Thursday, February 3, 2011

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)


Hammer Films’ long-running Frankenstein series reached its ignoble conclusion with this gruesome entry. Leading man Peter Cushing had last played Baron Victor Frankenstein in the terrific Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969), and by the time he returned to the role, he had aged considerably—he musters some of his old perverse glee, but his trademark intensity is diminished. The script boasts an interesting contrivance, because the Baron has become the in-house physician of the asylum where he’s incarcerated. He’s also up to his old tricks, pillaging body parts from inmates for the hodgepodge creature he’s building in his laboratory. That’s all well and good, but the inexplicably ape-like creature design is a buzz kill: Actor David Prowse (who later played Darth Vader) shuffles around in a clunky body suit and goofy makeup, preventing any suspension of disbelief and giving the movie an awkwardly campy quality. The picture also goes way overboard with blood and guts, even by Hammer’s lurid standards: A lengthy brain-transplant scene lingers on the Baron and his accomplice sawing open a skull, cutting tendons, and yanking out gray matter. Furthermore, because the movie is photographed with bright lighting and long takes, the focus throughout the story is less on atmosphere than on grotesquery, which makes it hard to appreciate the script’s fun character touches, like the scene in which organ fetishist Frankenstein opens a pot and smells his dinner: “Ah, kidneys—delicious!” While not the worst of the Cushing Frankenstein pictures (that would be 1964’s godawful Revenge of Frankenstein), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell suggests the series was headed in such a grisly direction that pulling the plug was a form of cinematic euthanasia.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell: FUNKY

No comments: