Thursday, October 15, 2009


This film begins with a striking sequence: Dr. Frankenstein's assistant Hans (Sandor Eles) steals the freshly dead body of a young man; Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) cuts open the chest and rips the heart out, submerges it in a solution, cranks up the electricity, and gets it to start beating--until a priest arrives screaming of blasphemy and destroys the lab. Frankenstein and Hans return to his old village (where we get an extensive flashback of the doc's earlier adventures in restoring life to the dead) and hide in a glacier cave where they find a deaf-mute begger girl; she mumblingly communes with a figure encased in the ice which turns out to be Frankenstein's original monster. They bring him back to life and hire circus hypnotist Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe) to get the brute's brain to work; Zoltan tries to control the monster, sending him on a robbery spree in the village, but when the monster kills, the villagers do their usual thing and try to storm the castle (without torches, since they go in broad daylight), leading to the usual ending of bleak destruction.

The third Hammer Films version of Frankenstein was the first one to use specific elements of the 1931 Universal film with Boris Karloff--Universal released the film in the U.S.--and is not well thought of by critics, but I quite liked it, or parts of it. Cushing cuts a fine, if gaunt, figure as the good/bad doc; Eles (pictured with Cushing) makes an unusual assistant--instead of the usual deformed idiot, he is relatively smart and handsome. Katy Wild as the mute girl is attractive but has little to do, though Woodthorpe adds some spice to the proceedings. As the monster, Kiwi Kingston is buried in thick make-up that looks like a cross between a golem and the Karloff creature, but he's not really very scary. The look of the film is superb; it's probably the best looking Hammer film ever, with excellent cinematography, good sets (Frankenstein's old mansion is especially effective), and fine use of color. Available in the Hammer Horrors Series boxed set. [DVD]

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