Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hell is bits and pieces of other people

The final Hammer Frankenstein with Peter Cushing was Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, directed by Terence Fisher from a script by Anthony Hinds.

Baron Frankenstein has faked his death and is quietly carrying on his strange experiments posing as a prison medic called Doctor Victor (that old trick again). Unfortunately his hands have been badly scarred by fire, possibly at the end of Frankenstein must be Destroyed, and his surgical results are crude. Luckily a brash young surgeon is imprisoned for trying to copy Frankenstein's methods and soon they have teamed up to work on a new creature, ably assisted by another mute female assistant in the form of the lovely Madeline Smith. To round out the quartet Dave Prowse wears a rather ludicrous looking rubber monster suit which appears to have been covered in matted fur rescued from a barber's floor.

As ever Frankenstein stops at nothing to get the necessary spare parts for his creature, driving one inmate to suicide when he realises he has a suitable brain to slot into the monstrous body. The Baron is of course the most horrifying creature in all of the Hammer films, and Cushing becomes more villainous in each one. This was filmed just one year after the sad death of Cushing's wife and the toll that grief had taken on the actor is obvious from his first moments on screen. He still turns in a fine performance although he is further hampered by the dodgiest wig Hammer ever made him wear.

Madeline Smith is lovely to look at and almost steals the show even without using her most famous assets. In terms of the creature it's strange that Frankenstein has lost the ability to produce beautiful specimens as he did in Revenge and Frankenstein created Woman, but presumably that is down to his crippled hands. Meanwhile Prowse lumbers and grunts and is finally dispatched rather easily by two bullets and a bit of zombie entrail ripping that Romero would have been proud of.

And then it all just peters out and Hammer's light fades through the seventies. Their Frankenstein series did many interesting things, notably making the Baron the true monster at the heart of the stories. Christopher Lee's performance as the creature in the first film is still the best of the various scarred horrors, while the famous creation sequence in Evil of Frankenstein beats all the rest. I watched this film on a slightly shonky DVD from a Dutch box set and the difference in quality between the picture and the pin sharp Bluray of Evil was startling and the biggest advert I've yet seen for the power of Bluray. Two stars for the Monster from Hell but overall four stars for Cushing and the Hammer Frankensteins. Now where's a good Vampire hunter when you need one?

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