|Hammer Horror - The Frankenstein Films
||[Aug. 25th, 2011|06:45 pm]
It's taken me a couple of years to go through both these and the Dracula movies - don't know why, but it seems to roughly correspond with becoming a parent. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the seven Hammer Frankenstein films.
Curse of Frankenstein (1957) is a very different beast from it's Universal counterpart. That was pretty much deliberate given that Universal had threatened to sue if there were any obvious similarities. Much more gruesome and in-your-face, Victor Frankenstein is the focus of the film. He's also the monster, to all intents and purposes. Oh, Christopher Lee does a great job of playing his creation, but it's the actions of Victor Frankenstein, his disregard for the dignity or pains of others as he pursues his goals, that mark him out as monstrous.
Interestingly, this film has a very ambiguous ending, leaving one wondering if it was all in his mind...
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) is a direct follow-on from the previous film. It builds beautifully on the first one and continues the story of Frankenstein's experiments.
Frankenstein is still callous when it comes to the cost of his experiments, as it should be. The film takes things off in new and tragic directions, and while some elements are predictable, it doesn't stop it being a satisfying tale.
Well worth seeing, especially as it ends Hammer's first Frankenstein cycle. None of the subsequent films are directly related to this or the first film.
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) is a mess. The story is all over the place, and I don't think it's a stylistic, creative decision, I think it's the script-writer not knowing what to do with the ideas. The script was written by producer Anthony Hinds under a pen name.
I don't mind that it reboots the original story, it's just that the majority of elements are handled in such a ham fisted way. Frankenstein makes a number of truly idiotic decisions in order to forward the plot, the bad guy is predictable and stupid, and it's only the last ten minutes where I found much to enjoy - and most of that was watching New Zealand wrestler Kiwi Kingston, who played the creature, interact with the mute girl, and get drunk.
It's not completely dreadful and does have some good moments, ideas, and lines of dialogue. However it's one of those films where the only real reason to see it is to be completist, otherwise don't bother.
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) would appear to be a sort of sequel to the previous film, since Frankenstein has damaged hands in this film. Back also is the scientist to whom his experiments are more important than any other consideration.
What is interesting is that this film is as much a ghost/possession tale as anything else. The woman who plays Christina does a solid job in an unusual role, and the horror aspects of the film gradually come to the fore as the story progresses.
It's a fairly solid film, with a well-handled central premise, and it's nice to see the franchise back on track as Frankenstein continues his experiments using a variety of techniques.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) is a fabulous film. The monstrous bastard version of Dr. Frankenstein from Curse of Frankenstein is back, turned up to eleven. He will do what he wants and get what he needs by any means necessary, and without the slightest flicker of conscience.
The main cast are all good in their parts, but one of the things that makes this film stand out are the fine performances of the minor supporting cast. For me the two that stood out were Geoffrey Bayldon as the gentle and considerate Police Doctor, who seems constantly saddened at the arrogance and uncaring nature of his superior, and Windsor Davies in a small role as a police sergeant, who manages to come across as amazingly threatening while just asking some questions.
As for the finale, I was literally cheering by the end, and based on the strength of the ending alone, wanted to give the film top marks. The only reason I haven't is that up until the ending, it was about as solid a story as most of the others, but wasn't astoundingly good. But that's damning with faint praise - this is a film I wish I had written.
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) starts it all from scratch again. Peter Cushing is replaced by Ralph Bates, and is playing Baron Frankenstein at the start of his life. Again it chooses to diverge from the original story and concentrate on Frankenstein himself being the monstrous one.
I think what I enjoyed the most about the film is that while there is much broader humour to be had, there's also a subtle edge of black comedy running throughout. It's not a great film, but is still worth a look to see how Hammer decided to reinvent the Frankenstein mythos once again. The ending was a little weak, but fitted well with the sense of humour running through the production.
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) sees Cushing return to the role of Baron Frankenstein, and he's in fine form as the amoral bastard scientist.
This time around he's helped by an admirer of his work who has been sent to an insane asylum. One of the things I admire about these films is that each one managed to come up with new variation on how the monster was realised in look, creation, and character.
The ending is a little messy, in a scripting sense and a literal one, but it still works thank to the final scene.
As the last of the films in Hammer's Frankenstein series, it's strong enough to leave one wanting to know what the Baron would get up to next, which is as good a place to finish as anyone could hope for.