Much-admired Hammer Horror pic rebooted a whole genre, resurrecting FRANKENSTEIN before waking DRACULA and other frights. The films now look something of a curate’s egg, only good in part, with Hammer house director Terence Fisher’s steady-as-she-goes helming letting the narrative rhythm sag between the big shocks. (Jimmy Sangster’s suspense-robbing flashback story structure also hurts the cause.) Fortunately, Peter Cushing carefully lays out the falling arc of Victor Frankenstein’s obsession with his monstrous creation, playing the madness close to the vest. No one else in the small cast is particularly memorable, even Christopher Lee’s gruesome creature misses the sense of pity so famously caught by Boris Karloff in the old Universal classic. (Lee passed on the role in the Hammer sequels.) The current DVD also misses the vibrant EastmanColor density of later Hammer releases. Perhaps a richer looking edition would bump things up.
DOUBLE-BILL: Some of these Hammer Horror Pics feel a bit long in the tooth (and not only DRACULA). Non-afficionados might first try THE MUMMY/’59 which finds strength in the very filmic longueurs that weaken other titles.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The Hammer Horror pics (and Roger Corman’s A.I.P. films) probably got a boost from the perfectly lousy physical condition of the great ‘30s Universal horror classics circulating at the time. Battered, grainy prints, with murky looking close-ups and suffering lost footage from past censorship and tv time limitations. Now beautifully restored, they look far more stylish (and stylized) than these redos.