nuance of melancholy and somberness that hasn’t been seen since Universal’s The Bride of Frankenstein.



Matteo Bedon

Written by

Editor and Official Film Critic at

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