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Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell

UK 1974
produced by
Roy Skeggs for Hammer
directed by Terence Fisher
starring Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, Dave Prowse, John Stratton, Patrick Troughton, Charles Lloyd-Pack, Michael Ward, Clifford Mollison, Philip Voss, Chris Cunningham, Bernard Lee
written by John Elder (= Anthony Hinds), based on a character created by Mary W. Shelley, music by James Bernard

Frankenstein, Hammer's Frankenstein, Frankenstein (Peter Cushing)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Enticed by the books of Baron Frankenstein, Simon Helger (Shane Briant) starts to assemble a human from bodyparts of his own, but he is betrayed by the local graverobber (Patrick Troughton) &, on charges of sorcery, thrown into a mental asylum, run by the perverse doctor Klauss (John Stratton). But the man who is really in control is of course ... Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who has faked his own death in order to pursue his experiments undisturbed.

In Simon, the Baron finds an able and willing assistant, & soon he hands all the work on the asylum's patients over to the young man. But it is not long before Simon notices some irregularities, when he sees that many recently deceased patients do miss vital bodyyparts. It doesn't take him long to put two and two together & he soon finds the Baron's secret lab, complete with an ape-like monster (Dave Prowse), that proves to be a former inmate thought dead. But far from being shocked, Simon is more than delighted in helping the Baron in his experiments, especially since Frankenstein's hands were buried so badly that he can no longer perform surgery.

& soon, Simon & the Baron also find a perfect brain for their monster, that of genius professor Durendel (Charles Lloyd-Pack), whom Frankenstein accidently drove to suicide.

The brain transplant goes reasonably well, even though the professor has difficulties adjusting to his apelike body, but soon progress is made ... up to a point that is, when the monster's body seems to take over the brain instead of the other way round, & instead of a genius the creature turns into the primitive killer the body's donor originally was, & only the Baron's angelic & mute assistant Sarah (Madeline Smith) seems to be able to calm him.

Then though, the Baron has the most outrageous idea yet - in order to save the essence of Professor Durendel, that 's still somewhere in the creature's body (don't ask where), by mating the creature with Sarah.

Simon is shocked by the Baron's idea, & once the doctor is out, he tries to kill the monster on his own but only succeeds in setting it free, almost biting the dust wouldn't it have been for Sarah, who does find her voice again thanks to the schock & manages to call the monster back.

Upon coming back to the asylum, Frankenstein is badly wounded by his own creature, which then goes to dig up those bodies in the institutions own graveyard that were used for his creation before killing the asylum's director - the perverse man who raped Sarah in the first place, causing her to lose her voice ... & he furthermore was her father, too.

In the end though, the monster is ripped to pieces by the asylum's inmates. "It was the best that could happen to him," Frankenstein coldly comments, already planning his next experiment ...

 

This film, another tale about a totally immoral scientist (& who better than Peter Cushing to play him) would actually be Terence Fisher's last movie & the last of Hammer's Frankenstein-movies - rather fittingly, as the first, Curse of Frankenstein, was both the first big success for Terence Fisher & the international breakthrough for Hammer. The film itself is - despite the inclusion of some nasty gore scenes - rather old-fashioned for its time & does owe more to the Hammer-style of the late 50's/early 60's that to The Exorcist, which was then its direct competition at the box-office - & to which it lost without a fight.

Viewed today, the film is an enjoyable, atmospheric & macabre mad scientist saga that is brought to life by competent direction, convincing sets costumes, even some black humour thrown in, & above all by Peter Cushing still at top form after all these years.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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