The Revenge of Frankenstein
In our continuing series of articles 'The bloke down the pub' will tell us all about his favourite Hammer Horror films. In his fifth weekly review he's thinking about what part the little guy plays in The Revenge of Frankenstein from 1958. Enjoy!
What Hammer films usually boil down to is wise men of faith and science doing battle with hideous monsters while young, attractive people get either in the way or eaten.
But there is another group of people hanging around in the back cracking jokes, ogling barmaids and making bloody daft decisions – the blokes in the pubs (with whom I’m sure you can imagine I share a certain kinship). There’s the ever reliable half-cut gaggle of ‘leave us alone you bastards’ expressions hunched over tables in village pubs at the foot of death-filled castles, or drunken moving men who let The Mummy fall off the back of their cart in their terrified haste to get to the pub for a pint as soon as possible, or the two grave robbers who open up The Revenge of Frankenstein by having their desire to go straight be slowly but surely undermined by the never-ending need for cash. It’s our brothers and cousins stumbling around up there on the screen. Normal people treated with contempt by mad scientists, fear by sympathetic monsters, and kindly but disappointed understanding by women of every age and class.
They don’t want much, you know – most of them want to be left in peace, some of them just need a pint and a few quid, and a few of them in The Revenge of Frankenstein only want basic medical attention. Well, basic medical attention is not something a poor man should go looking for in a Hammer film. You’re liable to end up in a grotty shed being looked after by a mad scientist.
Now, initially this might appear to be a mad scientist who’s turned over a new leaf in an attempt to make up for past misdeeds. This is Peter Cushing after all, and we know he’s capable of being a thoroughly decent chap. But unfortunately this is the cold-eyed ruthless Cushing whose politeness exists only to make sure diabolical things are done as quickly as possible and with the minimum of fuss. So when you find out your arm got chopped off because the mad scientist likes the idea of having the use of a pickpocket’s fingers, you shouldn’t really be too surprised. After all, it could be even worse. At least as a run-of-the-mill bloke in the pub your dreams are limited to drinking, smoking, flirting and trying to find a way to make a few bob. What if you’re the bloke in the pub who has to sit in a corner so people don’t see your horrible disfigurements? Of course they do see, they probably sing amusing songs and throw things at you. So the best you can hope for is to stick to the shadows where maybe they’ll forget about you. But then you won’t have anything to do in those shadows except dream - of a new body, a new life, a woman who could look at you for more than five seconds without fainting. Because a bloke in the pub like that is going to end up working for a mad scientist, lured by the promise of dreams come true. Now, if you’re lucky, the scientist will be lying to you about the things he can do, and he’ll string you along forever – a lifetime of answering doors in the middle of storms and pulling enormous levers. But if you’re unlucky, the scientist will give you everything you ever wanted.
And that, my friend, is when the real trouble starts.
And don’t go thinking that at least you’d be some sort of hero in a tragic tale, on the run from an angry father figure desperate to find you. After all, at least that would mean you were needed, that you were important. It might even feel for a while as if the whole film is about you, much more than old Frankenstein. Because in the end it turns out he’s not angry because he needs you, he’s only angry because he doesn’t want to miss seeing what happens to your old brain in this new body. He wants information, data, results; he doesn’t care about you one way or the other. And neither, it turns out, does the film. Your whole hideous, horrible journey has only been a trial run. You are not the Revenge of Frankenstein, you are a few notes scribbled on the back of a portrait of a gloriously cold, calculated and now thoroughly evil Frankenstein.
His revenge is to succeed, not by making you but by making himself effectively immortal. After all, if you’re going to be a mad scientist you might as well put all that mad science to use in figuring out a way to survive the inevitable pitchfork wielding mob. Unfortunately, that’s the sort of fate that befalls any bloke in the pub who tries to stand too close to the front of the stage. The best you can hope for is to be killed quick. You would have been better off sticking to the shadows and drinking quietly, and if anyone came up and invited you to be a bigger party of the story, my advice would be to politely decline. And then turn to another bloke in the pub and quietly inquire
– Another pint?