The Revenge of Frankensein in 1958 - one part horror, one part black comedy, one part love story - was a high water mark of Hammer's Frankenstein series. It wasn't until 1964 that the Baron returned, for the first time directed by someone other than Fisher. Cameraman turned director Freddie Francis took the helm this time and the female aspects were somewhat 'muted.'
In fact, one of the female characters in the film is a mute, played by twenty-two-year old redhead Katy WIld, who had appeared in such television series as The Avengers and The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre. Her role as 'Beggar Girl' in The Evil of Frankenstein was the closest the film had to a leading lady, despite the fact she had no dialogue.
The only other woman of note in the cast was Caron Gardner, a buxom blonde who had decorated Robert S Baker's and Monty Berman's The Hellfire Club (1960) and served as the foil to Benny Hill on television. Gardner would find herself elevated to a higher 'plane' later in 1964 when she was cast as one of the pilots in Pussy Galore's Flying Circus in the third 007 movie, Goldfinger.
Meanwhile, she was Evil of Frankenstein's sex bomb, 'Burgomaster's Wife.' Hammer's approach to sex was becoming more and more blatant, and Gardner filled out the character's corselette deliciously.
Financed by Universal, Evil was a throwback to their Frankenstein series of old, and Cushing's Baron - in a screenplay written this time by Anthony Hinds under his pen name of John Elder - certainly seems to have mellowed with age. Interestingly enough, Frankenstein actually defends a lady this time, when the Machiavellian hypnotist Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe) attempts to force himself on the Beggar Girl. Zoltan is eventually kicked out of the Baron's castle.
In fact, the Baron seems to be the one who is put-upon in Evil. Having created a Karloff-like monster (Kiwi Kingston) years before (there is virtually no continuity to the two previous films), he returns to his ancestral home to find that most of his possessions have been stolen. To recover his property, he stages a raid on the Burgomaster's house that is something of which Douglas Fairbanks would have been proud.
As the burgomaster's voluptuous wife graces a bed that was once Frankenstein's own, the police arrive and attempt to gain entry into the bedroom, which he has locked. Frankenstein grabs the bedclothes and ties them to the bedpost, climbing out of the window on his makeshift rope. He bids the fair lady 'Goodnight' before leaping out the window, pulling the bed across the room in the process.
This is one of the most enjoyably light-heared scenes in the entire series, a tribute to Cushing's dashing dexterity and to Gardner's sweetness as the bemused wife.
Written by Bruce G Hallenbeck
Images and Design: Marcus Brooks Jamie Sumerville
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