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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Frankenstein Created Woman

In 1966, Hammer released their fourth Frankenstein film, starring Peter Cushing as the mad genius baron. Frankenstein Created Woman (FCW) is (roughly) Hammer's rendition of Bride of Frankenstein. The story has less "science" and more crime-thriller elements as well as some classic gothic horror twists in an Edger Allen Poe sort of way. Despite publicity shots, and the poster art, Susan Denberg does not appear in a bikini or sporting wild "Bride of…" hair. The setting and costumes stay very 1860.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A man is guillotined for murder. His young son, Hans, witnesses it. Fast forward and adult Hans is Dr. Frankenstein's assistant, as is the alcoholic Dr. Hertz. They pull frozen Victor from a freezer. He has been dead a full hour, but they revive him with sparky gizmos. Victor enthused that he's proven that the soul remains in the body after death, at least an hour. Victor has a new gizmo which can create an impenetrable force field. He wants to use it to contain a soul for later transference back into a repaired dead body. His chance comes soon. Three arrogant dandies insult Christina, disfigured daughter of the innkeeper. Hans, who loves her, fights them, eventually drawing a knife. The innkeeper takes the knife from Hans who, in the heat of the moment, says "I'll kill you." Later, Hans meets Christina upstairs and they get seriously romantic. The dandies return to the hotel after hours, find the door unlocked and drink more. The innkeeper returns for his keys. They kill him. Hans is blamed for the murder, but refuses to cite Christina as his alibi. He is guillotined. Christina, distraught, drowns herself in the river. Victor gets Hans' body and extracts his soul. The villagers bring in dead Christina. Over the course of six months, he fixes up her body. Victor puts Hans' soul in her. She has amnesia at first, but Hans' soul takes control and makes Christina seek out the three dandies, one at a time, and kills two of them. The police accuse Victor of black magic. He tells them all, but they disbelieve. Victor races to stop her from killing the third, but arrives a moment too late. The head of Hans (kept in a hat box) tells Christina she has avenged him. Christina, distraught at the truth of it all, throws herself off a cliff into a river. Victor walks off, sad. The End,

Sci-fi Connection
There is less surgery and fewer gizmos in FCW than in the previous films. However, in a neat nod to the atomic age, watch for Victor's steampunk gizmo which appears to be a three-rod nuclear reactor. Once inserted, the rods glow. Power from the earth itself! There are also a pair of parabolic dishes which focus the energy and capture the white-glowing soul of Hans. Interesting effects for 19th century setting.

Saga Connection
The story line does not directly follow from the previous films, but is more akin to the Further Adventures of Frankenstein. He still has an assistant named Hans, but he is no longer the doctor/seeker of Revenge of… or Evil of…. He's just a simple peasant. Dr. Hertz assumes the assistant role, but as a sort of necessary accomplice. Unexplained, is that Victor does not have sufficient control of his hands for fine work. He wears black gloves through most of the film. As in the others, Victor's creation is destroyed in the end.

Non-Creation -- In keeping with the irony of the past titles (i.e. not much revenge in Revenge of… and not much evil in "Evil of…") there's not much creating in FCW. Unlike Bride of…, Victor does not make Christina. He fixes up her scarred face and bad leg, but she already existed. It's a bit of a stretch to say that he created a Woman (sexy, confident and dangerous) out of an innocent girl, but that might be the angle intended.

Spiritual Dimensions -- In a first for the Frankenstein legend, things move beyond the purely physical. "Death is only physical," says Victor. "The soul remains alive." This metaphysical dimension sets FCW apart. The essence of what makes a person who they are, lies in the soul. Earlier films posited that this essence belonged in the brain -- hence the transfer of Ygor's brain into the monster's body, made it essentially Ygor. In FCW, repaired Christina awakens without any identity. Yet even after the transfer of Hans' soul into her body, she was not just Hans in drag, but more akin to a multi-personality person. Repaired Christina seemed have received a new (blank) soul.

Shades of Dippel -- FCW makes a curious connection to Mary Shelley's novel. The real life person of Johann Conrad Dippel, who as born in the real Frankenstein castle in the 1700s, was said to mess around with anatomy and even to have tried to transfer the souls of cadavers. All rumor, of course, but an interesting minor connection.

Dubbing Denberg -- A curious detail in FCW is that Susan Denberg (who plays Christina) is dubbed. Denberg spoke english well enough, but did have a noticeable German accent. You can hear some of it (she doesn't get many lines) in her role as one of Mudd's Women in a 1966 episode of Star Trek. Her actual voice and accent are more evident in An American Dream ('66) as Ruta the seductive maid. Since FCW is supposed to take place in a German village (the police even wear the quaint spiked helmets -- pickelhauben), you'd think a German accent would be perfect. Perhaps her speaking with an accent made the others non-accents too obvious.

Bottom line? FCW is worth checking out. It is pretty well paced, with action or events never far away. There is certainly a heavy dose of chopping and killing, though sensibilities keep the gore mostly off camera (except for spatters of red paint). FCW is refreshing for not being a retread of the same old trope. It is also pretty good as a ghost story and crime thriller, as Christina lures her victims to their deaths.


Maurice Mitchell said...

Peter Cushing is a classic actor. Sounds like a fun flick.

Nightowl said...

Yes, Cushing is quite good. He made the Hammer Frankensteins rise above mere B status. FCW was more metaphysical than the others, which was interesting.

Darci said...

Two suggestions:
1. "Frankenstein Created..." is misspelled "Frankenstein Creates..." throughout the review.
2. I've only seen this film on TV, so perhaps that version is missing a scene that was in the original, but I never saw the new Christina alive until after she'd received Hans' soul. I'd reverse 2 sentences to: "Victor puts Hans' soul in her. She has amnesia."
Hope this helps!

Nightowl said...

Good catch on the proofreading. I fixed those.

As for item 2, you got me curious. I dug out my copy and rewatched it. I don't think there is a missing scene. There is a slow crossfade from the dead-Chritina in the parlor view to the new-bandaged-Christina. The film does not show if her her coming to life again ("It's Alive!), nor did they show the infusion of Hans' soul.

Frankenstein says she has both souls in her at the same time, which suggests that Hans' soul was not necessary to revive her. But, this is conjecture, since the film does not actually show it.

Hope this helps.