The Revenge of Frankenstein
Cast & Crew
Following the beheading of Baron Frankenstein for crimes committed by the monster he created, two grave robbers go to the cemetery to dig up the baron's freshly dug grave. When they pry open the coffin, however, they find the body of a priest rather than that of the baron. After the baron, very much alive, appears at the graveyard with his deformed assistant Karl, one of the robbers suffers a heart attack and the other flees in terror. The baron and Karl then rebury the casket and mark it with the baron's tombstone. Three years later, in the town of Carlsbruck, the baron, now known as Dr. Victor Stein, has become the most popular doctor in town, thus engendering the jealousy and suspicion of the Medical Council. Consequently, the council delegates three of its members to go to the Hospital for the Poor where Stein works and convince the doctor to join their ranks. After Stein rejects their offer and dismisses his colleagues, one of the physicians, Dr. Hans Kleve, returns to speak with him in private. Hans then tells Stein about attending the baron's funeral and states that Stein looks suspiciously like the executed man. After parrying with Hans about the many branches of the Frankenstein family, Stein finally admits that he is the baron. When Hans, impressed by Stein's work, asks to become his pupil, Stein consents to Hans becoming his assistant. Stein then takes Hans to his laboratory housed in a cellar and introduces him to Karl. After showing Hans assorted body parts that he has suspended in tanks of liquid, Stein unveils his newest creation¿a perfect specimen of a human being, assembled from the body parts of the poor patients. The only thing it lacks is a brain. Stein explains that he promised Karl a perfect body in return for saving him from the guillotine and hence plans to implant Karl's brain into his creation. That night, after transplanting Karl's brain into the body, they strap him to the bed and transport him to a secluded room in the hospital's attic. When Karl regains consciousness one week later, Stein warns that he must remain in restraints until his brain has healed. Later, Karl becomes agitated when he learns that Stein plans to exhibit him alongside his old body as a medical anomaly. Soon after, one of the impoverished patients who sweeps the hospital offers to show Margaret Conrad, a young volunteer at the institution, the strange patient in the attic. Margaret is sympathetic to Karl and loosens his restraints when he asks. Before leaving, Margaret gives Karl the address of her aunt's estate, where she resides, and invites him to visit when he is released. Soon after, Hans recalls seeing Stein's laboratory chimpanzee, normally an herbivore, devouring meat and asks Stein about the animal's strange behavior. Stein explains that the chimp, one of his first brain transplants, became a cannibal because its brain did not have time to heal properly. In the attic, meanwhile, Karl, now freed from his restrains, dresses, admires his new comely body in the mirror, then escapes out a window. Proceeding to the lab, Karl finds his old body and stuffs it into the burning incinerator. Upstairs, the lab janitor hears a noise and goes to the lab to investigate. Upon seeing Karl, the janitor smashes him over the head with a stool then punches him. The blows invigorate and enrage Karl, who strangles the janitor and flees. When Stein and Hans discover Karl's room empty, they hurry to the lab, where they find the janitor's dead body and a discarded, burning shoe from Karl's former body. At her aunt's estate, Margaret is feeding some ponies in the barn when she finds Karl cowering in the hay. After Karl begs her not to tell Stein where he is hiding, Margaret goes to Hans for help. When they return to the barn, however, Karl has gone and Hans decides he must apprise Stein of the situation. Now thirsting for blood, Karl attacks a young girl in the woods then flees. Soon after, as Stein and Hans cross the woods on their way to the estate, they are stopped by the police who tell them about the murder. At the estate, as Stein questions Margaret, Karl, now hunched and disfigured, crashes through a glass door, calls out the name Frankenstein and dies. The Medical Council then convenes to determine if Stein is indeed Frankenstein. After Stein denies the charge, the council members dig up the baron's grave and, upon finding a priest's hat and rosary, realize that the baron is still alive. At the hospital, meanwhile, the patients rise up against Stein, calling him a mutilator and killer. Just as they fall upon Stein with bats and crutches, Hans arrives and halts the attack. He is too late, however, and the now fatally wounded Stein instructs Hans to remove his brain and transplant it into a new body Stein had compiled from body parts. After the operation is completed, the police arrive to arrest Stein and Hans shows them the doctor's dead body. Some time later in London, Stein, now fully recovered and known as Dr. Franck, confers with his assistant, Hans, then goes to greet his patient.
Charles Lloyd Pack
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Revenge of Frankenstein, in fact, begins just where the previous film left off, as Frankenstein (Cushing) is led to the guillotine in 1860 "for the brutal murders committed by the monster he had created." We see the blade fall, and later two grave robbers (played by Hammer regular Michael Ripper and future ubiquitous character actor Lionel Jeffries) arrive to dig up the coffin and find a beheaded priest buried in place of the Baron. Much to their horror, Frankenstein arrives on the scene with his deformed assistant Karl (Oscar Quitak). He explains that Karl had performed a switch at the guillotine in exchange for the promise a new body. They dispatch the thieves and set the graveyard right. Three years later, we see that the Baron has set up practice in Carlsbruck as "Dr. Victor Stein," working in a hospital for the poor. One of doctors from the local Medical Council, Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews), confronts Stein about his true identity. Frankenstein takes on Kleve as his assistant, and shows him his latest experiment - a new body for Karl assembled from parts acquired from the poor clinic. The Baron and Kleve work in relative secrecy, and the new Karl (Michael Gwynn) is restrained in the laboratory until a meddling hospital worker (Richard Wordsworth) assists in his escape.
Jimmy Sangster's screenplay makes a clear break with the pattern of the Universal Frankenstein series of the 1930s and 1940s, which focused on the monster created by Victor Frankenstein and revived by a series of Victor's relatives. Hammer logically set their focus on Frankenstein himself, and Peter Cushing became the linking thread through the series, although the Baron's approach and state of mind would vary from film to film, from obsessively evil to detached but decent. His mode in The Revenge of Frankenstein is self-obsessed but hardly murderous, and that sets the tone for the film as a whole. He has no hesitation in mutilating the patients under his care in the poor clinic, but he also seems to genuinely desire to provide a sound body for the twisted Karl. The Revenge of Frankenstein is also notable for featuring perhaps the least monstrous "monster" of any Frankenstein film. Actor Michael Gwynn elicits enormous sympathy as Karl's new body begins to betray him, and in a party-crashing confrontation with his creator, the creature is more pathetic than terrifying.
Producer Hinds promised The Daily Cinema that the sequel would "...contain all the shake, shudder, and wallop" of The Curse of Frankenstein. Shooting began on January 6, 1958 at Hammer's smallish Bray studio, actually a grouping of manor houses. Production designer Bernard Robinson effectively redressed some sets from The Horror of Dracula (1958), which had just wrapped shooting only days before. The British film industry magazine The Kinematograph Weekly visited the set of The Revenge of Frankenstein, and director Terence Fisher told them of his approach to the material: "It's no good having your tongue in your cheek when you are making horror films. You must be completely sincere. It is very difficult trying to stop people laughing in the wrong place. But there are also wonderful opportunities to put in intentional laughs." Writer George Baxt was brought in to add a few scenes of humor to the script. As he told Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio for Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography, "I 'ghosted' two scenes... One was with the two grave robbers, and the other was an amputation followed by Cushing 'amputating' a roast chicken." Recently, co-star Francis Matthews talked to The Little Shoppe of Horrors about working with Fisher, and said he had "...already cut my teeth in movies with some prima donna directors who seemed bent on giving a better, bigger performance than the cast, [so] Terry was a revelation. He was instantly likeable, totally genuine, calm, unflappable and gently persuasive when conveying what he was aiming at."
Writing in Variety, Jack Moffitt noted the more genteel approach of The Revenge of Frankenstein compared to its predecessor, and said that the story "...lacks one of the basic essentials for a good horror tale - an anxiety for the characters being menaced." The critic in the Monthly Film Bulletin called the film a "failure" because of a "contrived plot and a notable lack of pace and imagination... Cushing's stylish and diffident performance serves only to underline the farcical effects of a crude and pedestrian handling of the little legitimate horror left." British notices were wildly divergent, with The Kinematograph Weekly calling The Revenge of Frankenstein "immaculately tailored, [with a] gripping and intriguing story [and] faultless atmosphere." At the same time, The Observer called it "a vulgar, stupid, nasty, and intolerably tedious business. ...I want to gargle it off with a strong disinfectant, to scrub my memory with carbolic soap."
In his book Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Bill Warren calls The Revenge of Frankenstein a "...peculiar film. There isn't much in the line of menace, Frankenstein himself isn't endangering anyone other than his swiping of limbs, and he's not in any danger himself, until the end. After the transplant, Karl seems fairly placid, with occasional moments of anger. ...The movie also doesn't have a plot, so much as it is an incident in the life of Dr. Frankenstein. Events don't progress to a climax that arises from earlier actions. Except toward the end, actions have no consequences, and some characters seem lacking in motivation, just doing what's necessary to keep the film moving." At the same time, Warren justifiably praises Cushing's portrayal of Frankenstein as easily the best element of the film: "He plays Victor Frankenstein with delicacy, insight, humor, and Frankenstein's own precision. When Kleve first confronts him, Frankenstein is very carefully dissecting a roast chicken, which he then daintily eats with his fingers. Cushing's aloof absorption in this, and the care with which he slices the bird, are riveting; it's hard to listen to the dialogue."
Phil Hardy finds a deeper character development and even political implications in the follow-up Hammer film, and notes (in his book The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies) that while the Victor Frankenstein of the first Hammer film "...was merely an over-reacher, The Revenge of Frankenstein sees Cushing's Baron... as rather more merciful and humane, more the victim of the prejudices his work inspires than of his sadistic inclinations. Thus, it is others who transform his creation into a murderous animal. This heroizing of Frankenstein... and transformation of him into a scourge of the bourgeoisie is Fisher's greatest contribution to the Frankenstein myth."
Columbia Pictures released The Revenge of Frankenstein in America in June of 1958 with a co-feature that was equal in intelligence and atmosphere, Jacques Tourneur's Curse of the Demon (1958). At the same time that The Revenge of Frankenstein was shooting in England, Hammer was engaged in a fascinating co-production in America, a television series pilot called Tales of Frankenstein (1958). Although co-produced with Columbia Pictures' TV subsidiary Screen Gems, the short film had the look of the Universal Pictures monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, due to a sanctioned use of the trademark neck-bolt makeup utilized in those films, and thanks to a freewheeling brain-transplant story from writer-director Curt Siodmak, screenwriter of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943) and House of Frankenstein (1944). The odd hybrid ultimately did not please Hammer executives and found no buyers among American TV networks, and afterward the Frankenstein franchise at Hammer would lay dormant until The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), directed by Freddie Francis.
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster; Hurford Janes (additional dialogue); George Baxt (uncredited, additional dialogue)
Cinematography: Jack Asher
Production Design: Bernard Robinson
Music: Leonard Salzedo
Film Editing: Alfred Cox
Cast: Peter Cushing (Doctor Victor Stein), Francis Matthews (Doctor Hans Kleve), Eunice Gayson (Margaret Conrad), Michael Gwynn (Karl Immelmann), John Welsh (Dr. Bergman), Lionel Jeffries (Fritz), Oscar Quitak (Dwarf), Richard Wordsworth (Up Patient), Charles Lloyd Pack (President of the Medical Council), John Stuart (Inspector), Arnold Diamond (Dr. Malke), Margery Cresley (Countess Barscynska), Anna Walmsley (Vera Barscynska), George Woodbridge (Janitor), Michael Ripper (Kurt), Ian Whittaker (Boy with Gerda), Avril Leslie (Girl - Gerda)
By John M. Miller
Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio (McFarland Publishing, 1996)
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies by Phil Hardy (Woodbury Press, 1984)
Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties by Bill Warren (McFarland, 1986)
"Terence Fisher: Hammer's Master of Gothic Horror", Little Shop of Horrors magazine, No. 19, 2007
"The Curse of Frankenstein: Hammer's First Horror", Little Shop of Horrors magazine, No. 21, 2008
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The opening and closing onscreen cast credits differ slightly in order. The film opens with the following written foreword: "In the year 1860, Baron Frankenstein was condemned to death for the brual murders committed by the monster he had created...The whole continent breathed a sigh of relief when the guillotine was called upon to end his life of infamy."
According to a September 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Hammer Films Productions, Ltd. had a deal to produce sixteen films for Columbia. The Revenge of Frankenstein was one of those films. The picture was the sequel to the 1957 Hammer Film The Curse of Frankenstein (see entry above). For additional information about other films based on the character of Baron Frankenstein, created by Mary Shelley, please see the entry for the 1931 Universal Pictures film Frankenstein in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.
Released in United States 1958
This was Hammer's follow up to "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957).
Released in United States 1958