The mad doctor has been chased out of town once again for his morbid experiments with life and death. Homeless and penniless, the doctor and his eager assistant set off to return to where it all started, the doctors home in Karlstaad. Chased out of Karlstaad years before for his initial creation, the monster of course, he must sneak in to his homestead, in hopes of selling off all of the priceless decorations adorning the drafty castle to be able to continue his research. Once he arrives he sees that his castle has been picked clean by the greedy Burgermeister. With all hope lost, the doctor is discovered and chased out of town once again. His luck is about to change though. While hiding in a forlorn cave in the countryside, the doctor discovers is former creation, the monster, has been preserved in ice. With visions of greatness in his eyes, he thaws out the monster and returns to his castle to continue where he left off. Reanimated once again, the monster is back to life but there is a problem. His brain is not functioning as planned. Enlisting the help of a traveling hypnotist, they are able to interact with the creation directly, however…the hypnotist has plans for this beast of his own.
(not the monster)
Peter Cushing is back once again as Hammer’s own mad Dr. Frankenstein, and Cushing alone is reason enough to watch this film. With the Frankenstein legacy tackled time and time again throughout the years, it’s easy to fall into a sense of staleness with the franchise. Hammer Studios however manage to tweak the story just enough each time around to keep the idea fresh. With a damaged brain, we are given a monster not scared, nor hell bent on destruction, he simply exists. As the evil hypnotist conspires to use the creature for his own ill begotten deeds, we see the monster in two different lights. The first, as the doctors loved creation. The doctor is not an inherently evil man; he’s just a man with a passion for life. Perhaps a skewed passion for life, but a passion all the same. With a palpable excitement, he has created life. The second however, is where the true evil lands, and that is as a tool. With the hypnotist’s taste for stolen goods and revenge, we see the monster brought to life as a tool to reach these ends. Sent out on many a foolâ€™s errand to pilfer the rich, and silence the enemy, this mindless automaton is incapable to read the right or wrong of his actions, he just does as he is told.
My sole gripe with this movie, is a solid fifteen to twenty minutes doing nothing but recapping the previous feature. Taking footage directly from the first Frankenstein film, we backtrack to the Cushing’s first foray into reanimation. Dwelling a bit far too long, it begins to feel as if we’re just watching the same film over again, because we are. While the back-story is indeed fitting to this sequel, especially for the uninitiated, the recap sequence pulls us out of the current atmosphere and begins to feel a bit text book. Fortunately, once this segment is finally over and done with, we’re back to the good stuff, engines engage, and we’re back to a fresh tale of reanimated corpses and mad scientists.
The acting this time around is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Hammer feature, and from Cushing as well. By far one of my favorite from Cushing’s long stable of characters, his Baron Frankenstein is a unique take on this well worn persona. Where we normally see the doctor as slightly manic, and a touch evil, Cushing gives us a Frankenstein that is highly aristocratic, not truly evil, and containing a deep belief that he is discovering a greater good for mankind. While hell bent on bringing the dead back to life, he true purpose is to fully understand life and how to manipulate it. Not necessarily for evil means, but to find a way to prolong life. While incredibly intelligent in the forms of science, he lacks a common sense and general lack of understanding for those that do not share his foresight of the future, and what his discoveries will bring. With a high disregard for his own status in society, he becomes a single minded device to reach his goal.
Once we wade through the overly long recap of the previous Frankenstein feature, The Evil of Frankenstein transcends from a mediocre rehash, to a film to stand in it’s own right. Aligning itself rightfully among the top of Hammer Studios list of excellent horror films, Evil of Frankenstein fits in well, and is fully deserving of the title of Hammer Horror. Fans of this studio owe it to themselves to give this a watch.
3.5 scientific barons out of 5
(you will read my blog, and you will enjoy it)