Wednesday, October 24, 2007
31 Days of Halloween - Day 24 - Movie 2
I toyed with the idea of saving all of the Hammer studios Frankenstein movies for a future Halloween countdown, but decided I needed to watch at least one here. Choosing at random, I ended up with "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" (1973), the final film in the series.
With a title like "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" you'd expect to see Frankenstein's creation in mortal combat with some sort of demonic creature, but you'd be wrong. Frankenstein is the doctor, and the monster from hell is his latest creation.
Peter Cushing again plays Frankenstein, this time in an unfortunate wig. Playing dead, acting as Dr. Victor, the physician at an asylum for the criminally insane (where he'd been sentenced) he continues his experiments there using the inmates as raw materials. He's aided by a mute, angelic inmate (Madeline Smith) and cultured Simon Helder (Shane Briant), a surgeon who was sentenced to the asylum for following in Frankenstein's footsteps.
This time the monster (Dave Prowse) is a hulking form with a serious back hair problem who's been given new eyes, the hands of a craftsman, and the brain of a genius. The genius, distressed to find himself in such a horrendous body, finds his brain being corrupted by the animalistic killer's body he inhabits, rather than his more cultured brain taming the savage beast it's grafted into. The monster gets loose, enacts some vengeance, then finds himself torn to pieces at the hands of the other inmates. Frankenstein vows to Helder that the next time will be better, but there never was a next yime, as this film closed the Frankenstein series at Hammer.
The earlier entries in this series were excellent, and Cushing, who I have a hard time imagining as ever being mean always proves me wrong with his daibolical, cold, portrayal of Frankenstein. Here, he's a much gentler Baron Frankenstein, with only a couple moments of wickedness that are brought to light. Bryant, looking like a blonde Harry Potter is a nice addition to the series as Frankenstein's cultured assistant. Dave Prowse, who would go on to later fame as the actor in the Darth Vader costume in the original "Star Wars" trilogy does a good job here as the monster altering his performance to fit the different personalities that occupy the monster's body, as well as demonstrating the monster's decline as the genius brain becomes corrupted.
Like other Hammer movies, this one is filled with graphic blood and gore, and dark humor, often involving the blood and gore. It is not even close to being one of Hammer's best movies. it's not the worst either. Written by longtime Hammer scribe Anthony Hinds and directed by Terence Fisher, the man behind most of Hammer's best films, it's a well done movie, that unfortunately never rises above being mediocre.