Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Evil of Frankenstein, The (1964)

... aka: Revolt of Frankenstein, The

Directed by:
Freddie Francis

Entry # 3 in Hammer's resilient series, this is a follow-up to THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) in-name-only. Though it features the same central character, the film disregards the events of the previous movies and is basically a stand-alone film. A drunk body snatcher steals the body of a recently deceased man directly from his home, then delivers it to the remote laboratory of Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who immediately gets to work removing the heart. "Why not? He has no better use for it?" Before Frankenstein can get much further in his experiments, the drunk rats him out and a local priest shows up to destroy some of his equipment. The Baron and his young assistant Hans (Sandor Elès) decide to flee the area before they get into any more trouble. Frankenstein decides to head back to Karlstaad, his former stomping grounds and the same village he'd previously lived in a decade earlier. A ten minute long flashback (this is brand new footage and not just recycled clips from Revenge) shows what became of the Baron's first monster creation; a pitiable being who had a taste for raw meat and was eventually shot and killed by some angry townspeople. The Baron was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer and "working against God" and was banished from Karlstaad for the rest of his life.

Well, he's come back, anyway. Upon arrival, a carnival is taking place in the village, so the Baron and his assistant easily glide on through undetected. When they show up to his mountaintop castle, Chateau Frankenstein, they find the place overrun with vines and discover it's been looted (they were planning on selling some of his art to make money to further his experiments). The Baron wonders why people can't just leave him alone and mocks the superstitious townspeople for wanting to destroy what they cannot understand. The village's corrupt Burgomaster (David Hutcheson) has his home decked out in all of the Baron's former furnishings, and even wears one of his rings, which infuriates him to the point that he makes his presence known. So it isn't long before the local Police Chief (Duncan Lamont) and the entire village are out searching for him.

While fleeing the village, Frankenstein and Hans come across a deaf beggar girl (Katy Wild) who lives in cave. They decide spend the night there and discover the Baron's creature (who'd previously taken a tumble off the mountaintop) perfectly preserved in a block of ice the next morning! The three take the creature back to the chateau, hook it up to the old equipment and use lightning to resurrect it. However, something's off. Though the brain may be technically revived, the creature lacks motor function and remains in a vegetable-like state. Frankenstein decides to enlist the aid of slimy carnival hypnotist Professor Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe) to "stimulate" the creature's brain with his powers. The plan works, but the hypnotist has other ideas in store for the creature. Since only he can really control it, he makes it sneak into the village to steal some gold and then sends him back to "punish" the Burgomaster and the Chief of Police for throwing him out of town.

Certainly not up to the first two films (Terence Fisher was originally slated to direct but had to bow out after an auto accident), this is saddled with a mediocre, unfocused screenplay. The second half is rushed in comparison to the first. Well, actually the opening half hour could have easily been condensed into about five minutes with absolutely nothing lost in the process. Still, it's a Hammer film, so you can expect much in the way of production quality. The sets and locations are excellent, there's pretty good model / matte work, it's nicely-photographed by John Wilcox (including a great shot of the camera following the strapped-down creature along a track and then lifting up) and most of the performances are at least acceptable. Also of note: The look of the monster has reverted back to the more block-headed style used in the superior Universal films here (Hammer was allowed to do this because Universal distributed it). Unfortunately, the make-up job is subpar compared to Jack Pierce's work.

Though Baron Frankenstein meets a fiery demise at the finale, you can't keep a good mad scientist down, especially when their movies are raking in a lot of money. Cushing would return in the same role in FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967), FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED! (1969) and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974). There was also the Cushing-free THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970).

The original U.S. release was 13 minutes longer, is censored and has additional footage featuring Steven Geray, Maria Palmer and William Phipps tacked on.


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