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Roy Ward Baker
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Penniless, Baron Frankenstein, accompanied by his eager assistant Hans, arrives at his family castle near the town of Karlstaad, vowing to continue his experiments in the creation of life. Fortuitously finding the creature he was previously working on, he brings it back to a semblance of life but requires the services of a mesmerist, Zoltan, to successfully animate it. The greedy and vengeful Zoltan secretly sends the monster into town to steal gold and 'punish' the burgomaster and the chief of police, which acts lead to a violent confrontation between the baron and the townspeople. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
This was the first Hammer film I ever saw, and I loved it back then on television while growing up. I'm sure the reason was because it was so much in tune with the old Universal monster films I loved, and at that time I hadn't seen any of the other British Frankensteins so I couldn't have been aware that EVIL wasn't really a true "Hammer" film. Well, sometimes ignorance is bliss, I think. Because ever since I caught up with all the other Peter Cushing Frankensteins, I gradually became clued in as to why so many diehards shunned EVIL. But that's a shame, really, as THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN is a fine horror film in its own right and one of the more underrated monster films in fandom. Last night I had a friend at the house who's a Universal Fan, and he wanted to see his first Hammer Frankenstein film. So, what better choice than EVIL? But here's the thing with movies -- sometimes it all depends on your mood and the situation surrounding you when you watch them. The last time I had watched this movie, it didn't do as much for me; but now - while taking it for what it is and enjoying it with a fellow Universal fan - the film really delivered!
Peter Cushing is still great in EVIL. Sure, he's not playing the character exactly the same as in the other films, but it's refreshing to see him more heroic than usual, and it's not as though he's a total saint either (he does take a freshly dead man and cut out his heart, for crying out loud). There are small moments of indifference, too - such as when the mute peasant girl offers bread to Cushing and his assistant, Hans -- while Hans takes the trouble of saying, "thank you... but have you enough for yourself?" Baron Frankenstein takes his half without a word of gratitude and instead merely mutters to Hans, "she can't hear you".
Terence Fisher is a good director, but I think Freddie Francis does a fantastic job too on THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (and, later, on Dracula HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE). The laboratory is the best of all the films, and there are many neat cinematic touches -- like the grim shadowplay when the creature is stalking around town, and the monster's POV shot as he is first being raised up from his slab. The music is striking too, on par with just about any other Hammer classic. It accentuates the events of the movie very well. Kiwi Kingston makes a formidable hulking monster, and there are times when I even pitied him (it's rough to see him getting those migraines and to be abused by that hypnotist).
The only things weak about EVIL for me are some of the moments where we are at the fair, though once Peter Cushing crashes the Burgomaster's home to claim his property ("Be quiet, woman!!" - I love that! - ) we're back into high gear. Another debit for the movie is that its script seems a little perfunctory at times. In summary -- taken on its own without carping on what this isn't and enjoying it for what riches are to be found within it, THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN can be a fun and satisfying experience as a stand-alone Frankenstein Film. *** out of ****
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