The Baron Frankenstein returns to continue his experiments, to eliminate death. When his young assistant, Hans, is executed for a murder he didn’t commit, Frankenstein uses this opportunity to try out his latest technique. The Baron manages to transfer Hans’ soul into the body of his lover, Christina. Soon the village is host to several murders as the true criminals are being killed off one by one.
What would the horror and science fiction genres have done if it wasn’t for Mary Shelley? In her creation of Frankenstein she created something that continues to inspire, especially in cinema. With constant tales of medical hubris in films such as Re-Animator, and Splice, and through re-imaginings of her original tale (including the recent bromance vision of Victor Frankenstein, and the modern retelling by Candyman’s Bernard Rose), it seems we owe a debt to Mary Shelley. Hammer in particular have used Shelley’s original tale to spawn several films, including The Curse of Frankenstein, but it’s Frankenstein Created Woman that I have chosen to review. While Hammer had already made films closer to Shelley’s story, they had elaborated on the character of Frankenstein through the actor, Peter Cushing. Cushing became as synonymous with the mad scientist as Boris Karloff (or in the Hammer versions, Christopher Lee) had with the monster.
In Frankenstein Created Woman, there is no sight of the neckbolted abomination, which is unusual for any film bearing the name Frankenstein. Yet the film continues it’s theme of scientific hubris with another experiment gone wrong. Rather than rehashing the same plot of the mad scientist creating a monster, Frankenstein Created Woman actual allows Baron Frankenstein to succeed in bringing the dead back to life, and dealing with the repercussions of that success. That leads to a revenge plot that feels a bit like I Spit on your Grave with Christina enacting Hans’ revenge. Definitely an interesting departure from the normal Frankenstein story.
While there is still the campy tone that Hammer is famous for, it’s still quite a dark story. The real villains of the story, the gang of snobby young men, act much like the Droogs of A Clockwork Orange. They are vulgar, drunken and cruel. They sing mockingly at Christina about her facial scars, and beat her father to death for catching them breaking into his pub. Christina under the influence of Hans acts a little like Jason Voorhees, consulting with Hans severed head. Despite these darker touches, it’s still got that Hammer charm, full of British accented Germans, and bright red blood.
While the title, Frankenstein Created Woman, insinuates a much more exploitative film full of big breasted brides of Frankenstein, and with it’s original X rating only raising expectations in that fact, it’s very tame by modern standards. What was shocking in the 60s barely stands up to the shock films of today. I’d love to know what the ratings board that gave this film an X rating would think of the likes of the Human Centipede (another medical horror that owes something to Shelley).
Frankenstein Created Woman is a rare spin-off of Frankenstein that doesn’t rely on the grave-robbing tropes of it’s origins and takes us down an unexpected path. While it is dated, it’s still also very fun. Not one to be overlooked.
Words by Christopher Stewart (@Horror365)