Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: March 15th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Terence Fisher Actors: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, Robert Morris, Alan MacNaughtan, Peter Blythe, Barry Warren, Derek Fowlds

 


 

L

ittle Hans witnesses the beheading of his drunkard father, which plagues him well into adulthood (exacerbated further by the fact that the guillotine remains where it stood, accruing rust and slowly falling apart throughout the years). As a young man, Hans Verner (Robert Morris) works for Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters), who is currently attempting to resurrect the icy cadaver of Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing). In a twist, it’s actually the baron who is experimenting with death; his latest endeavor is to stop his heart and die for exactly one hour, before being revived. It’s a test to see if his soul will leave his body.

Though the results are inconclusive, the baron lives, which is a reason to celebrate. Hans sprints into town to purchase some champagne from the local inn. There, Hans speaks with sweetheart Christina Kleve (Susan Denberg), a beautiful girl with half of her face terribly scarred, the daughter of the landlord (a man who thinks little of Hans and the company he keeps). As Hans is about to leave, three local troublemakers show up (Anton [Peter Blythe], Karl [Barry Warren], and Johann [Derek Fowlds]), intent on teasing Christina and insulting her father. Instead, they fight Hans, who gains the upper hand with some handy salt and general fortitude, before the authorities turn up. Later that evening, the three well-dressed brutes refuse to cease their games, deciding to serenade Christina again with additional taunts.

Despite an opening scene full of grim violence, and then a knife to the face for Anton, the plot is rather slow-moving. Time is spent having Frankenstein and his doctor pal sup, which seems to take as much time as their laboratory meddling, full of unexplained mad science. Inexplicably, there’s more excitement to be found with the three hooligans, who fearlessly carouse in front of everyone, than there is with Frankenstein, who struggles to conquer death. Strangely, this Hammer Films’ iteration of the wayward experimenter is lighthearted and sarcastic in tone (until the conclusion), rather than diabolical. Fortunately, Cushing is appropriately unfeeling and always looks the part.

Death is physical, not spiritual; the body may decay, but the soul remains alive. As Frankenstein and Hertz toy with amusing ideas about the afterlife, “Frankenstein Created Woman” shifts into a courtroom drama, where a murder mystery (of which there is no mystery) is tried against the wrong man – an entirely predictable affair. It’s almost comical how this setup transpires, since the introduction of characters and the character development exist solely for the sake of the devious experiment – yet they generate sympathies that go unrewarded. Roles present themselves merely for bodies to be practiced upon. And when yet another corpse is all but dumped on the good doctor’s doorstep, it’s further cause for laughs.

As the film progresses, it becomes less a horror picture than an odd coming-of-age drama, in which Christina attempts to come to terms with her surroundings, her identity, and her elderly caretakers. In a bizarre way, the premise almost resembles that of “Gigi” or “My Fair Lady.” But the body-swapping/mind-swapping notions make little sense, coupled with the confused revenge scheme stuffed with unclear motives, while the ghostly voices that drive Christina’s attacks are even less logical (especially considering that others can hear Hans, right alongside the girl). Nevertheless, when the sultry blonde begins consulting a severed head, the film returns to its more fitting Hammer roots.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10