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Roy Ward Baker
Baron Frankenstein is once again working with illegal medical experiments. Together with a young doctor, Karl and his fiancée Anna, they kidnap the mentally sick Dr. Brandt, to perform the first brain transplantation ever. Written by
Between Anna being stabbed and her fiancé finding her, the position of the scalpel changes. See more »
Had man not been given to invention and experiment, then tonight, sir, you would have eaten your dinner in a cave. You would've strewn the bones about the floor then wiped your fingers on a coat of animal skin. In fact, your lapels do look a bit greasy. Good night.
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This fifth entry in the Hammer Frankenstein' series sees Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) blackmailing a young doctor, Karl (Simon Ward) and his fiancée Anna (Veronica Carlson) into helping him kidnap the mentally incapacitated Dr. Brandt (George Pravda) and perform the first ever successful brain transplantation.
It is always difficult to make a fair and accurate assessment of a Hammer horror production, particularly one with the superlative quality of this particular work. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed' is something of a change in pace for the series as Frankenstein himself appears to have fallen into madness rather than practicing misunderstood and unethical medicine as in the previous instalments. His methods are still unethical, that cannot be debated, but there is a noticeable emphasis this time around on the Baron's work being for his own advancement rather than for the benefit of man. Although the typical self-promoting dialogue from Frankenstein would indicate that he is attempting the surgery for the benefit of mankind, there is an undoubted distinction between the Frankenstein of this movie and the ones of the past. This new direction for the character is coupled with a monstrous personality that continually dictates that nobody matters as long as the Baron gets what he desires. Frankenstein is willing to go to any lengths necessary in order to accomplish his goal and his pure focus towards his goal only wanes a mere couple of times. The Baron's deterioration into lunacy is exceedingly well portrayed during a particularly violent (but short) rape sequence. The intensity on Cushing's face adds to the believability of the scene and the image is so powerful that it could linger in the viewers mind and give the movie a new, raw and brutal edge. Peter Cushing is able to adapt his style of acting to fit the new persona of the Baron and offers a remarkably visceral performance rather than the calculated performances of the past. As with almost every movie that Cushing participated in, his on-screen presence is powerful and commanding and this alerts the viewer to the necessity of paying attention to his character.
The film follows the archetypal pattern for Hammer horrors. The film starts off powerfully with two predominantly memorable sequences, the most sensational of which is the entrance of the diabolical Baron when he terrifies a petty thief. From there, the film moves towards the mechanics of the Baron's actions and his resolution to accomplish all that he seeks out to undertake. It is during this `mid-section' of the film that everything slows down while the emphasis is no longer on scares or action. However, through some very proficient direction from Terence Fisher the pacing and structure of this movie almost makes Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed' pre-eminent when compared to other movies of the era. Without a shadow of a doubt, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed' should be held in the highest echelon of excellence within the Hammer family if only for its superb composition alone. The movie ends with an exhilarating climax yet the viewer could feel cheated by the abrupt nature in which the film ends. The hasty ending is one of the few faults in this movie but in retrospect serves the series well as it does leave certain questions unanswered. The other faults with the movie are so intermittent that although they are noticeable, they rarely detract from the viewing experience. Having said that, there are a couple of scenes which seem to be unnecessarily prolonged which temporarily obstruct the otherwise smooth, flowing feel that the movie has. These scenes represent the very few moments where a viewer could temporarily lose their concentration on the movie. However, even considering the prolonged nature of the scenes in question, one cannot fault the pacing of the movie as Terence Fisher's direction shows impressive capability and he makes these scenes fit into the movie almost seamlessly.
Even with the sporadic lapses in quality Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed' is fundamental viewing for any serious horror movie fan. This is a movie based around great performances, stunning visuals, a haunting and atmospheric soundtrack as well as quintessential Hammer-style horror. My rating for Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed' 8/10.
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