The Evil of Frankenstein - An In-depth Look
The Evil of Frankenstein is a poorly conceived film, however you cut it.
1Used and abused … Frankenstein’s Monster never has a good time, does he? And look at the state of him here!
Going back to 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in which a mesmerist uses his powers of suggestion to compel a somnambulist minion to commit crimes on his behalf, the horror genre has made copious use of this scenario, in which the more overtly monstrous are controlled by conniving and devious minds to exact revenge or simple profit. There is the Mummy, of course, who has been used by zealous protectors of the lost crypt, time and time again, to punish those colonial Time-Teamers who have desecrated sacred tombs. But perhaps no creature more than those that have been fabricated by the deluded Baron Frankenstein have been exploited more to enact the bidding of a nefarious manipulator.
The poor Monster was used by Dr. Pretorius in Whale’s outstanding The Bride of Frankenstein. He was then hugely duped into murderous deeds by Lugosi’s aggrieved, broke-necked Ygor in Son of Frankenstein and, it would seem, cast out to strangle, hurl, break and ravage Eastern European enclaves of curmudgeonly burgomasters, corrupt jurymen and other interfering officials from that point onwards. In the case of Hammer’s excellent The Revenge of Frankenstein, their second body-stitching, brain-transplanting opus, the creature would return the persecution upon those who had previously spited his former hunchbacked affliction, and in Frankenstein Created Woman, the studio would marvelously have a falsely accused hanged man’s brain and memories placed within the body of his raped and murdered lover, the victim of a vicious tavern-rabble, and return to wreak their combined wrath upon them with her reborn body. But Hammer would, just as Universal had done so many times before, have the Monster become the lumbering brutish pawn in another’s strategy of hate-filled vengeance. Especially so in this, the third in their successful grave-snatching series of ugly, implausible and downright irresponsible body-building surgical vanity.
Having toiled with their own adaptations of the Mary Shelley story of New Promethean folly already, and to great commercial success and a surprising degree of critical acclaim, Hammer was then elated to be given license by Universal to emulate the classic Karloffian design and the type of tale that would have seen service in the forties cycle of the Frankenstein saga. The Evil of Frankenstein, therefore, is the studio’s most overtly referential and, thus, most wholly unoriginal story. It is also the second worst in their collection of the Baron’s increasingly seedy exploits, with the lousiest undoubtedly being the risible Horror of Frankenstein, which Baronial favourite Peter Cushing had the common sense to avoid, being replaced by Hammer up ‘n’ comer Ralph Bates. That 1970 travesty did, at least, have the decency to realize that it could only be served-up with its rotting tongue wedged firmly in its cadaverous cheek. But the fact that it is supposed to viewed as a something of a comedic bent on what was, by then, a haggard plot is not enough to save what is a complete yawnfest of ineptitude, which also had the unforgivable indignity of having Dave Prowse’s Monster lumber about in a nappy!
But even before this, The Evil of Frankenstein is a poorly conceived film, however you cut it.
Legendary Hammer helmer, Terence Fisher had broken his leg in a car accident, so expert cameraman Freddie Francis stepped-in to direct what would be his first feature for the company. You can tell that this really isn’t the project that he would have preferred with the overall speed at which it clod-hops. He would do much better with Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, several years later, but watching the film again now after many years of shunting it aside, I found it far more stylish, lively and entertaining. It is very much in the vein of old Universal, although veering very decidedly towards the more ramshackle final run of the monster-mashes than the classic earlier groundbreakers that veritably created the genre as we know it.
Owing a huge amount to the great Son of Frankenstein and the not-so-great House of Frankenstein, both from the Universal vault, this thrown-together production (all Hammer films were, by virtue of budget and time constraints, thrown together to a degree … but this one can, at times, feel as though a kindergarten class has literally been given free-reign to write, design, direct and shoot it during one session of outdoor play!) is, at least, gloriously colourful, drawn-up like a gothic comic-book and filled with laboratory shenanigans, chases, fights and murders. I’ve made no secret in the past of being one its detractors, but in one of those daftly and unlooked-for and totally unexpected turns of event, watching it again now on this UK Blu-ray release from Final Cut (courtesy of Universal), proved to be a whole lot of fun. Much of this was at the film’s unintentional expense, of course, but once you enter into the spirited lunacy of the slapdash format, inane set-pieces, and the simply by-rote plotting, which really hasn’t had much thought put into it – made all the more apparent after the sophistication and emotion of the previous venture, written by Jimmy Sangster, and the Baron’s next story, which would be surprisingly witty and clever. But there is a frivolous sense of fun and a chaotic, let’s just get this over-and-done-with momentum that has the movie whistle-by without a single pause for legitimate pathos, interesting character-play or real invention.And you know, sometimes this shallow superficiality fits the bill.Written by producer Anthony Hinds, who used his usual none deplume of John Elder so as not to clog the credits with the same names, the Baron (Peter Cushing, bloodying his hands for the third official time now) is disrupted in the middle of a typically messy experiment by a fervent priest denouncing his ungodly actions and wrecking the heart he was to painstakingly transplant into a fresh corpse, and subsequently ousted from the area by the promise of a descending mob of villagers. Already a wanted man who has escaped the guillotine at the start of Revenge (though Hinds’ script elects to forget this) he is now a very definite outlaw and a drifting maverick, eager to recommence his experiments whenever the hounding abates for a moment or two. With his sidekick, Hans (Hungarian Sandor Eles, who would go on to act in TV’s long-running motel soap, Crossroads), he elects to return to his old haunt of Karlstaad, a province that his earlier creation and legacy caused chaos in with the bizarre statement that, “They have very short memories. I hope.” Huh? They aren’t likely to forget a lumbering monster and a mad doctor in a mountain castle, are they? I mean, in the Universal outings, the villagers were always going on about those dark days of monstrous rampages – be they from stitched-together murderers, werewolves or vampires, and frequently by all three. But it’s off to Karlstaad they go … finding that the Baron’s old chateau has been wrecked and desecrated by those same villagers with apparently short memories. One wonders why the place hasn’t been converted into a hospital, or a military garrison, a love-pad for the bourgeois. Or even a horror-tour – a Universal Hammer Horror Tour! Let’s face it, down in the village, the hypnotist Zoltan has some fun turning a volunteer into the infamous Frankenstein Monster on stage for a giggling audience – so much for short memories, eh?
His egotistical pride once again gaining the better of him, Frankenstein heads off into the town to denounce those skeptical troglodytes who looted his home, and specifically the Burgomaster (David Hutchison), who he spies wearing his ring, and the Chief of Police (Duncan Lamont), only narrowly managing to escape their clutches once they recognize him by heading off into the hills. Where, in a scene completely lifted from Roy William Neill’s mostly excellent Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, he discovers the body of one his former creations frozen in the icy wall of a cave. The mute beggar-girl, played with some intensity and under some rather odd undeadish makeup, by Katy Wild, who has happened upon them a couple of time already, has been weirdly idolizing the ice-encrusted effigy, and is recruited into the Baron’s entourage as … well … we never really find out what capacity she serves back at the chateau. She is purely a Universal-style holdover, and a damaged soul that possibly refers back to Michael Gwynn’s cripple in Revenge or the crook-back that aids Professor Niemann in House of Frankenstein. Love interest, however, she is not. They melt the Creature (Kiwi Kingston) out of the ice – never a good idea, just look what happened when they did that in The Thing From Another World – and drag it back to the battered lab. With renewed vigour, the Baron sets about restoring it to life, but even shoving the full voltage from a fierce lightning bolt through it cannot reawaken its dormant, bullet-stippled brain. But, wait a moment! What about that hypnotist back in town? Perhaps he can use his mental powers to urge the Monster back from its frozen oblivion.
So Frankenstein enlists the aid of Zoltan (an oily Peter Woodthorpe) to bring back the spark of life into the big dead lump of clay-baked meat. And Zoltan succeeds so well that the Monster only listens to him, and not his creator. Hmmmm … that doesn’t bode well, since Zoltan, like Frankenstein, has enemies down in the village, and he’d like them punished. Oh, there’s more than a few sparks going on here, all right. And soon the Baron’s Monster is causing all sorts of mayhem and that can only lead to one thing … trouble in the shape of a mob of pitchfork-wielding villagers all heading up the road to the chateau!Oh aye … short memories, you said.Whereas, the Cushing series has a distinct connection running through them, Evil steps very deliberately outside of that, and becomes a stand-apart tale that you can jettison with ease, should you so desire. The character of the Baron would become increasingly nasty and psychologically unstable as the series wore on, even down to him committing rape in the fine Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. But in this one, there is an attempt to make him a darned sight more sympathetic, not to mention valiant. Let’s not forget that even in the first film, Curse, he becomes a murderer in order to gain a prestigious brain, and even covers his own adulterous tracks in a very heinous, and thankfully, off-camera manner. The Baron, as a rule, is not a good guy. Thus, it seems odd that he should not be portrayed as such here. Even his back-story is modified so as to forget his earlier indiscretions and to paint him out as being forever the victim of philistines who fear and loathe all that they cannot understand. In the US, the struggle was usually between science and the military – both The Thing and Forbidden Planet saw to it that aggressive mentalities would win the day over the boffin-minded – but Hammer was pledging science and technology against superstition and cynicism. Cushing’s Van Helsing was compelled to believe in the occult. But his Baron was a pioneer who did not see monsters, only potential. It would be interesting to see, throughout their output, just what Hammer’s tally would be between the two.
Here, more than in any other Hammer Frankenstein, the Baron is painted as the victimised good guy. I’d never really appreciated that before, preferring him cold-hearted and desperately single-minded. But this does, in truth, add a sublime new texture to him.
What Hinds/Elder does is to make him the perennially hard-done-to. He’s just a scientist who is trying to further Man’s knowledge for the betterment of society. But he is forever coming undone, not simply because his efforts are doomed from the outset because he’s meddling in things that he just shouldn’t be meddling in, but because the closed-minded populace of these throwback Euro environs never give him a break. A fire and brimstone priest wrecks his first attempts in this story, and from that point onwards Frankenstein is forever denouncing these ignorant fools – the constabulary, the officialdom, the general peasantry – for simply not allowing him to get on with his work. They continually destroy his best efforts. “Why must they always destroy what they do not understand?” is his ceaseless whine. Well, if Kingston’s brain-addled, moldy-papier-mâché is one of his best creations, they really don’t have much destroying to do. But Frankenstein is imbued with a real sense of concern for this creature’s well-being, and he totally resents the intervention and gradual takeover bid from the far more devious Zoltan who, alone, can control him. Frankenstein is even apparently willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to both be with his creation until the end, and to halt any further atrocity that it might commit, and to save the innocent souls who have been loyal to him. In fact, the very title of the film is a misnomer, because he is most certainly not Evil in this yarn.
Cushing ensures that the mad Baron’s obsessive behavior is still his dominant trait, but he also provides him with a Bondian penchant for leaping out of a lady’s bedroom window with a pithy quip, donning a mask to pass through the potentially hostile locals during a carnival, using a very Connery-esque trick to escape from a cell, and even swinging across his ablaze laboratory in last-ditch heroics. You get the feeling that Cushing, himself, may have insisted on maintaining his screen persona of being something of an action-man. Despite those sallow, gaunt features – he was beginning to look a lot older, by now - he was a very physical actor, a constant mover, and somebody you just knew was wired-up like a coiled spring. The more wayward strands of hair you can see sproinging from his bonce, the more prepared for fisticuffs he is. Of course, this piratical swing is also a reference and homage to Basil Rathbone doing something very similar in the exciting conclusion to Son of Frankenstein, although he did it for more exacting reasons. Cushing’s Baron just does it because Cushing, the actor, wanted to. And who can blame him. Looks like fun. He also makes sure to use every little prop and item of set-dressing in his time-honoured fashion. It is almost as though he knew how much effort the designers and builders were putting-in with rarely any chance for a tea-break, and was making sure that their stuff got some valuable screentime.
Cushing also knows implicitly that Hinds’ script is basically drivel and that Francis really isn’t cut out to be calling the shots instead of making the shots. But this doesn’t hinder his bravura attitude a jot. Although magnificent as Van Helsing, I have always felt that his ongoing Frankenstein performances gave him much more to play with. Each film allowed him to display a different characteristic, although usually a more sadistic one. To peel back another layer … and, quite naturally, to reveal yet more depravity residing at his core. Okay, so this one steps out of the trajectory that the series was taking and paints him out as some mistreated and misunderstood crusader of science, but there are still plenty of delicious moments when Cushing’s delivery, expression and attitude allow the film to suddenly, and all-too-briefly bask in something akin to his customary glory. When Zoltan offers to shake hands on the terrible deal he has just struck – complete control of the Monster - the Baron ignores the gesture with the superbly glib, “I have given my word. That is enough.” Later on, he will think nothing of striking the felon despite the consequences of his control over the Monster and that he will surely turn the thing loose upon him.
There is a terrific opening sequence, brilliantly staged and really promising of great things to come, when a young girl witnesses the body of a deceased relative that has been laid to rest in the family home before burial being dragged out of an open window, its legs moving eerily along the table. Then we see the grinning bodysnatcher hoist the caracass over his shoulder and make off with it to Frankenstein, eagerly informing him of his gift for science. “So I observe,” remarks Cushing with dryly urgent sarcasm, “and so will half the county if you don’t hurry up and get it inside!”
Then, when Cushing leaps to assist his younger companion in turning the big cogs and wheels and flipping those very dangerous looking power switches, and then subsequently hurls himself at the interfering priest for disrupting yet another attempt to bestow life in place of death, you really think that you are in for a treat of action and invention. And, ordinarily, I would have stated that you would really be wiser simply turning the film off at this stage because you would have seen the best that it has to offer. But I’m happy to report that I would be being both churlish … and wrong. The Evil of Frankenstein is brash, daft and utterly bereft of the shock value that audiences expected from the studio at this point, but as a pure Universal pastiche, it is a winning and, indeed, valuable slice of frivolous entertainment. You have to view it OUTSIDE of the Hammer cannon, though, otherwise it will inevitably disappoint.Hammer-lite.To this end, there is rarely any sexual context. We have the Burgomaster’s very comely wife, played with buxom sass by Caron Gardner, but she is barely seen in the film. And, besides that, we only have Wild’s wild child. Zoltan may put the moves on her at one point, but this is only as a means of taunting the waif still further and is hardly the sort of titillation that the studio was known for. Again, this is Universal showing their fears of how Hammer would treat the women if given their usual free reign. Evil, thus, becomes a much “safer” offering from the stable of blood ‘n’ boobs than audiences expected.
Two points in the narrative are particularly wince-inducing, even once you have made the necessary concessions to this being one of the dumber entries.
Once they arrive back at Frankenstein’s old chateau, Hans asks the Baron just why he left it in such a hurry – events that we then see in flashback. But, of course, having worked with him for so long and apparently “learned so much,” he would obviously know all of this already. This train of thought is then compounded when Frankenstein asks Hans, later on, just why he stays alongside him throughout all these trials and tribulations. Both men would, by now, have an acute understanding of one another’s motivations and capabilities, the bond not needing to be spoken of. Others films in Hammer’s Frankenstein series would deliver much more finely written and defined assistants for the Baron. Sadly, Sandor Eles gets given very little to do – he can barely operate the machinery despite his years of tutelage - and is eminently forgettable even when he is standing directly in front of the camera.
However, I do love the little moment when Frankenstein observes with shock that the beggar girl is tending to the Monster’s damaged paws and immediately calls for “Hans!” I would love to think that this was deliberate, but somehow I doubt it.
When I was a kid and poring-over images of Kiwi Kingston’s Monster from this movie in Dennis Gifford’s classic tome, A Pictorial History of Horror Films, and in other such coffee-table chronicles, I always thought he looked amazing. Big. Terrifying. Purely monstrous. He was even graced with a glossy colour reproduction of the film’s poster. But, of course, when you actually get to see him in the film, with the hastily applied – and even more hastily repaired (after Francis and Hinds elected to see how it would look with a deep gash running down it) – he looks bloody awful. There is absolutely no way that a scientist attempting to play God could gaze upon this misshapen mess with anything less than eye-rolling, head-scratching disappointment … and then just toss it into the acid bath for a quick fry-up. After many earlier designs to come up with something new and unique, makeup man Roy Ashton was then told that Universal had relented and that he could finally perform the famous Karloff look. Well, as great as this may have seemed at the time, the Karloff look is the KARLOFF LOOK. It is iconic and so well-known that even kids in Somali shanty towns know who it is when they see a picture of it. But, being honest, as famous and as classic as it is, it is still a rather bizarre appearance. The big asphalter’s boots – why? The big flat-top head. Why? Well, we don’t worry about such things when it is Karloff strutting about, and even Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney Jnr did well with the makeup when Karloff bowed-out because it was the same guy applying it – the tragic genius of screen monster-making that was Jack Pierce – although Bela Lugosi didn’t look so good in his shorter, more robotic and altogether muter stint in the role.
But Kingston, as intimidating in stature as the British wrestler is, just looks awful. The clay and latex is very crudely applied and has absolutely no mobility. We can clearly see Kingston’s real eyes and the flesh around them moving beneath the inert and heavy mask he is wearing. We can also see that, very obviously, he can’t. He is constantly tilting his head so that he can peer under the roof of the nibbled wax mask, and this just makes him all the more pathetic and not in the least bit scary. The big square forehead, so configured with Ashton and Francis’ auspices that this would have enabled Frankenstein much easier access to the cranial cavity for when it came to chopping and changing brains around – the cranial screw-top method from Steve Martin’s Dr. Hhuffurrr in The Man With Two Brains, eh? - just looks ridiculous here. His ashen cloth robes, which I suppose are a reminder of Karloff’s fabulous fur-rug look from Son of, look like something from the bottom of a skip. Or worse, the bottom of a guinea-pig’s cage. Although, this said, the crude stitching they have are suggestive of the same haphazard design holding the flesh together underneath. And the size that Francis was after – he insisted that he thought Christopher Lee didn’t look big enough in Curse – is somehow nullified by that over-inflated head. The freak in Tobe Hooper’s fantastically spooky suspenser The Funhouse (I have reviewed Arrow’s BD of it already) initially wears an oversized Karloffian Monster mask , making his physicality somewhat reminiscent of Kingston’s here, but he genuinely looked terrifying even though we knew this was supposed to be something that had obviously been purchased from a joke-store – and was actually used to disguise a visage infinitely more horrifying beneath.
Kingston, however, is not as shabby in the role as his appearance would imply. We do pity him and his pathetic attempts to find sustenance and comfort. We also understand his rage during the climax, even if the whole set-piece is simply Hinds/Elder giving up on the story and literally letting it go out with a Universal bang. Christopher Lee completely nailed it, of course. And Michael Gwynn was a person, not a monster at all. Kingston, who often arrived on-set after fighting the night before, genuinely carries the air of the punch-drunk, the battered and the exploited. But being scary is, I’m afraid, not on his agenda.
Woodthorpe does a fine job as the exploitative hypnotist, though. Even though he has quite a major role, much bigger and better defined than that of Hans, I wish he had more to do. Initially, we believe that he is some sort of charlatan with a very rigged stage-act, but it becomes clear that he definitely has powers over the Monster. Woodthorpe ensures that Zoltan is sleazy, debauched and vindictive – all the ingredients a good gothic rogue needs. An element that isn’t properly explored is that once he has sent the Creature out on an errand, and he, himself, lapses into a drunken stupor, he experiences, vicariously, what is happening as people are being murdered by it. This would have been a fine metaphor for the exploitation of the working class and the guilt of those in power, but Hinds/Elder does not think beyond its momentary oddness. It would be brilliantly dissected in John Gilling’s superb The Plague of the Zombies, though. (Yep, reviewed that too.) Zoltan also reveals that he some form of conscience when the Monster returns with bloody hands and the hypnotist realizes that it has taken his orders a little too literally. Yet, in a lack of scripting through-thought, this is turned completely back around again when he then threatens to have the Monster kill Frankenstein with absolute spite and vitriol.Smash ‘n’ grab!I will concede that when Kingston’s Creature comes crashing through the windows to off the Burgomaster just as he is about to indulge in some righteous hanky-panky with the wonderfully busty Caron Gardner, it raises the hackles. But as I have discussed before, most recently in my review for Brides of Dracula, this was something that Hammer were especially good at. Suddenly he looks fearsome and huge. But at other times when we see him lumbering through the woods, climbing a rocky ridge, hefting some pilfered gold and then trashing the lab, he loses all such looming menace. One has to wonder how much better he would have seemed, all round, had Freddie Francis been the DOP and the not the director. He would have found the right angles for Kingston to provide the requisite jolts from. There are a good couple of scenes of him rising up behind somebody who doesn’t quite realize his proximity … but none of them deliver the shivery frisson of … “He’s behind you!!!!!”
Even still, Francis must have been thinking of the visuals all the time. Despite not carrying the stamp of his artistic and atmospheric photography, there are some fine shots on show from DOP John Wilcox. I love the moment when Frankenstein attempts to leave the chateau and is pounced-upon by the waiting constables in the doorway. The shot, taken from a low angle, is meticulously composed to show a speared body lolling, face towards us, in the left foreground, the copper hiding in the shadows of the right corner and the Captain of Police about to stride across the frame as the Baron scrambles up towards the centre of the shot. There are other decently lensed sequences too, but the whole film runs at such a gallop that these tend to have gone by in the blink of an eye. Wilcox would provide the psychedelic photography for Cushing’s two Dr. Who adventures, as well as for the genre superstar in a couple of Tyburn horrors (The Ghoul and Legend of the Werewolf) and even for another Hammer in Roy Ward Baker’s action-packed The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. The cave-set is terribly phony, but I still like its eerie strangeness. Just why a huge slab of solid ice would have remained in place like that in an otherwise frost-free cave is beyond me, but since Universal achieved it without any complaints, then why shouldn’t Hammer?
The matte-paintings and model-work are also pretty good. Hammer utilized a couple of the more expansive landscape shots in other films, but the combination of painting and model-turret for the chateau is actually very well achieved, especially during its explosive climax. It is also quite a relief to note that the usual entrance to, and the grand hallway and balcony of Castle Dracula that we have seen redressed in so many of their films is virtually unrecognizable here. Look closely and all will become apparent, but credit where it is due, the set design for the chateau – now a dilapidated mess – and the lab - a cluttered jumble of vintage elecronics, pistons, gyros and wooden staircase and balcony – hide their customary design reasonably well.
Like The Brides of Dracula, released alongside this on Blu, and which we have already looked at, Evil of Frankenstein was not scored by James Bernard. This time the job went to Don Banks, who turns in a very unmemorable, yet altogether Universal-ish score of action, mystery, menace and travelogue. The Universal scores were much, much better, though it is hard to imagine just what impact Bernard’s blaring brass and shrieking strings would have had with this. The film is more action-orientated and dynamic, and his brand of satanic suspense-building probably wouldn’t have fit very well at all. Banks would also score The Reptile and Rasputin for Hammer, which both contained some finely exotic moments to spice up their narratives, especially The Reptile, with its seductive sitar charming passage.
Industrial light and magic …However, the greatest favour that Universal did Hammer was allowing them to go with the full lightning-and-thunderbolt, whirligig, sparks and flashbang laboratory rebirth sequence. Without a doubt, the film’s highpoint is the crackling, smoking, light ‘n’ magic show that Cushing sets in motion when he fires up the old equipment down in the lab. Hammer was always good at their insane lab-building. Bubbling pots and jars, tubes and colourful tanks of pulsating organs. But this is one of their best and most elaborate designs. Art Director Don Mingaye and special effects technician Les Bowie provide a guilt-trip of Kenneth Strickfadden-homage with oscillators, lightning-catchers, copper-coils, outsized gurneys and insane SF paraphernalia. The colours and intricate props are also like a foretaste of the innards of the TARDIS for Cushing’s interpretation of Doctor Who, which he would first undergo the following year. They are quite spectacularly realized without a single trace of the genuinely practical or the actually useful. When a huge shower of sparks and smoke flare-up as lightning strikes the laser-canon-like rod atop the tower, how do these people even know that this is the correct response they should be after? I’m afraid I would be out of there like a shot at the first hint of an explosive reaction.
Funnily enough, the more elaborate and intricate the set, the more you expect it to go up in flames come the finale. Which, of course, it all does. And just check out how deeply involved in this inferno Peter Cushing gets!
But the film is also all rather tame. Whereas Curse shocked the world with Lee’s car-crash makeup and the splash of Kensington Gore when he took a rifle shot to the head, and Revenge had its degenerative and cannibal theme, Evil has very little with which to send a shiver down the spine. Yes, okay, it is great to have Kingston smash his way through some French Windows and storm towards a terrified victim – something that Hammer was really turning into one of their hallmarks, with their vampires and their Mummies doing this routinely – but once he got to grips with a victim, their deaths were considerably subpar. A relentless pounding against a wall should have been ghastly and painful, but Kingston does it so gently that it is almost as if he rocking his victim to sleep. Off-screen kills just don’t bring home the bacon either. At a time when Hammer were also pushing boundaries, it seems odd that they held back on this one. Then again, I suppose that we must remember that Universal were having a say in how this affair would be handled. Their movies, as outrageous as they had been back in the 30’s and 40’s, were absolute models of decorum when compared to what Hammer were routinely doling-out, so it is not inconceivable that they had instructed Francis to keep the buckets of blood in the safely back in the shed.Off-cuts …Although the film doesn’t suffer any further from their loss, other scenes were added to some prints – for American TV broadcasts, for example – that padded-out the running time. One scene showed how Katy Wild’s beggar girl was initially struck deaf and dumb by her encounter with the Monster all those years before he fell into the glacier, and it would have been nice to have had it restored here to give some credence to her memories and her subsequent relationship with the Creature, which becomes sweet and tender. Then again, this only adds a veil of mutual respect between two lost, confused and frightened souls, both considered outcasts and freaks. Other scenes have been lost from this theatrical version too, but nothing that would actually improve its status amongst fans.
The Evil of Frankensteinshould really be relegated to the bottom rung of Hammer’s ladder, but I found that I enjoyed it this time around much more than I could ever have anticipated. Conversely, I found Brides – a film I have long admired – to be somewhat lacking with my recent reappraisal. It cannot be taken any more seriously than the lunatic monster-parties that Universal ended-up rolling off their assembly-line as quick cash-grabs but, in the right frame of mind, this blatant homage to all of those goes on to become Evil’s very appeal. I actually found more going on with this story than I have previously given it credit for, and even if these intriguing new strands don’t really go anywhere, and possibly only serve to frustrate with their lack of resolution, and some even alter the Baron quite drastically from the character that we had grown to love, yet revile, they help the adventure become far more spirited and amusing. A murder by mistaken identity is actually quite a nice touch, although only we understand how this has taken place as it just doesn’t get elaborated upon.
Francis washed his hands of it, as did Cushing, who simply viewed it as one of his lesser gothic romps and a diversion from the more serious career of the obsessive Baron. But, you know, I’m finding myself more favourable towards it than ever before. It is fast, it is throwaway – like most of the bodyparts – and it is actually quite good fun.
If you are having a gothic marathon of the “lesser” titles, then this would fit in perfectly with Universal’s latter-day big-booted monsterthons as their oafish and colourful cousin. Sadly, though, it doesn’t actually fit in with the other Hammers at all.
Movie score : 6
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