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 El├Ęs) 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.


La sorella di Ursula (1978)

... aka: Curse of Ursula
... aka: Die Todesbucht (The Bay of Death)
... aka: La muerte tiene ojos (Death Has Eyes)
... aka: Sister of Ursula, The

Directed by:
Enzo Milioni

Dagmar (Stefania D'Amario) and her extremely fucked-up younger sister Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi) have just inherited a ton of money and decide to take a holiday at a resort hotel in Italy. While Dagmar plans for a nice, peaceful stay in the picturesque town, and possibly even a little romance while they're there, Ursula behaves like a miserable, hateful bitch the entire time and constantly complains about wanting to leave, claiming that "Terrible things are going to happen!" And she would be correct, as a sadistic serial killer starts running amuck killing nude women in a very perverse way. But we'll get to that here in a second. First, a little history on our sibling protagonists. Their mother was a famous actress who put them in a boarding school when they were little girls and never saw them again. Their father was a musician who commited suicide. Both girls inherited a lot of money, and Ursula ended up inheriting much more, like some serious mental problems. She's also cursed with ESP abilities, which makes it difficult for her to interact with anyone because she always knows their true intentions ahead of time... and with the crew she encounters at this hotel, that's definitely not a good thing. Either way, Ursula is picking up some bad vibes and barely wants to leave her bed.

Hotel owner / drug trafficker Roberto Delleri (Vanni Materassi) is having an affair on his wife Vanessa (Anna Zinneman) with cabaret singer Stella Shining (Yvonne Harlow), who in turn is having an affair with heroin junkie Filippo Andrei (Marc Porel). Both Roberto and Filippo seem interested in Dagmar, while Vanessa demands a divorce (and her share of the profitable hotel) from her husband because she's also been unfaithful and has fallen in love with Jenny (Antinisca Nemour). Stella tries to call off her affair with Filippo, but he starts stalking her. All the while, Ursula carries on hysterically about various things (including thinking her father is still alive) and the mystery killer continues their rampage; first killing a few extras (including a prostitute and a pair of horny runaway teenagers) before moving on to our principal characters. So what technique does the killer use in dispatching victims? Well, by raping them to death with a giant wooden dildo! Hey, I already told you it was perverted.

If nothing else, this silly film delivers big time on the sleaze. It's filled with graphic sex scenes (which actually cross into hardcore territory on at least one occasion), full frontal nudity from both genders and lots of bloody, below-the-belt aftermath shots of what the killer has done to his / her victims. It also benefits from being shot in Amalfi, Italy, an incredibly beautiful location with lots of large homes dotted along the cliffsides and sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The cinematography and art direction are both good, and they even throw in a couple of cabaret numbers for good measure. So while this may not be a great film, or even a good one, it provides the trashy goods for fans of this stuff, plus has the production values to back it all up.

It's also interesting to see two actresses who were usually lost in minor roles in popular Euro horror flicks getting to play major parts here. Magnolfi's best-known part was playing Jessica Harper's bitchy roommate Olga in Argento's SUSPIRIA (1977). There she had just a couple of scenes, but in this one she gets to emote a lot and is the only female in the cast without a major nude scene. D'Amario is probably best known for playing flesheater fodder in Fulci's Zombi 2 (1979) and Lenzi's Nightmare City (1980). She had little to do in those films but die, but here she's the primary focus. She also picks up Magnolfi's slack by appearing fully nude no no less than four times (including a solo scene pleasuring herself with a gold necklace). Porel, who had also acted for Fulci (1977's The Psychic) and starred in Mario Bava's final film The Venus of Ille (1978), doesn't make much of an impression in this one, plus the big revelation of his character doesn't really make sense.

Never released to American theaters or on VHS (though IMDb lists this as having gotten an X rating), this finally received a DVD release in 2009 through Severin. In 2021, a Blu-ray was released by the German company Elea Media.

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