Hammer Films’ The Revenge of Frankenstein premiered at the venerable Plaza cinema in Piccadilly Circus on this date, August 27, fifty years ago.
No sooner had The Curse of Frankenstein wrapped, in January 1957, that a script for a sequel was commissioned of writer Jimmy Sangster. Promotional materials appeared in trade papers featuring Christopher Lee’s disembodied head — The Monster from the original film — floating above the working title, The Blood of Frankenstein. Shooting eventually kicked off in January 1958, reuniting Cushing with director Terence Fisher, but sans Lee, whose Dracula (aka The Horror of Dracula) was released in May ’58.
Francis Matthews, sitting in attendance at the Revenge premiere with Peter Cushing, remembers the audience laughing as his character prepared to transplant Dr. Frankenstein’s brains. “My dear boy,” Cushing whispered, “What have we done?”
British critics would lavish odium on the film, as they had for The Curse of Frankenstein. The Observer’s critic called the film “vulgar, stupid, nasty”, adding, “I want to gargle it off with a strong disinfectant, to scrub my memory with carbolic soap.”
Mr. Cushing need not have worried. With an intelligent, provocative script, a superlative cast and outstanding production values that belied the film’s actual budget, The Revenge of Frankenstein was a rare gem of a horror film, an instant classic, and a solid box-office hit.
Nervous laughter and contemptuous critics aside, audiences world-wide would embrace Hammer Film’s brand of gothic gore and Cushing would get to pursue and refine his sardonic Frankenstein in four more films over the next 16 years.