FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. (1974) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY SHELLEY. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. MUSIC BY JAMES BERNARD. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ROY SKEGGS.
STARRING PETER CUSHING, SHANE BRIANT, MADELINE SMITH, DAVID PROWSE, JOHN STRATTON AND PATRICK TROUGHTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from Hell…!’
Yesterday was my favourite day of the year so far. I turned my back for one day only on my hermit-like writerly existence and mosied on down to the Irish Film Institute on Eustace Street, which was holding its annual Horrorthon, or five days of non-stop horror movies.
Esteemed film historian Sir Christopher Frayling gave a superb ninety-minute talk on FRANKENSTEIN: THE FIRST 200 YEARS, all the material for which can be found in his latest book, a gorgeous and sumptuous hardback of the same name. He signed my copy for me after the talk, and guess what he wrote in it under his signature? He wrote… ‘IT’S ALIVE…!’ Methinks it wasn’t his first book-signing, lol.
Anyway, he talked to us about the life of Mary Shelley, concentrating on that fateful summer in the Villa Diodati in which her famous gothic horror novel was written. He talked about how it wasn’t an overnight success but rather, a slow burner that only went viral, so to speak, when plays of it began to be produced a few years later. He had the most stunning-looking slides prepared for us as well, all of which can be found in his book.
He went on to talk about all the film versions of FRANKENSTEIN that have appeared over the years, and he confided in us that THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is his personal favourite of all the Frankie films. Snap! My favourite movie scene of all time is when the deliciously evil Dr. Pretorius is dining off a tomb in the crypt. Frankie’s Monster comes up behind him and he literally doesn’t turn a hair. ‘Oh…!’ he smirks in his cut-glass English. ‘I thought I was quite alone…!’
A screening of Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL followed Sir Chris’s talk. This is a really dark addition to Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN canon, the sort of film where you’re constantly asking yourself how the hell did they manage to slip this or that past the ever-vigilant censors, who were always on poor Hammer’s case, lol. That nightdress better not be see-through or you’ll never eat lunch in this town again type of thing.
Shane Briant (Hammer’s FEAR IN THE NIGHT, DEMONS OF THE MIND) is a blonde Adonis who surely was born to wear a frilly white shirt and black frock-coat. He plays Simon Helder, a posh, sardonic, arrogant, privileged young doctor with the deeply inbred sense of entitlement that can surely only come from being an upper-class twat with an Oxbridge education, lol.
He’s arrested for ‘sorcery,’ as in he’s been avidly studying the life’s work of one Baron Frankenstein and trying to create life out of the body parts of cadavers. ‘You’re gonna get caught one day!’ Patrick Troughton’s grave-digger-upper ominously warns him. And he does. Get caught, I mean.
The judge is not at all impressed with Helder’s uppity demeanour. He sentences him to a good long stint in the local insane asylum for his trouble, a fate which even the constable who delivers Helder to the loony bin pities him for. ‘Rather you than me, son,’ he says, and ‘Good luck, son…!’ Cor blimey. If even the delivering copper is pitying you, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride…
And he most assuredly would be in for a rough ride (if the ‘bath’ with which he’s initiated into the horrors of the Asylum is anything to go by) if it were not for one salient fact. Peter Cushing’s fellow Asylum inmate Baron Frankenstein is the real power behind the nasty, blustering Asylum Director…
Calling himself merely Dr. Carl Victor now and firmly maintaining that Baron Frankenstein is dead and buried in the Asylum graveyard, he’s overseeing the care of all the Asylum patients while keeping a few ‘special’ patients back for himself only. And, of course, he’s been continuing on the sly with his experiments to create new life out of old, stitched-together body parts…
Simon Helder is thrilled skinny to meet the Baron, his idol, and be given the job of his assistant. Dr. Victor, as he’s now known, is delighted to have for his helper such a qualified and knowledgeable groupie, a doctor in his own right.
Helder feels like he’s been given the keys to the kingdom when he’s even introduced to Dr. Victor’s ‘special’ patients. What must he feel like, then, when one night he accidentally stumbles upon the good Doctor’s real secret, the truly monstrous-looking ‘creation’ he’s cobbled together from the parts of cadavers from the Asylum’s various tombs…? He’s both thrilled and, I think, appalled…
Still, he quickly offers to help the Baron to continue with his researches and the eternal search to give the Monster real, thinking life. The Monster is a true abomination, unlike, say, Boris Karloff’s Creature which we still recognise clearly as a man.
This Monster is not a man, or even remotely human-looking. It’s hairy, lumbering and utterly hideous. It’s the saddest, most pathetic thing you could possibly imagine. The kindest thing you could do for it would be to put it out of its misery. Put an end to its terrible suffering.
And yet Peter Cushing’s Baron is as proud of it as any parent on School Prize-giving Night. Can any good really come from the two doctors continuing to try to improve on this dreadful ‘thing’ by adding sundry bits and pieces from yet more cadavers to its monstrous frame? The bit where they’re opening up a corpse’s skull and taking out a brain to transplant into the Monster’s head is one of those bits I’m shocked got past the censors.
Madeline Smith (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS with Ingrid Pitt) is a true thing of beauty here as Sarah, the deaf-mute Asylum inmate who, until the arrival of Goldilocks Helder, has been performing the Baron’s secret surgeries for him because the Baron’s hands are all burned and useless now. This bit’s a bit far-fetched but whatever. The Asylum inmates call Sarah ‘the Angel’ and certainly she’s visually an improvement on the hideous Monster, lol.
This was legendary horror director Terence Fisher’s last film and the last outing, I believe, for Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. He’s looking tired here, a far cry from the fresh-faced young fella who first played the immaculately-turned-out Baron for Hammer in 1957 with his role in the iconic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. He’s still magnificent here though, and he still gives it his absolute all.
Apparently, he didn’t much care for the somewhat curly-wurly wig he was made to sport in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Hee-hee-hee. I think it looks nice on him. And he goes out on a nice little question mark too, as in, is the Baron actually planning to put himself and his minions through all this horror again…? Well, you know the Baron’s motto, guys. If at first you don’t succeed…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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