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Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, Robert Morris, Duncan Lamont, Peter Blythe, Barry Warren, Derek Fowlds
Length: 91 min
Label: Millennium Entertainment
Release Date: Jan 28th, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English (SDH)
- Commentary Featuring Derek Fowlds (“Johann”), Robert Morris (“Hans”) and Jonathan Rigby (Hammer Historian)
- Frankenstein Created Woman Trailer
- World of Hammer Episode “The Curse of Frankenstein”
- World of Hammer Episode “Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing”
- Brand New Documentary: “Hammer Glamour”
- Animated Stills Gallery
- Includes Exclusive Collectable Cards!
After years drooling over the superior U.K. releases, Hammer horror fans are starting to see some of their favorite films on region 1 blu-ray thanks to companies like Synapse and Millennium Entertainment. Millennium has begun releasing Hammer blu-rays in the U.S., starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness this past Fall. Now fans have a chance to catch up with one of Hammer’s strangest Frankenstein films, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), released late this January.
After witnessing his father’s execution as a child, the unfortunate Hans (Robert Morris) is framed for the murder of a local innkeeper and sent to the guillotine. Before his untimely death, Hans worked as an assistant to Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), recently arrived in the village. Hans’ girlfriend, Christina (Susan Denberg), throws herself into the river and drowns after his execution, but Frankenstein decides to use the dead bodies of the two young lovers in a wholly unorthodox experiment. He manages to put Hans’ soul into Christina’s body and bring her back to life. But the merging of two souls has a surprisingly violent effect and Christina is quickly driven towards murderous revenge.In my opinion, this is the finest sequel in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. It is a rather odd film that may be off-putting to those not already obsessed with Hammer. It is not simply another generic mad doctor film, but focuses on metaphysical themes, blending sci-fi, horror, philosophy, love story, and revenge flick. The grim opening, where the young Hans witnesses his father’s executions, sets the stage for the film’s serious, bleak tone, which is not shared by many of the campier Frankenstein sequels.
An improvement over the unfortunate third film, The Evil of Frankenstein, this fourth entry shows Frankenstein moving another step beyond in his experiments with life, death, and rebirth. He is equally ruthless here, not showing concern for his assistant, Hans, or Hans’s girlfriend, and gleefully experiments on both. It’s interesting to compare Frankenstein Created Woman against Hammer’s Hands of the Ripper—another movie about a possessed female murderer—as well as against modern crime dramas like Hannibal, Sherlock, or Luther. Like Frankenstein Created Woman, these shows revolve around brilliant characters with scientific minds who—due to narcissistic personality disorders or perhaps Asperger Syndrome—are unable to relate to other humans. Baron Frankenstein certainly falls in with this theme and his amoral charm and near psychopathic experiments help make this one of the finest in the series. Cushing is excellent here, as always, and deftly balances the role of sympathetic hero and cold, reptilian scientist.Alongside Baron Frankenstein is, of course, Christina, who transforms from invisible, deformed girl into a seductive and murderous woman. Playboy model Susan Denberg (Star Trek) gives a fine, likable performance here. As with the aforementioned Hands of the Ripper, Christina cannot help being a killer, but there is a sense of satisfaction as she only kills bullies and murderers. Again, as with Hands of the Ripper, this is another Hammer film that criticizes British aristocracy and puts an emphasis on the callous, uncaring nature of wealth and privilege. The script, credited to the pseudonym John Elder, is from Hammer producer and writer Anthony Hinds and I think this is his finest in the Frankenstein series.
The return of one of Hammer’s most beloved directors, Terence Fisher, is another major benefit. There is some beautiful photography, colorful period settings, well-made effects, and generally all the things that Hammer came to be known for. In addition to good performances from Cushing and Denberg, the film is rounded out with an excellent supporting cast made up of Duncan Lamont (The Evil of Frankenstein), Robert Morris (Quatermass and the Pit), Thorley Walters (Vampire Circus), and others from Hammer’s stock of actors.
Mastered in 1080p by Studio Canal, in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this is the same exact master used for the recent Australian blu-ray release of Frankenstein Created Woman, which is reviewed here. As with that earlier release, the print used is in good overall condition, but the colors are rather faded, which sucks some of the Hammer magic out of the presentation. It is also a little on the murky side, creating some black crush in the darkest shadows. It looks nice overall, certainly better than earlier VHS or DVD releases, with less muddiness, sharper detail, and greater image depth, but there is still room for improvement. Natural film grain has not been filtered out, which is certainly good news. Several shots, (such as Susan Denberg advancing on Barry Warren with a meat cleaver) seem to have been spliced in from an inferior print and create a momentary drop in image quality, but this is not too big a deal.
There’s a nice Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track, which presents clear dialogue and sound effects, as well as a robust-sounding score from James Bernard. English subtitles are also included.
There are a number of nice special features, including two episodes of World of Hammer, “The Curse of Frankenstein” and “Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing,” as well as an entirely new documentary, Hammer Glamour. This looks at some of Hammer’s female stars, including Caroline Munro, Madeleine Smith, and Martine Beswick. There’s also an audio commentary from actors Derek Fowlds and Robert Morris, moderated by horror scholar Jonathan Rigby. Also included is a restored trailer, an animated stills gallery and collectible cards.
Hammer fans should be delighted with the excellent presentation Frankenstein Created Woman has received with this blu-ray release, the less than perfect video quality notwithstanding. And fear not—if you aren’t already a Hammer fan, many of the films in the Frankenstein series are largely stand-alone. Frankenstein Created Woman is a great place to start for fans of darker, weirder British horror and Millennium’s blu-ray comes highly recommended.