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October 27, 2010

Hammer Films Month - Frankenstein Created Woman

The title Frankenstein Created Woman makes me think of the kind of spoof horror movie titles people come up with when they want to mock the genre.  You could make plenty of jokes about this playing at the same drive-in as Dracula's Accountant or Lassie Meets The Wolf Man, if you liked.  A true horror fan might suspect that it was a remix of the classic Bride of Frankenstein, but believe me when I say that there is next to no connection between the two films.  It turns out that Frankenstein Created Woman, which finally sucked me in tonight, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like it is.
 In the movie, Dr. Frankenstein (played by Peter Cushing for the fourth time) puts the soul of an assistant who's wrongfully sentenced to death into the body of the young, physically scarred woman who loved him.  The titular woman is played by Susan Denberg, a former Playboy Playmate of the Month, who appears to be a sweet little thing.  But the soul of the wronged man has some power over her, and it leads to some trouble for the young men who set him up.
As you can probably tell from that description, this has little in common with any other Frankenstein film you've ever seen.  There's nothing that resembles Karloff, nothing that resembles Lee trying to resemble Karloff, and nothing that most would really call a "monster".  Denberg's Christina is able to put her hair in some pigtails - something I'm sure Karloff never tried - and avoid appearing menacing.  In fact, the character's mind might be the closest thing to Mary Shelley's book in the film.  When she does put on the innocent face, she reminds me, just a little bit, of the childlike monster that just wanted to be love.
The biggest thing that's missing in this Frankenstein tale is the relationship between Doctor and Creation.  The rage against his creator was a key to other versions of the story, but it is completely lost here.  Cushing's doctor is pretty indifferent to his creation once she's begun to want freedom, and she spends more time with the town doctor played by Thorley Walters, a bumbling type of assistant who seems to exist primarily to build up Cushing's competence.  Their relationship is very Holmes/Watson, and it's the latter who builds a relationship with the created girl.
As a revenge flick with a bit of soul-transfer, Frankenstein Created Woman isn't a bad film.  I had fun watching it, but couldn't help finding the whole thing a bit slight when it ended.  Cushing, Denberg, and Walters all do fine jobs, and Terence Fisher (as usual) does a great job of putting things together and keeping it entertaining.  It bears repeating that I was impressed with Denberg, because I didn't expect much from her when all I'd heard when researching this film was that she was "a former Playboy Playmate".  It's not an Oscar worthy performance, but she pulls off what is really three different roles (the scarred lover, the innocent creation, the vengeful killer) pretty well.  I just wish there was more to the film's plot, because there's not much in the film that's interesting on a psychological level. 
Of course, we'd probably be having an entirely different conversation if they'd just left the Frankenstein name out of the title, so I maintain the right to change my mind on this film later.  I'll give it another chance, and anyone who's not totally nerdy when it comes to the "fronk-en-steens" will probably not have the same problems I did. 
By the way, don't bother looking for Dracula's Accountant or Lassie Meets The Wolf Man.  I've already tried, man.  :(

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