Frankenstein Created Woman (Blu-ray)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Distributed by Millenium Entertainment
Of all the studios that have attempted to mine classic gothic literature and all its tropes for their filmic output, this writer’s hands-down favorite is Hammer Films. The Studio That Dripped Blood followed Universal in bringing audiences Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy, The Wolf Man (kinda), and others – all in lurid color with brilliant actors, gorgeous photography and sets, and an amount of blood and grue that must’ve shocked audiences at the time who hadn’t yet seen such gore onscreen in all that many glorious shades of crimson.
Of all these masterpieces that were released from 1957-1979, this writer’s favorite franchise was the Frankenstein series – six films starring the legendary Peter Cushing as the sole link amongst the films, playing the charming and dastardly Baron Frankenstein – he who attempted to play God and cheat death (many times over in this series), all with tragic and often gruesome outcomes. And from all these films (not counting the Ralph Bates-led black comedy woulda-been reboot Horror of Frankenstein), this reviewer’s favorite is easily Frankenstein Created Woman. Created, the fourth film in the franchise, found the Baron as somewhat of a more sympathetic antihero, mostly taking a backseat to a tragic romance that inevitably ends with…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Released in 1967 and loosely following up the previous installment The Evil of Frankenstein (the continuity between each of the films is tenuous at best), Created opens grimly – introducing us to a young boy named Hans who witnesses his drunken father being led to the guillotine for alleged murder. One chop later, and we meet the adult Hans (now played by Robert Morris), a well-meaning if fiery tempered young man who acts as an aid to Hertz (Hammer vet Walters, incredible as always), a doctor who serves as the “hands” of Baron Frankenstein (Cushing, of course), who has lost the use of his own mitts due to the climactic events of the previous film.
While Hertz and Frankenstein work together to refine the Baron’s process of reanimation – this time by harnessing a corpse’s escaping soul – young Hans keeps company with Christina (Denberg), a crippled and disfigured young woman Hans loves dearly. When a trio of wealthy, spoiled bastards murder Christina’s father and pin the blame on Hans, tragedy separates the couple – leading Frankenstein and Hertz to use their gifts to bring the young couple back together in the most unexpected of ways – creating a female monster who is as attractive as she is lethal, and who is hellbent on seeking out bloody vengeance.
I adore this film. Its story, its performances, its look – it’s as perfect a representation of everything that’s great about Hammer that one could ask for in a single film. To watch this film is to understand why that studio is so well regarded by horror loving cinephiles. Of course, if you’ve never before seen a Hammer horror, I’d suggest going back to the beginning and checking out Horror of Dracula or Curse of Frankenstein, then working your way forward. That said, Created should still work as a complete experience for the uninitiated, and may be more effective at driving viewers to seek out other Hammers more so than any other offering from the studio.
Because wow, what a film! The story is a perfect balance of tragedy and terror, of romance and revenge. And the cast! As mentioned, Walters is always fantastic. But Morris and Denberg should be commended for bringing their characters' doomed romance to the screen without it ever seeming schmaltzy.
And, of course, Cushing. Cushing, in his signature role. As always, he’s perfect here, finding even more notes to play with the good Doctor than he had previously. While Frankenstein had been an evil cad in the first two films in the series, Evil and Created saw the Doctor become more…well, if not heroic, then certainly more sympathetic. It’s both fascinating and a shame that the following installment would see the Baron become as evil as ever.
It’s also worth noting that this film was directed by Hammer hero Terence Fisher, who helmed many of the very best films to ever come out of the studio. As with his other entries in this series, Created is a stylish, atmospheric, and fast paced film, and that’s all down to Fisher’s abilities as a filmmaker. Top notch work from a brilliant director.
Millenium Entertainment, who previously showed some love to Hammer by releasing Dracula: Prince of Darkness to Blu-ray, delivers Created to disc with a great presentation and a marvelous selection of bonus features. The image, while bearing some heavy grain and speckling in some scenes, boasts great color and detail throughout. And while the provided Dolby Digital 2.0 track isn’t reference quality, it’s a solid audio presentation and is likely the best this picture has ever sounded.
Now, on to the bonus features. First up is an audio commentary with stars Morris and Fowlds (Hans and evil douche Johann, respectively), moderated by English Gothic author and Hammer enthusiast Johnathan Rigby. Though it may not hold the interest of casual fans, it’s a good listen for those with a keen interest in Hammer and the film in question. Next we have the film’s dated, yet somehow still effective theatrical trailer, which makes good use of animation and title work to augment the movie’s footage.
Also included are two vintage episodes of the “World of Hammer” television show. The first is “The Curse of Frankenstein”, which is a nice overview of the entire Frankenstein franchise presented in (slightly squeezed) 4x3 and narrated by the wonderful Oliver Reed. The second ep, “Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing”, is great as well, taking a look at the gentleman actor’s long and illustrious career with Hammer.
Following those episodes is the best feature on the disc – Hammer Glamour, a brand new forty-five minute documentary focusing on the lovely and talented ladies who populated Hammer’s films throughout the years. Directed by Marcus Hearn, who has written several books on Hammer (including the one which gives this doc its subject and name), Glamour is loaded with great footage from the films cut alongside new interviews with former Hammer starlets (including Caroline Munro and Martine Beswick). For Hammer fans, this is a must see, and alone is worth the price of the Blu.
Wrapping up this impressive package is an animated slide show (featuring poster art, lobby cards, stills and behind-the-scenes shots set to the film’s score), and a package of collectible cards adorned with promo shots and lobby card artwork.
Great film, great presentation, great package. Folks, if you’re not a Hammer fan, chances are you won’t find much to interest you here. Also, we might not be able to be friends. But! If you dearly love (or merely have great affection for) the heyday of British horror and gothic cinema, consider this sterling release of a classic film to be an absolute must own.
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5