Friday, April 2, 2010
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
"His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from hell!"
I've never been so into Hammer movies, mostly because I've always found it very hard to know where to start. But the stuff I've seen has always been excellent, or at least really good without being perfect. But the only movie I've always wanted to see was Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, their last Frankenstein-movie and the last time Peter Cushing portrayed the good doctor himself. And I'm not disappointed!
Shane Briant is Doctor Simon Helder, a fan of Frankenstein and for a while he's been trying to do the same experiments as his hero - but no luck. Until he's arrested for "sorcery" and put in a asylum. And he's lucky, you say? Yes, because it's the same asylum where Frankenstein where imprisoned! Well, he's dead they all say, but who's really in charge over the staff and director? Victor Frankenstein himself, who used blackmail and horror to gain access to everything in the hospital, including the patients! Helder becomes Frankenstein's assistant, together with the beautiful mute Sarah (Madeline Smith). It won't take long until Helder discovers a terrible creature hidden in Frankensteins lab, a horrible brute with the hands of a brilliant violinist. When the brute gets the brain of a master mathematician, something happens with the creature and now it becomes a fight between the brutes body and the mathematicians mind!
I've been searching for a complete version of this movie for a few years now, but finally I gave up and bough the UK DVD, released by DD Video. It's a nice special edition and great quality, but still missing some snips of gore here and there. But it's still a very violent and dark movie, so I guess this is the best for now. This was also the last movie Terence Fisher directed, who probably was one of the best directors ever from the UK. He mainly directed horror and other genre movie, and was never that celebrated during his lifetime as he his today. His directing is very logical, very smart and there's no chance in hell you won't understand what's going on in the scene - if the script wasn't crap of course. Fisher brings a high class style to the movie, which also hides it's relatively small budget. Most of the story is set in the asylum, and the mood is fantastic. Of course the excellent simple script helps the atmosphere, but without Fishers direction it could have been quite boring. Now the dialogues are smart and witty, some of them was rewritten by Cushing himself, and the characters are well developed.
The monster itself, played by Dave Prowse, could have been a bit cheesy, but his body language hides the sometimes rubbery suit, and the creature looks very bizarre and strange. I would be scared if I met it even in broad daylight! I particularly like the way the body is shaped, like a brutal and mutated He-Man! But with the body hair of Burt Reynolds and the lips of HR Giger! Cool design, very cool! But what would this movie be without Peter Cushing as Frankenstein? After Cushings wife died he threw himself into projects to be able to cope with his loss, and here he's making one of the best Frankensteins of his career! He even do some fun physical stuff when he's fighting the monster which I probably never will be able to do when I reach the age he was in here.
So, though this is a slightly edited version, it's still very violent - and it feels more violent because of the dark script and depressing location - and it could be one of the most graphic Hammer-movies ever. The brain-scene is very visible, and so is some of the other surgery-scenes. There's pumping blood from a slit throat, and body parts spread all over the movie. Sure, it's no splatter, but these splashes of minor gore fits perfect in the story and atmosphere.
Great Hammer-production and now I feel more encouraged to seek out more from this amazing company!