The Curse of Frankenstein released May 2, 1957 (UK)
The Curse of Frankenstein is a 1957 British horror film by Hammer Film Productions. It was Hammer’s first colour film, and the first of their Frankenstein series. Its worldwide success led to several sequels, and the studio’s new versions of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959) and established “Hammer Horror” as a distinctive brand of Gothic cinema. The film was directed by Terence Fisher and starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Lee and Cushing would both go on to enjoy long film careers, usually as the protagonists in other films of the same genre.
For many years this held the distinction of being the most profitable film to be produced in England by a British studio.
The first Frankenstein movie to be filmed in color
The idea originated with Milton Subotsky, who went on to co-found Amicus Films, Hammer’s main rival during the 1960s and early 1970s. The script was revised several times to avoid repeating any elements from the Universal Frankenstein series. As part of this effort, new monster make-up had to be devised especially for this film.
Christopher Lee’s monster make-up was almost literally done at the “last minute”. After previous attempts to design a monster make-up using a cast of Lee’s head had failed, make-up artist Philip Leakey made the final design the day before shooting began, directly onto Lee’s face, using primarily cotton and other household materials. Since he didn’t use any latex or molds, the make-up had to be recreated from scratch every day.
The original concept for this film was a black-and-white feature with Boris Karloff as Baron Frankenstein. Universal threatened a lawsuit if Hammer copied any elements from the classic Universal version. Hammer had Jimmy Sangster completely redo the script and had Jack Asher shoot it in Eastmancolour.
This is not the first time Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee starred together. Lee had a small role in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), in which Cushing played Osric. The two had also appeared in Moulin Rouge (1952), though they shared no scenes.
Bernard Bresslaw was considered for the role of the Creature, on account of his height.
Patrick Troughton appeared in a brief role as a mortuary attendant. Although his name is credited on some early publicity material his scenes were cut from the finished film.
Although they had both previously appeared in Hamlet (1948) and Moulin Rouge (1952), Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing met on the set of this film for the first time. They would pass the time between shots by exchanging Looney Tunes phrases, and quickly developed a fast friendship, which lasted until Cushing’s death in 1994.
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