Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) The gloriously gory swansong for Hammer’s Gothic horror series gets an uncut Blu-ray release His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from Hell. Convicted of bodysnatching, Dr Simon Helder (Shane Briant) is sentenced to an insane asylum. On arrival, he recognises the resident surgeon as the infamous Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who has been hiding out there under the guise of Dr Carl Victor.


He also discovers that Frankenstein has been assembling a new creature using the body of an insane murderer (David Prowse), the brain of a musical and mathematical genius (Charles Lloyd Pack) and the hands of a sculptor (Bernard Lee). Unable to operate himself due to his hands having been burnt, Frankenstein has been relying on his mute assistant Sarah (Madeline Smith) to stitch the body parts together. Now he turns to Helder for help. The operation is a success, but the creature (Prowse) is torn between the conflicting aspects of itself – an intelligent, artistic person imprisoned in the body of a murderous hulk. Escaping from its cell, the creature then sets out to hunt down those who abused him – starting with the asylum’s corrupt director (John Stratton)… 

Filmed in September 1972, but not released until May 1974, this was the last of Hammer’s long-running series of Frankenstein films that had started with 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, and was 68-year-old director Terence Fisher’s final feature film. Fans and critics also consider it to be a gloriously gory swan song to the studios gothic era.


With the drama taking place entirely within the claustrophobic clinical confines of the asylum, this is the most downbeat of all the films in the series, and there’s a real sense that the end is nigh (the drab sets and laughable model used for the exterior shots emphasis this), but Fisher goes out on a high with a truly perverse idea (this time round Frankenstein is building his new creature only to mate with his mute assistant) and imbues his twisted tale with lashings of gore, including disembodied eyeballs, graphic transplants and stitching of limbs, and bloody body parts being flung about (when the lunatics take over the asylum).

Peter Cushing also gives his mad Baron (which he had played five times before) a suitably chilling send off. Now totally detached from the outside world, Frankenstein repeats his experiments almost out of habit than conviction. But it is Cushing’s conviction in the role that is the real draw here. No matter how depraved the premise or silly the wig he wears (which he said made him look like Helen Hayes), he gives his mad monster maker pathos and believability. Even when he’s using his teeth to hold an artery, which could have come off as comic relief, he makes it look like he’s man obsessed. Famously, Cushing and Prowse (who had also played the creature in Hammer’s 1970 spoof The Horror of Frankenstein) would re-unite four years later, playing two of the most iconic villains in the cinematic galaxy Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader in Star Wars.


As a Hammer horror fan, I relish each new restoration from the studios horror archives. But the best thing is that these Blu-ray releases are also giving new audiences the opportunity to appreciate the class and care that went into these films. Plus, you can catch Cushing doing what he does best, making us believe in the unbelievable.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is out on Blu-ray/DVD Double Play from 28 April 2014 in the UK from Icon Home Entertainment.

• Taking of the Asylum: The Making of Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell featurette with contributing from Denis Meikle, Jonathan Rigby, David Miller, Shane Briant, Philip Voss, Janet Hargreaves, Madeline Smith and David Prowse.
• Charming Evil: Terence Fisher at Hammer featurette, with Mikey Harding (Fisher’s daughter) and Sue Cowie (Hammer convention organiser).
• Animated stills gallery.

Peter Fuller's Blog: HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...