Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) marked the return of Terence Fisher to the Hammer Frankenstein series. Fisher had been temporarily ousted after the studio’s displeasure over the director’s character driven Phantom of the Opera (1961). Freddie Francis had been assigned to the Evil of Frankenstein (1964) and the predictable, pedestrian result was a case of the studio quite obviously having shot itself in the foot.
Fisher and writer Anthony Hinds showed that, even with a lurid, studio-assigned title, a visionary team can do imaginative, innovative wonders, much in the same way that Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur had delivered a sublime film from I Walked with a Zombie (1943), studio be damned. Continue reading
Terence Fisher is rarely counted among the great horror auteurs, yet he certainly defines our ideal of contemporary horror far more than the ethereal Tod Browning, the old world Brit James Whale or the sublime Val Lewton stalwart Jacques Tourneur. For many years, Fishers’ Horror of Dracula (1958) was ranked by many critics and genre fans as the greatest horror film.
Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966) is the finale of Fishers’ vampire trilogy and is generally considered the weakest. While it lacks the imaginative touch of Brides of Dracula (1960), Prince is an underrated, worthy conclusion to the trilogy, vigorously characteristic of Fishers’ penchant for fervent religious drama.
The film belongs primarily to Barbara Shelley, who was easily Hammer’s best actress and, consequently, was repeatedly used by the studio; a rarity for a studio who tended towards a new glamour girl for each film.
There is a recurring scene, albeit with slight variations, in Terence Fisher’s trilogy of vampire films—Horror of Dracula (1958), Brides of Dracula (1960), and Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966)—in which a wise and devout man releases a vampire from the pains of immortal existence. In the Horror of Dracula, Van Helsing releases Lucy, much to the relief of her brother Arthur. Arthur smiles as he sees the beauty of innocence restored to his sister. In Prince, Fr. Sandor releases Helen from the curse, as her brother-in-law, Charles, smiles upon witnessing the peace that finally envelops the troubled Helen. In Brides of Dracula, Van Helsing, introduced as a doctor of philosophy and theology, releases vampire Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt), at her own request. After being staked, the Baroness shows a touch of a smile. Continue reading
Director Terence Fisher had quickly grown bored with the Hammer Dracula series, along with the character of the Count. For the two sequels, Fisher omitted the title character from the first (Brides of Dracula, 1960) and then made him secondary to Barbara Shelley’s character in Dracula, Prince of Darkness. However, Fisher clearly reveled in the Baron Frankenstein character and focused primarily on the creator, as opposed to the creation.
In the fourth of the series, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), the Baron allegorically became God the Father in Fisher’s idiosyncratic take on the Trinity. In that film, Peter Cushing’s Baron is empathetic and waxes poetic at the tragic conclusion. In the fifth film, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Fisher and Cushing create an alternative perspective on Frankenstein. Here, the Doctor is at his most obsessed and least sympathetic. Continue reading