Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Paper Mache Monster Mash

The Evil Of Frankenstein from 1964 was directed by Freddie Francis from a script by Anthony Hinds.

Chronologically this fits between Revenge of Frankenstein and Frankenstein created Woman but story wise it seems to be in a completely different universe, or should that be Universal? Hammer reached a deal with Universal pictures to use the famous Karloff creature design, and the laboratory creation scenes. So professional wrestler Kiwi Kingston was covered in some ghastly paper mache makeup with an enormous boxy forehead held on with bootlace stitching, and he lumbered round the sets in the familiar gravel spreader platform boots. On the other hand the creation sequence, which is meant to be a flashback to Frankenstein's first laboratory, looks absolutely spectacular with fizzing sparklers, arcing electricity, glowing tubes and small explosions every time he throws a switch. Interesting that the designers went with blue light as the colour of advanced technology even back in the sixties, and now it's everywhere.

This is the first of the Hammer films that I have watched on Blu-ray and the difference is startling. It looks pin sharp, as if it was made in the last ten years instead of half a century ago. But while the laboratory special effects do very well in Blu-ray the makeup really suffers by comparison. Anyone who have cut up a cereal box and worn it on their head to play act the lumbering Frankenstein creature (just me then?) will find it very familiar and almost charming as a result.

The story is a bit all over the place with Frankenstein discovering his original creature frozen in one of those convenient blocks of ice and then recruiting a fairground hypnotist to try and control the shambling brute that he has unleashed. It all ends in a familiar burning building sequence with Peter Cushing leaping about in a fashion that looks quite unsafe. As it turns out from the making of documentary on this disc it was as dangerous as it looks and Cushing did indeed need treatment for burns. The things actors would do back in those days.

Peter Cushing is as commanding a screen presence as always and there are some touching moments with a mute beggar girl who can control the creature. Apart from that there are the usual pitchfork waving yokels, a few comedy authority figures, and at least one heaving bosom. It gets three stars for the spectacular creation sequence alone but apart from that it's all very middling. Just one more Hammer and Peter Cushing Frankenstein to go and it's time for everyone's favourite west country Sith lord to fill the monster's boots.

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