Monday, 4 February 2013

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Terence Fisher is once again at the helm of a Hammer horror, directing this entry in the Frankenstein series, but he's hampered by the script (written by Bert Batts) that mixes too much of the familiar with too much of the mildly despicable.

Peter Cushing plays the Baron and still mesmerises me every moment he's on screen but this time around the character has been warped and changed beyond recognition. What I always liked about Baron Frankenstein, in the Hammer incarnations anyway, was the fact that he was ever so slightly justified in his actions and conviction but when things started to slip out of his control he would easily go too far. THAT made him an interesting "bad guy" you could still root for and this was always made easier to accept when he was played by the constant gentleman, Mr. Cushing. In this movie he is a murdering, blackmailing rapist with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and that has always been offputting for me.

Simon Ward and the beautiful Veronica Carlson play the young couple caught up in his nefarious scheme, which this time involves a brain transplant procedure to help one of the Baron's ex-colleagues, and Freddie Jones is the possible brain recipient.

There are some nice moments throughout this film, with an unexpected flood that may reveal the location of a corpse being one of them, but everything is too downbeat and unlikeable to simply sit back and enjoy. Cushing is as great as he always is and the supporting cast ably assist him (Thorley Walters is wonderful as Inspector Frisch) but it's just not enough to keep this film alongside the other, better outings featuring the progressive scientist that we just love to see fail. The plot has a very interesting idea at its core but it's all undone by that extreme nastiness.

To be fair, it's more of an over the top, practically operatic, tragedy than a blood-soaked horror and the movie builds towards a suitable climax in that regard. It's never easy to say what other Hammer fans will like or dislike but this is an occasion when I seem to be very much in the minority. Most of the other reviews I have seen for this movie put it at or near the very top of the Hammer Frankenstein pile. I put it in the lower half.


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