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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 ****
MORD39 RATING: **1/2 out of ****
This was the first Hammer film I recall seeing as a kid, and I loved it back then. I am, admittedly, a Universal Horror addict and most probably enjoyed it because it was so much in that vein.
Now, decades later, I understand why Hammer fans dislike it: it's not what the Hammer Frankenstein series is supposed to be. Now that I've become well acquainted with all of the Hammer films I am inclined to agree somewhat...but it's still pretty good.
Peter Cushing is his reliable self as the Baron, and he seems to be given a more heroic twist this time around. The monster is not up to par, and it IS copied from the Karloffian image to some extent, but he's fun anyway.
The lab sets are fantastic, as is the music and gothic atmosphere. You can do much worse than this for a Hammer Frankenstein film (check out HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and see).
Having been exiled from Karlstaad, and with their creature gunned down
on a mountaintop, The Evil Of Frankenstein opens with a now skint Baron
(Cushing) and his apprentice Hans (Elès) moping around the forests like
a Gothic Steptoe and Son, half-heartedly yanking the odd corpse out of
huts, before being sent packing by another set of disgusted locals. The
Baron has no choice but to creep back into town and retrieve his
equipment to flog it off. To add insult, Castle Frankenstein has been
looted and defaced with noosed effigies. "Why can't they leave me
alone?" sighs Victor. It's all a bit much.
To cheer themselves up, the pair attend a travelling carnival disguised in facemasks like Batman and Robin. Victor spots a familiar face in the crowd: "Well, well, well, my old friend the Burgomaster. Now he's chief of police. Easy to see how he got his promotion!" And he's wearing the Baron's ring. Not only that, he's now in possession of Victor's clothes, his chairs, his desk - "Even my bed!" Frankly, the pair need a positive: as luck has it, a deaf and dumb Björk look-alike leads them to a cave, where they discover the perfectly preserved body of the creature in a glacier.
Like Vernon Kay, "he's alive, but his brain is dormant," the result of being shot in the head in the previous film. The Baron hires the carnival's dodgy mesmerist Zoltán (Woodthorpe) to try to bring it out of its coma. Like some faithless pet cat who decides it's getting tastier treats from the old lady next door, the creature ignores the Baron, and will now only take orders from Zoltán. However, the bequiffed ageing wideboy has his own plans for the screeching lunk. "There are people in this village I want punished," he huffs. Not being up to speed with the finer points of semantics, the monster stomps off in its corrective boots to rip the Burgomaster a new one. Job done, it returns home, gets drunk, screeches a bit more, and goes for a lie down. Yet despite giving him life, the monster in no way considers the Baron his besht fuggin' mate. Then, as if suddenly collapsing under the weight of its own misery, the film ends very abruptly.
Directed by cameraman Freddie Francis, after Hammer's Terence Fisher bailed out following a car accident, The Evil Of Frankenstein is generally regarded by horror buffs to be the series' nadir, in part owing to the monster's laughable visage, which resembles a man wearing a rotting box of cornflakes on his head. (Ironic, given that this incarnation's appearance was made possible by the film's distributor Universal relaxing their copyright on Jack Pierce's flat-headed design for Boris Karloff.) But mostly, because it treats the continuity laid down by the previous movie with the same kind of respect the Baron has for dead people.
In The Revenge Of Frankenstein, the Baron had succeeded in creating a reasonably human-looking monster, before it was shot; was himself beaten to death by an angry mob for his groundbreaking contribution to genetics; and was then privately resurrected by his apprentice Hans. Here, there's no mention of the Baron's life-and-death experience; the creature (the delightfully named Kiwi Kingston) looks nothing like its forebear; and Hans appears to have downsized his IQ in the interim. The locals have also apparently forgotten they've actually killed him and instead merely run him out of Karlstaad on a rail. It's the Sliding Doors of horror threequels.
Despite this wild shift in text and focus (a consequence of Hammer producer Tony Hinds replacing the usual Frankenstein writer Jimmy Sangster), The Evil Of Frankenstein is quite fun in its doggedly depressing way, and for a film made in 1964, surprisingly modern; this is practically a punk movie, with its nihilistic tone, a monster that elicits not the slightest shred of sympathy, and tombstone humour at odds with the melodramatic origins. "Cut out his heart?" gasps the Baron's hired grave robber. "Why not?" comes the reply. "He has no further use for it." For a relatively bloodless series, the violence (check out the scene where the foul creature attacks and kills the Burgomaster in his own bedroom) is certainly more than you'd expect from this era of Hammer, and indeed certain scenes were replaced or re-shot for its 1968 television showing. And as you'd imagine, with the award-winning Freddie Francis directing proceedings, the cinematography is first rate. Really, it's a one-off, standing quite apart from the cycle, and none the worse for it.
If you ask me, Hammer's Frankenstein series is vastly superior to the
Dracula series; and films like this one show why! Actually, Evil of
Frankenstein is probably the weakest entry of the great series; but
even on a bad day, Hammer can produce the goods, and this film
certainly does everything that you would expect a Hammer Frankenstein
flick to do. This is something of an odd entry in Hammer's Frankenstein
series, however, as the character of Frankenstein (ironically) is far
less evil than in previous and later films. The scene in which the
monster is let loose and Frankenstein worriedly exclaims that the
village is under threat says it all. This contradiction does bring the
film down somewhat, but it doesn't harm it as much as it could have
done because the distinct Hammer style is always on hand to save the
day. The plot picks up after the events of The Revenge of Frankenstein,
and we follow the wicked Baron as he makes his way back to his family
castle. He soon finds one of his previous creatures perfectly preserved
in ice, but there's a problem with the brain and Frankenstein has to
recruit stage hypnotist Zoltan to bring him round. However, Zoltan has
his own ideas about the creature's future...
The Hammer Frankenstein movies, especially the earlier ones, tend to follow something of a set plot; i.e. Frankenstein builds a monster, then the monster destroys everything. This film follows that plot, but as ever; enough is added to ensure that the action is never monotonous. Peter Cushing reprises his role as the title character brilliantly once again. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one Baron Frankenstein - and that's Peter Cushing. Nobody has ever - or will ever again - be able to bring what this great actor brings to the role. I'm sure that this part would be his favourite too, as it's always obvious that he enjoys playing the Baron. His persona lends itself brilliantly to this role, and that is much of the reason why the series is so successful. The monster on display this time is the most disgusting of the entire series. The make-up is repulsive and the creature really does look like it's been encased in ice for years. It is worth noting, however, that the creature in this film is the closest to the classic Frankenstein's Monster of James Whale's Frankenstein films. Overall, this film might not do much for you if you aren't a fan of Hammer/the Frankenstein series - but if you are...you know you should be seeing this film!
This film appeared from no-where. It did not follow from The Revenge of Frankenstein, which had immediately preceded it, and the next film in the series, Frankenstein Created Woman, makes no mention of this film. This is a one-off film in the Hammer Frankenstein saga much in the same way that Scars of dracula is a one-off in the Dracula saga. For once, the story is rather flimsy, and the characters fail to build any pathos with the audience. The acting is good, but has no-where to go. It seems to be a remake of any number of Universal horror films rather than an original Hammer film. The direction is rather flat and the monster is just some monolithic doomsday machine running around, destroying everything. On the plus side, the atmosphere is suitably gothic and the costumes are realistic. It is, however, the least best Frankenstein film featuring peter Cushing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like many other viewers, I first saw this movie on television when I
was a kid, and have always liked it. It holds up well to repeated
viewings, and is filled with references to the older Universal
Frankenstein movies of the Thirties and Forties.
The storyline is quite simple and the characters not terribly complicated. This seems to bother some viewers, who miss the irony and complexity of other Peter Cushing Frankenstein portrayals, and the odd, offbeat plotting of the Terence Fisher directed films in the series. But the film operates perfectly at the simpler level of an adventure story, rather than a really grim horror tale. The frequently humorous tone, and a hint of romance for Frankenstein's assistant and the mute girl, lighten the overall feeling, with Frankenstein himself appearing as an essentially benign character. I find it a nice change to see Baron Frankenstein as a well intended, kindly character, instead of the ruthless egomaniac usually portrayed. Cushing makes the Baron an appealing, almost lovable character, in this outing.
The scene of the creation of the Monster is quite well staged, as is the later sequence of the dormant creature being revived. The sets and backgrounds look good and the acting is decent. A longer running time might have allowed for some more development of the relationship between the nameless mute girl and Hans, Frankenstein's assistant, as well as the friendship between the girl and the Monster. There are hints of a family atmosphere, with Frankenstein almost seeming a father figure to the two younger people, and the Monster as a sort of child in need of guidance.
This is a very entertaining little movie, and would probably be enjoyed by anyone who likes the old Universal classics.
I've watched this movie a few times and although Peter Cushing gave his usual great performance this film falls a bit short of the mark in Hammers' Frankenstein cannon. First and foremost, there is no continuity between this film and it's predecessor, the very well done,"The Revenge Of Frankenstein" This has a lot to do with Freddie Francis being Director instead of Terence Fisher. Kiwi Kingston looks like a 3rd rate Boris Karloff, however, being an ex wrestler, and not an actor, also, wearing very bad makeup he does his best with the material handed to him. The supporting cast, Sandor Eles, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, and David Hutcheson, do an OK job, it's just that with the very good "Curse Of Frankanstein" and the excellent "The Revenge Of Frankenstein" i was expecting a lot more. It's still a film worth seeing. Grab that popcorn and enjoy. John R. Tracy
Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) with helper Hans (Sandor Eles) returns
to a village he had been forced out of 10 years earlier. He had made a
monster which (he thought) had been destroyed. He finds the creature
(Kiwi Kingston) actually alive but its brain is dormant. He gets a
hypnotist (Peter Woodthorpe) to activate the monster brain. He
does--but has his own evil plans for it...
Third in the series of the Hammer Frankenstein movies. It's not good but it's not terrible either. Production values are strong and there's a good cast but the story is somewhat...lacking. I never quite understood how any hypnotist could activate a brain and there's next to no action until the final half hour. There's also a mute girl who is thrown into the story for no good purpose that I could see. Also the makeup on the monster is pretty terrible. They got permission and tried to model it after the monster from the 1931 film--but it just doesn't work. The violence is also pretty restrained in this one--I find it hard to believe that any scenes were cut for original TV broadcasts.
Acting helps a lot in this one. Woodthorpe overacts but Eles is tall and handsome as the Baron's assistant and Katy Wild (the mute girl) does wonders with a horribly written role--heck, she's not even given a name! Kingston is OK as the monster (his face is completely covered with makeup--all you can see are the eyes). Cushing is, as always, fantastic as Frankenstein. He doesn't play him as totally evil (despite the title) as he did later on. He comes across as a scientist who work means EVERYTHING to him--he lives only for that and nothing more. He also can't understand why people keep hounding him. He keeps asking "Why can't they leave me alone?" So not good but not bad. Worth catching if you're a Hammer fan but don't go out of your way. I give it a 6.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Baron Frankenstein is up to his old tricks. He is still in the business
of buying corpses to do his research. But without the means to afford a
proper laboratory, Frankenstein has set up shop in a cabin. When the
locals learn of experiments, Frankenstein is forced to flee.
Accompanied by his assistant, Frankenstein heads back to his abandoned
home to collect some valuables to sell to raise the money he needs to
continue his work. Shortly after arriving, he discovers that his first
creation is still alive. With a little work, Frankenstein is sure he
can correct his previous mistakes. Can he evade the locals and be
successful this time?
The Evil of Frankenstein is easily my least favorite of Hammer's series (granted, I haven't seen The Horror of Frankenstein). While there are moments and various set-pieces that I enjoy and Cushing is as good as ever, overall it's just not that good. Why all the changes? The events in The Evil of Frankenstein rewrite the entire history of the series. Everything that Hammer had done previously in its Frankenstein series is wiped away with one flashback sequence. And why change the Baron Frankenstein character? In the previous movies, Frankenstein was an evil genius, but he was always in control. His violent and vocal outburst in the café scene is totally out of character. Also, he is no longer as cold and heartless as in the earlier movies. Instead, he comes across as sympathetic towards those around him and actually seems appalled to learn his creature has harmed his enemies.
I've read comparisons between the monster makeup in The Evil of Frankenstein and Universal's classic monster. While there are similarities, comparing the two is tantamount to blasphemy. The monster in The Evil of Frankenstein is poor stepchild to the monster played by Karloff. It looks cheap. There are certain camera angles where the monster's head looks like a piñata ready to spill its candy.
As for what worked for me, there are a couple of moments worth mentioning. The opening scenes of the body snatcher skulking through the twisted forest are especially creepy. It's a very effective opening. Another very enjoyable, but all too brief, scene occurs when Frankenstein raises the table holding his monster. The camera is attached to and moves with the table. It's one of the very few moments in the movie where Director Freddie Francis can be praised for being creative.
As we rapidly approach a new age of technology and advancement, fear
creeps more steadily into our minds. With these new advancements, will
I still have a job? Will there be more threats to mankind? Will we
still be individuals, or will this new technology make us slaves of a
higher power? Valid questions that continue to be "hot" topics in the
media. Remember the outburst we had as a society about cloning? I think
there are those that are still screaming about cloning being an unjust
way of curing diseases. For some odd reason the topic of "cloning"
stayed within my mind as I watched The Evil of Frankenstein because
this was more than just a monster movie, but instead this deeply
symbolic feature about the fears of society and how they can skew the
good that others are creating. It also visually develops the idea of
how one bad apple can ruin a perfect plan, thus giving society that one
crutch to lean upon when deciding what is appropriate. This was a
fascinating movie because it went beyond the typical story of
Frankenstein and gave us this beautifully human view of the scientist
that created the monster. It detaches us from the horrors that the
monster creates and instead places the blame squarely on humanity. It
is disturbing and refreshing to see such a dramatic change to a very
I loved the story of this film. Honestly, I didn't know quite what it was going to be about when I placed the DVD into my player. I was prepared to be asleep twenty minutes into the film because I was ready for the clichéd scene of the scientist saying "It's alive it's alive " over and over again like every other Frankenstein film I have encountered. I was not ready for originality, I was not ready for this human element, I guess honestly, I wasn't ready for the sheer force behind this film. I thought that director Freddie Francis did an excellent job of eliminating the evil element from Frankenstein and transferring it to the mob, the townsfolk, and the simpletons that did not understand the medical miracles that Frankenstein was creating. From the beginning we, for the first time, feel sympathy for Frankenstein. Here he is, attempting to complete his experiments, when God bursts in and shuts him down. I really thought that with our current debates between Church & State/Church & Medicine (aka Tom Cruise), this film really packed a punch. Everyone should be seeing this and understanding that it packs more than just a simple horror punch. There is quite a bit of political symbolism involved with this feature, and that is why I loved this story. Nobody stopped to question or help the poor doctor, instead they rioted, only saw the evil in the creation, without giving anyone the opportunity to speak. I thought it was a true punch in society's gut that the only character to fully understand the creature and Frankenstein was the mute girl. Someone who cannot hear or speak evil saw the pure nature of Frankenstein's work. The forgotten of the town forged a bond with the outcast brains of the operation. It was very clever!
Outside of the obvious symbolic elements that kept my eyes glued to the screen the entire time, there was some exceptional acting by the silent General Moff Tarkin. He really has some very well trained acting chops. He carried, and fully developed the struggling Frankenstein doctor that wanted nothing more than to proudly have a door to enter the scientific world. He wanted to create the impossible, and Peter Cushing pulled it off with leaps and bounds. While I did miss the infamous Igor character, I thought that Hans was a very loyal counterpart to Frankenstein. While Igor was a complete idiot, Hans provided the image that if something should ever happen to Frankenstein, the experiments would continue. Kiwi Kingston played the monster in this film, and it was a decent job. I have seen some better representations of the beast, but Kiwi did a memorable job. The metal shoes that Francis had him wear will forever haunt my mind. That scraping sound on concrete was superb. Everyone else was there, while their characters were completely lost to everyone else involved, I thought that overall the complete cast was decent. Nobody can stand up to Cushing!
Overall, this wasn't a horror film. This was a film about science. It nearly felt like it was made by scientists that wanted a story to show that Frankenstein wasn't trying to create evil, but instead to forge ahead in the world of science. Cushing did an excellent job of giving us this tormented soul who only wanted a place to be left alone to his work. The cinematography was outstanding in this low-budgeted film. The scenes of where Frankenstein worked were breathtaking. There were two scenes that really stuck out in my mind as exceptional. One was where the monster was "punishing" the Burgomaster(just the way the camera was aligned) and the final scene with the château. Beautiful and brilliant. This was a horror film that should be dusted off and watched today, I believe we all can see some defying similarities between our world and that of Frankenstein's if we look close enough.
Grade: **** out of *****
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