Film, video and television productions based on the novel by Mary Shelley:
Director James Whale; writers John Balderston, others; featuring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Edward Van Sloan, Dwight Frye
Director James Whale; writers William Hurlbut, John Balderston; featuring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester
Director Rowland V. Lee; writer Wyllis Cooper; featuring Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi
Directors Erle C. Kenton, Roy William Neill, Charles Barton; writers Scott Darling, Eric Taylor, Curt Siodmak, Edward T. Lowe Jr.; featuring Lon Chaney Jr., Cedric Hardwicke, Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello
Director Terence Fisher; writers Jimmy Sangster; featuring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee
Directors Terence Fisher, Jummy Sangster; writers Sangster, Hurford Janes and others; featuring Peter Cushing, Michael Gwynn, David Prowse and others
Directors Paul Morrissey, Mel Brooks, Roger Corman, Robert Tinnell; writers Tonino Geuerra, Morrissey, Brooks, Corman, and others; featuring Udo Kier, Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeleine Kahn, John Hurt, Burt Reynolds and others.
Peter Cushing cooks up the monster in the British-made Curse of Frankenstein
After the American run of Frankenstein films petered out near the mid-twentieth century, the monster was becoming a kid's comic character.
But then the British took up the tale and took it seriously. Not so much continuing the now very confused storyline, but re-imagining the Frankenstein myth from the beginning.
Which—come to think of it—is only fair, since Frankenstein was an English creation in the first place.
The doctor is in
The Hammer Film studios started with The Curse of Frankenstein, pairing Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as the doctor and monster respectively and bringing a more psychological flavour to the tale.
Christopher Lee is the monster
Once again the film is only very loosely based on the Shelley story. Victor Frankenstein (at least he's named Victor now, rather than Henry as in the Universal flicks) carries out experiments on reanimating dead animals, becoming obsessed with creating a superior human being. He turns evil himself, stooping to murder to protect his project. He uses the flawed creature he creates to carry out further dirty work and is brought back to his senses only when his fiancée is threatened by it.
As in the novel, the attention is paid more to Frankenstein the scientist than to his creation.
The film is book-ended by Cushing's Frankenstein in prison, recounting his story of creating and trying to control the monster, although it's never clear how sane the storyteller is or how much he should be believed. In the main part of the story though, he's a steely-eyed, determined man, not given to the previous screen Frankenstein's hysterics.
Lee's monster is also closer to how a Mary Shelley reader might imagine him: the square-topped head and neck bolts are gone, and he looks like he's been stitched together from dead body parts. He's also clearly psychotic.
The film's colour is beautifully rich, which is welcome after all those black-and-white Hollywood movies.
By today's standards this is a low-keyed film for the genre. But at the time it was considered a grisly, bloody sensation. Its success, coupled with that of the studio's Dracula the next year, turned Cushing and Lee into major horror and suspense stars.