Release Date(s)1967 (June 11, 2019)
Studio(s)Hammer Films/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A
By the time that the Hammer Studios’ Frankenstein series had reached its fourth entry, the studio had long since established itself with a wide range of genre films, including their multiple Dracula, Quatermass, and Mummy projects. Even though they were beginning to reach their monster movie peak and would eventually be driven by more erotically-charged films like The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil, Frankenstein Created Woman (released in the U.S. on a double bill with The Mummy’s Shroud), proved that there were still a few fresh ideas left.
For Peter Cushing’s fourth turn as the character of the infamous Baron Frankenstein (as well as Terence Fisher’s third time out as director), the story mostly ignores the events of the poorly-received The Evil of Frankenstein. This time around, Frankenstein is attempting to carry out an experiment to capture the human soul from a dead body and place it into another. Concurrently, his young assistant Hans is unjustly executed for the murder of a local businessman whose daughter, Christine, he loved dearly. Christine then drowns herself, and Frankenstein, with the assistance of a local doctor, takes possession of both bodies, removing the soul of Hans, putting in the body of Christine, and bringing her body back to life. However, his success is short-lived when Christine secretly begins a homicidal rampage and a struggle of inner personalities.
A definite left turn, Frankenstein Created Woman is certainly one of the more unusual films in the Frankenstein series. Not only is the story less about the title character, but he is no longer in the business of sewing together bits of corpses and restoring life to them. In some ways, he’s also less monstrous with a bit more humanity. That’s not to say that he’s a humanitarian by any means as he’s often unkind to both his kindly doctor assistant and the resurrected Christine, but in the end, there’s a slight bit of empathy in play instead of pure obsession and madness.
It’s often a compelling story, despite the fact that the so-called “monster” isn’t revealed until an hour in, which in a 90-minute film, could prove disastrous. Despite a post-lovemaking scene and occasional bits of blood, it’s a tastefully executed film as well, with less focus on exploitation and more on character and overarching themes. Color and lighting are put to good use, making use of shadows and staging in very effective ways, including Christine’s memorable entrance from the darkness with a meat cleaver in hand as she advances toward her intended victim. The film may not fit snugly into the idea of what a Frankenstein film should be to most people, it’s a refreshing change of pace for a series that’s four films deep, with another three still yet to come.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray debut of Frankenstein Created Woman features a transfer taken from a “new 2K scan from the original film elements,” which judging by the quality, appears to be, at the very least, an interpositive element. It’s an excellent presentation – definitely a bump up in every way over previous incarnations. Everything is much sharper and cleaner, outside of a couple of transitional and optical shots which have a baked-in softness to them. Light grain is present, appearing mostly even from frame to frame, while detail is incredibly high – from the darkest of shadows to foregrounds and close-ups. The color palette is also quite lush, offering a variety of hues, showcasing the use of lighting gels, and highlighting natural environments, whether they’re in the barren or wooded countryside or among the cobblestone streets of the fictional village. Blacks are often deep with good contrast in tow. Meanwhile, stability is never an issue and only light speckling and an occasional line running through the frame remains.
The audio is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a strong presentation, albeit slightly limited. The film’s score is a definite highlight, swelling at all the right moments but never distorting the other elements. Dialogue is clean and clear, although overdubbing can be a little obvious at certain moments. Sound effects have surprising weight to them, particularly anytime the guillotine is in use. There are also no leftover instances of major damage or age-related wear and tear, such as hiss, crackle, or dropouts.
The extras selection features a variety of old and new material, the former all carried over from previous DVD and overseas Blu-ray releases. Included is a new audio commentary with author Steve Haberman and filmmaker/author Constantine Nasr, who offer plenty of substantial information about the film, including readings from the original script; an additional audio commentary with actors Robert Morris and Derek Fowlds, moderated by author Jonathan Rigby; a new 11-minute interview with actor Robert Morris; Creating Frankenstein Created Woman, a new 12-minute interview with clapper/loader Eddie Collins and second assistant director Joe Marks; Hammer Glamour, a 45-minute documentary about the history of Hammer and the actresses who appeared in their films, which contains interviews with Valerie Leon, Caroline Munro, Martine Beswicke, Madeline Smith, Vera Day, and Jenny Hanley; the 25-minute Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing and The Curse of Frankenstein episodes of The World of Hammer, both narrated by Oliver Reed; the U.K. and U.S. theatrical trailers; 2 U.S. TV spots; an animated still gallery featuring 76 images of production photos, behind-the-scenes pictures, and promotional shots; an animated poster and lobby card gallery featuring 75 images, including newspaper clippings; and 3 U.S. radio spots.
In summary, Scream Factory offers a substantial upgrade over all previous releases of the film, which will be hard to top. Frankenstein Created Woman is a definite highlight of the Hammer catalogue, even beloved by filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, and this Collector’s Edition does it plenty of justice. Highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons