Peter Cushing returns as the good Baron Frankenstein, directly following the events of the first film. Surprisingly, and luckily, Frankenstein escapes the gallows and sets up a medical practice in another country. But it is not enough to just live a normal life, after having a taste of what it is like to be God, the man cannot let it go. Thus it is that Frankenstein, slowly but surely, starts over from scratch until finally, he is ready to try and complete that which almost led to his death. Things of course are never as easy as they seem, and as such, Frankenstein will have to deal with the forces of life and death not only by his own hand but by other ones as well.
Terence Fisher would return as well and direct this film from a Jimmy Sangster script along with cinematographer Jack Asher and by doing so, would give the film a nice feeling of familiarity as it has the same tone and pacing of the original. As no time has passed between the first and second films, it continues on as if it were just the second episode of a television series. The direction is tight and no time is wasted in the film, every moment used for characterization or plot advancement which is great to see. It is still a brightly lit picture, but the setting is a bit more sombre, and dirtier, taking place in Frankenstein’s hospital for the poor. The horror which unravelled slowly in the last picture starts up here when you realize that this hospital is also Victor’s body farm. The movie is never boring which is a strong point and you find yourself invested in this one just as heavily as The Curse of Frankenstein. This film does happen to be a little bit darker though, being a little moodier and that is mainly due to Peter Cushing’s excellent performance.
Cushing would once again bring that slight madness to Victor Frankenstein, but this time instead of the man just learning and coming into the knowledge he needs, Victor already has it and his ego is now unchecked. Victor is a supremely confident man, he knows the secrets of life and death and he knows that he can play God whenever he so wishes. He believes he is above other men and as such, Cushing gives his character a slightly harder edge in his attitude, a superiority that is a little frightening, especially when acted upon. Victor has the belief that he can do no wrong and that the consequences delivered unto normal men are nothing for him to be concerned about. As he tells his fellow doctor in the film, he has accounted for everything and is worried about nothing. Where it seemed Cushing gave Victor a hesitance in the first film, he now has a surety in the second, in everything he does.
There is no real monster or creature in this film, other than Victor, which somewhat makes the film a bit different. The picture sees Victor’s assistant Karl played by Oscar Quitak, a hunchback who has volunteered his brain for Victor’s new experiment, a body that is literally perfect in every way. It could be said that Karl is the monster, but in truth, he would be more of a victim than anything else. While there might not be a creature in the film, there are monstrous actions with monstrous repercussions behind them. In the role of the creature, if it can be called as such, is Michael Gwynn who does a fantastic job in the limited amount of time he was onscreen. Also starring in the movie is Francis Matthews as Victor’s partner and fellow doctor, Hans Kleve who also just so happens to be a member of the city’s medical council, a group of people who look to bring Victor down however they might. Eunice Grayson is Margaret, the only female presence in the movie and the only voice of sympathy to be found.
It is not often that a sequel to a film can be said to be better than the original as it happens so rarely, but such is the case with The Revenge of Frankenstein. Part of that reasoning is due to the lack of a shambling monster. Where Curse had Christopher Lee play a truly hideous beast of a creature, this film had no such thing. Instead, it would focus upon Victor and his actions and essentially be one large character study of the man. Over the course of the two films we see him go from wide-eyed pupil to a larger than life, god-like champion of science, at least in his eyes. Nothing can stop the man, not his friends, his peers or even death itself and it only bolsters that ego of his. But if he has conquered the power of life and death, then where is there to go from here? Leaving the film with at least one unanswered question, it does leave the movie wide open and as time would see, this would not be the end of the story as Cushing would be set to return for three more pictures before finally putting Victor Frankenstein to rest.
4.5 out of 5