Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blu-ray review: FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)

Label: Millennium Entertainment
Region: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.77:1)
Director: Terrence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, Robert Morris, Duncan Lamont, Peter Blythe



Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) opens with a pre-credit sequence of a drunken and belligerent man being lead to the guillotine on the charge of murder. The moment before his head is lopped-off by the blade his young son Hans stumbles upon the scene witnessing the shocking decapitation. Some years later the boy now a young man (Robert Morris) is the service of Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing, Corruption) and his absent minded assistant Dr Hertz (Thorley Walters, Vampire Circus). The Baron has been experimenting with a primitive form of cryogenics and the idea of trapping the soul after death and transferring it into to a new host body, a new metaphysical twist on the Frankenstein story. It's worth noting up front that this film has very little connective tissue to the previous film The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) where it seemed the Baron perished in flames.

Young Hans' lover Christina (Susan Denberg) is a barmaid and the daughter of a local barkeep, her face is hideously scarred on one side and the deformity is a cause for taunting from a trio of dandy young bloods lead by Anton (Peter Blythe) who ridicule her mercilessly. These taunts anger Hans who slices Anton across the face, it's this sudden outburst of anger which makes him the prime suspect when Christina's father is found murdered a short time later. A very short trial ends with Hans following in his father's footsteps - losing his head at the guillotine.


When Christina finds out only too late that Hans is dead she throws herself from a bridge to her water death. The corpses of the young lovers end up at the home of Dr. Hertz where the Baron sets about extracting the soul of Hans and transferring it into the corpse of Christina. This bit of science fiction is glossed over pretty damn quickly with very little explanation. It somehow involves two large heat-lamp looking apparatuses and a glowing sphere - that's pretty much it - very silly stuff. Once Christina is revived the docs perform additional miraculous surgeries/treatments and her physical scarring s completely healed - and now she's a blonde and has no memory... don't ask, just go with it.

It's at this point that those responsible for the death of Christina's father and the wrongful execution of Hans meet their demise in very quick succession - it's almost a montage. This aspect of the film had a strong flavor of Hammer  Hands of the Ripper (1971) which came a few years later. Christina is now possessed and compelled to seek revenge, seducing and murders the culprits.



The script is pretty sub par but Hammer veteran Terrence Fisher (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) does his best to keep the production together despite the shortcomings. He manages to creating a decent anmount of atmosphere aided in no small part by a great score from Hammer in-house composer James Bernard. Always the consummate professional Peter Cushing turns in a solid performance. The remaining cast are pretty decent including veteran actor Thorley Walters as the absent-minded doc and Blythe as the 1960's equivalent of a 1980's douche bag. Robert Morris and Susan Denberg didn't do a lot for me here, they were adequate but not much presence onscreen, though she is quite attractive,  particulary after her transformation into a blond revenge-murderess.

At the end of the day this is a decent Hammer production with a cool metaphysical twist that's just not fleshed out very well.  Also, the idea of putting the soul of a man into the body of a woman could have been explored way more - there's just so much potential there that goes absolutely nowhere - this could have been a psycho-sexual masterpiece. The resolution wasn't quite satisfying either - it just happens too damn fast. I didn't love it but I don't loathe it either, a decent Hammer thriller but not one that will merit a lot of repeat viewings.


Blu-ray: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) makes it's North America debut with an MPEG4-AVC encode in widescreen  (1.77:1),  not scope (2.35:1) as indicated on the Blu-ray. The image features a pleasing grain structure without evidence of undo digital scrubbing. The print is very nice, suffering very little damage with the exception of some minor speckling. It's sort of a drab earth tone film.  the colors are not exactly vivid but they are consistent. it's a rather flat presentation with only very modest depth but the fine detail is decent when resolving textured surfaces and facial expressions. When compared to the region 2 version found on The Hammer Collection 21-Disc Box Set this is a very nice upgrade and where that version is bare bones this is nicely stocked with extras.

As with the Dracula - Prince of Darkness Blu-ray Millennium Entertainment have opted to offer only English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional English Subtitles - there is no lossless audio option. The track is nicely balanced and clear but the score from James Bernard quite good and would have benefited from a sonic upgrade.


Onto the extras we have a  nice selection of supplements beginning with an audio commentary from Hammer expert Jonathan Rogby and actors Derek Fowlds who was the leader of young bloods while Robert Morris portrayed Hans. It's a bit dry but does offer up some production info and anecdotal stories that are intriguing and oftentimes humorous.



There's a brand new documentary entitled Hammer Glamour with interviews from a few very memorable members of Hammer's plunging neckline brigade including Valerie Leon (Blood from the Mummy's Tomb), Caroline Munroe (Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter), Martine Beswicke (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde), Vera Day and Madeline Smith (Taste the Blood of Dracula) and Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula). Madeline Smith is surprisingly chaste and talks the wrong sort of fans and her regret of appearing nude in The Vampire Lovers while remembering what a sweetie her co-star Ingrid Pitt was. Exotic beauty Martina Beswicke recalls working on the Bond films plus Roy Ward Baker on several movies and working with Raquel Welch plus she alludes to a swinging lifestyle - she seems like she was a wild one. Actress Jenny Hanley offers up a fun story about Peter Walker's sneaky attempt to get her nude on camera and Christopher Lee's seriousness on set while Valerie Leon tells of how she felt that Blood from the Mummy's Tomb was a cursed production. This is a great mini-doc that also mention other Hammer beauties like Dorian Dores, Hazel Cortze, Barbara Shelley, Susan Denberg, Susanna Lee and the Collinson twins,  a fun introduction to the Ladies of Hammer.

Also on the disc are two full episodes of the World of Hammer (1990) TV series narrated by legendary Brit Oliver Reed (Burnt Offerings) spotlighting the careers of Peter Cushing and Hammer's Frankenstein series. The extras on the disc are finished off with theatrical trailer, animated stills plus an envelope containing five collectible cards featuring poster art and promotional stillsfor the film. I may be lukewarm on the film but this is a solid  release from Millennium that I am pleased to put on the shelf next to other great Hammer Blu-ray titles from Synapse and Shout! Factory we've seen this past year - more please!


Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Derek Fowlds, Robert Morris and Jonathan Rogby
- Brand New Documentary -  Hammer Glamour (44:07) HD
- Stills Gallery (7:07)
- World of Hammer Ep 4 'Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing' (24:54) 
- World of Hammer Ep 'The Curse of Frankenstein' (25:56)
- Frankenstein Created Woman Trailer (2:39)
- Envelope with 5 Exclusive Collectible Cards

Verdict: I was not as enamored with Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) as with many other Hammer Productions but it does have that certain Gothic charm and a solid performance from Peter Cushing plus a new metaphysical twist on the Frankenstein story. The disc sports a solid audio visual presentation and the over an hours worth of extras make this is a very attractive purchase. There's still more Hammer horror on the way with 1080p presentations of Quartermass and the Pit (1958), The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Devil Rides Out (1968) planed from Millennium Entertainment! 2.75 Outta 5 

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