Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

The Ultimate in Evil!

Baron Frankenstein claims to have the knowledge to implant the soul of a dead person into another body. He just needs the right opportunity to prove it. This comes when Hans, a lab assistant for Frankenstein, is wrongly convicted of the murder of a tavern owner and sent to the guillotine as a result. He was spending the night with the tavern owner’s disfigured daughter, Christina and instead of bringing shame upon her, he chose to face death. Upon seeing him executed, Christina throws herself into the river and commits suicide. Frankenstein acquires the two bodies and transplants Hans’ soul into Christina’s body. When she finally comes to, she only has one thing on her mind – revenge on those who really did kill the tavern owner.

 

The fourth of the Hammer Frankenstein films, Frankenstein Created Woman is a return to form for the franchise after the mid-series disaster that was The Evil of Frankenstein. Hammer twiddled with the formula, tried to tie that film more closely in with the 1932 Universal Frankenstein and ended up with a disappointing sequel which alienated a lot of people. So Terence Fisher was brought back on board to direct and steer the series back in the right direction. He does an admirable job even if the results aren’t there with the best of the series.

The most conceptually challenging of the sequels, Frankenstein Created Woman borders on science fiction for a lot of its running time, tempting the audience with questions about mortality and sexuality. Alas it never really delves too far into these issues, instead opting for the easier route. There’s plenty of talk about trapping the soul after death and the moral implications that such a discovery would herald but the film only skirts these issues. It also spends too little time in creating a confusing character once Hans’ soul is transported into Christina’s body. There were possibilities to examine the obvious gender confusion that would arise from dying as a man and waking up as a woman. But all the film does is to allow Hans/Christina the chance to get even with the real killers. It’s an opportunity to turn the film into something a little more challenging to the viewer but one which goes begging as the formulaic Frankenstein story rears it’s ugly head and the ‘monster’ does what it’s supposed to do by breaking free from Frankenstein’s control. Even then this part of the story is confined to the final third.

Instead, Frankenstein Created Woman serves itself up more of some tragic Shakespearian romantic story between the two ultimately-doomed young lovers. It’s also lower on blood and gore than usual, Frankenstein manages to obtain a whole body (and thus one can argue that he doesn’t actually ‘create’ anything here) so there’s no need for costly (and gory) brain surgery. That’s not to say there isn’t any blood on show – it is a revenge film after all and the trio of troublemakers get what’s coming to them in traditional slasher style.

The Baron is reduced to a supporting role for the majority of the film and it’s a tad disappointing because it means you’ll see a lot less of the series’ shining light, Peter Cushing. Like the rest of these films, Cushing is at his best when he’s talking down to people he finds inferior, which is pretty much everyone else! A rude and arrogant character, there’s a natural charisma to the performance which allows the audience to smile with him when he’s cutting down counterparts with a verbal barrage. He doesn’t murder anyone himself in this one and is more restrained in his evil shenanigans as he leaves all of the bloody carnage to Christina, beautifully played by Susan Denberg. You’ll never buy the fact that she’s an ‘ugly’ cripple at the start of the film and save for a limp and facial scar, she’s pretty hot to begin with. But once she’s back from the dead, she turns into a drop-dead gorgeous siren mode.

As a prelude to some of the rape revenge films of the 70s, she uses her newfound attributes to seek revenge on the trio of men responsible for her father’s death. They’re all portrayed a little too cartoony and the script goes to extra lengths to make them unlikable and irritating from the get-go. It’s Thorley Walters as Frankenstein’s assistant who steals the show here. Walters was an amazing character actor, usually playing bumbling or comedic roles during his time spent in the horror genre. His role here is more fatherly

 

Frankenstein Created Woman is good, not great, Hammer horror. One can’t help wondering that with a little work here and there to flesh out the challenging concepts suggested by the plot, Frankenstein Created Woman could have been a lot better than it actually is. Still, Cushing is always worth a watch.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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