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Hooray! Here's another entry in the highly amusing Hammer Frankenstein
franchise. Don't ever ask me to pick a 'best' or even favorite in this
series because I instantly love every episode I can get my dirty little
hands on :) And this fifth chapter is a true highlight as it has our
Baron Frankenstein more and more evolving into a ruthless, cold
villain. He blackmails a young couple; forcing them to assist him with
his diabolical experiments (only he sees it as simple scientific
evolution). Along with his new accomplices, Baron F. kidnaps a fellow
mad scientist out of the asylum because he knows the skills to perform
a flawless brain transplant. Unfortunately, Frankenstein's mad raving
colleague has been drugged so much he now is a complete vegetable.
Ingenious as he is, evil Victor transplants a few brains and commits a
few murders to finally have the things the way he wants.
After 4 prequels, numberless others adaptations and several novels, Hammer Productions (and class-A director Terence Fisher in particular) still manages to present the Frankenstein films as original and innovative horror adventures. It's remarkable how Cushing and Fisher completely shifted the initial horror from Frankenstein's monster to Baron Frankenstein himself! In this film, the creature is a pathetic 'victim' while it's Cushing who's the criminal mastermind. Needless to say that Cushing is absolutely powerful in his loyal role of the Baron. He's actually so good in preaching his medical ambitions that you often sympathize with him, even though you witness with your own eyes he's bad to the bone! Cushing receives excellent feedback from the young actor Simon Ward and the exquisite Veronica Carlson. 'Frankenstein must be Destroyed' is an intriguing horror film for some other reason as well. Fisher inserts a healthy dose of Romanticism in this episode plus it's also one of the first Hammer films that feature the sexual content and undertones they'll use more and more in their 70's films. Hammer's popularity tempered a bit during the late 60's/ early 70's and they tried to make up for this by showing more ravishing meat (Carlson's cleavage) and sexual insinuations. In short, Frankenstein must be destroyed is essential horror viewing! It has loads of tension and exciting sequences, the film is professionally made, well-acted and it features a fair amount of bloodshed.
In order to continue his experiments, the Baron blackmails a young couple
into helping him abduct Dr Brandt (a brilliant brain surgeon gone mad) from
the lunatic asylum so that he can operate on him, cure his sanity and
transplant the brain into another body. This he does by kidnapping and
murdering Professor Richter and using the body to house Brandt's brain.
This he does because he wants to learn Brandt's knowledge of brain
transplants. However, when Brandt wakes up he escapes and plots revenge
The fifth Hammer Frankenstein presents the Baron as a totally irredeemable character, a cold calculating psychopath who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means destroying the young couple in the process. Cushing plays with his usual conviction and is aided by a reliable supporting cast including Simon Ward (in his first film appearance), Veronica Carlson and Freddie Jones as the creature. The direction of Terence Fisher is accomplished as is the lighting of Arthur Grant.
Hammer Films' 5th Frankenstein film is their best. Cushing brings a new pathos to the character of the Baron that is consistent with, and at the same time, different than his previous films. Terence Fisher brings an unbelievable sense of style to this, his best film. The ending is unbelievably good. However, if new to Hammer - I don't suggest you start with this one. Ideally, view the Frankenstein films in order (Curse of Frankenstein, Revenge of Frankenstein, (feel free to skip) Evil of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Created Woman. This film will be far stronger as a result. Disturbed till the end!
Peter Cushing will always be THE final word on the role of Baron Frankenstein. Cunning, arrogant, relentless and above all else,charming. It could also be said that Terence Fisher is the final word on not only directing Hammer's Frankenstein series but Hammer films in general. This is not a new theory by any stretch regarding Fisher. His was the style by which all who played for Hammer's team would in some way emulate. It is no surprise, therefore, that FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED would be so good. Both actor and director had become pretty familiar with this material but rather than go through the motions something high above the expectation mark occurs. A good script certainly helps and indeed this time around there is. It is the relished performance of Peter Cushing and the carefully executed direction of Fisher which gives this film it's tasty Gothic flavor. Never seen a Hammer film? Here's your chance to sink your teeth into a good one.
For me the only two that are superior are Curse of Frankenstein and
Revenge of Frankenstein(with the weakest being The Evil of
Frankenstein). Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is Peter Cushing's
penultimate outing as Frankenstein and it's a very strong one.
I do have to agree with those saying that the rape scene wasn't all that necessary- it is clear that Frankenstein is depraved but the film did go a bit too far adding that in- and did seem in bad taste. The climax is very exciting and suspenseful but ends a little too hastily, and parts of the second half are a little padded. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed as with most Hammer horrors is visually accomplished, love the sumptuous Gothic quality of the costume and set design, it's a very colourful film to look at and the film is photographed beautifully and atmospherically. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is hauntingly scored, with the music really complimenting the atmosphere well and even enhances it while also not over-powering.
The script is witty, nuanced and tense with no signs of irrelevant froth or juvenile misplaced humour, while the story has never a dull moment(even with the odd bit of padding in the second half and is always compelling, giving off a really suspenseful, creepy and occasionally violent atmosphere. Two scenes really stood out, the buried body bursting out of the earth is unsettlingly scary and there is a scene between Freddie Jones's character and his wife that genuinely brought tears to the eye. Terence Fisher's direction is taut and unflinching. The acting is very fine all round, with top honours going to a chillingly incisive Peter Cushing as a more evil Frankenstein this time round, an alluring and heartfelt Veronica Carlson(the gowns she wears here suited her) and especially a hauntingly powerful Freddie Jones. All in all, a very strong penultimate Hammer Frankenstein outing for Cushing and the third best of the series after Curse and Revenge. 8/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Mono
Following a long period of cheap-looking productions designed to play as double-features on their home turf, Hammer returned to premium quality horror with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, arguably the company's finest hour, and certainly Peter Cushing's definitive portrayal of the monstrous Baron. Here, he blackmails medical student Simon Ward (making his feature debut) and his lovely fiancée Veronica Carlson into helping him with a brain transplant which - naturally - goes horribly wrong. Instead of the misguided adventurer depicted in previous films, screenwriter Bert Batt emphasizes the Baron's ruthless pursuit of knowledge and power, culminating in an unexpected sequence in which Cushing's domination of Carlson segues from mere tyranny to rape, a scene which Cushing reportedly found distasteful. Overall, however, Batt's script allows the characters to evolve via a skilfully constructed plot which employs levels of drama and emotion largely absent from much of Hammer's output at the time, alongside the usual elements of horror and suspense.
Director Terence Fisher rises to the occasion with remarkable dexterity, orchestrating set-pieces which have been compared to Hitchcock in some quarters, especially the opening sequence in which a petty thief (Harold Goodwin) breaks into the wrong house and has a truly hair-raising confrontation with its volatile owner (leading to a memorable 'reveal'); and the traumatic moment in the back garden of Carlson's boarding house, when she's forced to deal with a corpse (one of Frankenstein's cast-offs) ejected from its makeshift grave by a burst water pipe. Freddie Jones adds pathos to the proceedings as the helpless victim of Frankenstein's latest experiment, his brain transplanted into another man's body against his will, traumatizing his incredulous wife (Maxine Audley) who refuses to accept his new identity (a scenario echoed by a similar plot line in John Woo's FACE/OFF in 1997). The period décor may look a little cramped and cut-price in places, but this is Hammer/Fisher/Cushing at the very height of their creative powers, and the film is a small masterpiece of British Gothic.
Frankenstein must be Destroyed is one of the best of the hammer horror
series; and that is saying something, as the studio has produced a lot
of horror highlights. Peter Cushing stars as Baron Frankenstein, the
mad doctor whom everyone and their dog will recognise instantly from
the classic novel. This film is an interesting variation on the classic
story, and it sees Baron Frankenstein involving himself in the practice
of brain transplant surgery. The film doesn't have anything to do with
the classic novel; it doesn't make reference to it at any time, and
it's only notable similarity to that from which it is based is the
character of Baron Frankenstein. Saying that; it doesn't really matter,
as this film stands on it's own from the original story.
The character of Frankenstein has been changed a lot from the one that we all know and love. The original Frankenstein was an over-ambitious scientist that got in over his head and later found redemption. The one here, however, is pure evil. He has no remorse for any of what he has done, and he treats murder only as an obstacle that is in his way. He is cold, calculating and overall; not a nice man. The story really takes off when Frankenstein blackmails Karl, a young scientist, into helping him perform the first brain transplant. The two kidnap Dr Brandt, a fellow mad-scientist who has gone insane and is being held in a mental asylum. A lot of the film's horror is drawn from the character of Frankenstein, who is expertly portrayed by Peter Cushing.
Peter Cushing is a great actor, and is more than up there on the illustrious list of horror legends. He's not as pronounced as fellow legend Vincent Price, or as malevolent as fellow legend Christopher Lee; but Peter Cushing has a niche all of his own. His persona is extremely creepy, especially in this film. He's not evil like you would imagine evil to be; he has a much more intelligent, more calculating presence; and that is far more scary than any man in a monster suit. Peter Cushing's screen presence is in his authority; he isn't a big and strong man, but he's not the sort of person that you would want to upset because you just KNOW that something bad will happen to anyone who does. The acting in Frankenstein Must be Destroyed is surprisingly good, actually; from Hammer films, you don't tend to expect great acting, but this one delivers. Simon Ward stars (almost!) opposite Peter Cushing as the young scientist blackmailed by Frankenstein. He's definitely second fiddle to the awesome Peter Cushing, but he performs admirably. Freddie Jones is the real star besides Cushing; although no Boris Karloff, his performance as the man turned into a monster is perfectly tragic. Veronica Carlson is the lady of the film, and she does just fine; and some credit must go to Thorley Walters, too; the man that plays the hazardously idiotic police inspector.
The ending of the movie is great, and draws parallels with that of the original novel, in that it's exciting, flame-ridden and everyone gets their comeuppance. Credit must go to Terrence Fisher; he has directed a number of Frankenstein (and Dracula) films, and following up on a classic novel and doing it well is no easy feat. Frankenstein Must be Destroyed is a horror highlight, and a must for fans of the genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film can't really be talked about without spoilers regarding a
certain infamous scene that happens about 45 minutes into the running
time. However, this review contains no spoilers regarding the plot
The 5th in Hammer's run of Frankenstein films starring Cushing, "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" takes a few liberties with its central character, turning him from a vaguely amoral yet still likable enough dandy-doctor (sort of like Jon Pertwee without the gurning) into a complete bastard who it'd be impossible to like at all. And yet it still works.
Peter Cushing is the reason to watch this film. To be honest, the plot itself isn't one of the best of the series, for the most part seemingly rehashing the basic premise of the superior "Revenge of Frankenstein", with Frankenstein back to conventional brain swapping, working with a foppish aide in various cellars, and a "monster" with an identity crisis. There are several plot strands working at once and not all of them really work (a duo of police inspectors investigate proceedings for the first hour or so, decide to go and find the Baron, and then are seemingly forgotten, never appearing again), and the monster stuff seems to have been chucked in as an afterthought.
However, the development of the actual core character is far more interesting, and one doesn't really mind the plot taking a back seat. One thing that becomes increasingly clear when watching these Hammer Frankenstein films is that they do actually have clear progression for the character of Frankenstein himself, which surprised me quite a bit. From being a young, cold scientist, through to a slightly nicer, though still rather unethical, sort, and finally settling down to become nicer still, by the time of this film he's completely gone and lost his humanity. The real monster of this film is Frankenstein himself, colder, more cunning, more manipulative and nastier than ever before. He no longer smiles, he sneers. He seems to hate everybody, using people as puppets for as long as they are useful to him - compare his relationship with his assistant here to that he shared with Thorley Walters in "Created Woman". Though he's killed before, never has it seemed as off-hand and easy for him as it does here, with several stabbings and decapitations being put down to his handiwork. And then of course there's the infamous rape scene.
In the sort of scene which I would never have expected Peter Cushing to be a part of, Frankenstein spies on Anna, the girlfriend (if I remember rightly) of his unwilling assistant Karl, as she stands in her bedroom in her nightie, and then continues to walk in, lock the door, and, yes, rape her. Though the camera cuts away before the actual act itself, there's enough physical contact and such to know what the end result would have been. It's the most harrowing scene Cushing's ever had to perform, and the long stretch of time he spends just staring at Anna cranks up the tension more than any other Hammer horror has ever managed to do. Incidentally, this scene was added to the film as a complete afterthought when shooting had almost finished, as it was considered by the distributors that the film as it was didn't have enough sex in it. Quite why a rape scene was judged as an acceptable addition I don't know (rather than, say, a random spot of nudity or an appearance by a randy courting couple), but the inclusion of it, though making for uncomfortable viewing, really does advance the character of Frankenstein himself and shows how depraved he has become, and how much emotion he now lacks. Peter Cushing and Veronica Carlson understandably didn't want to do it at all. If I may nick a quote from Veronica Carlson in "The Peter Cushing Companion" -
"Peter didn't want to do it. He took me to dinner one evening to discuss it but it didn't make the scene any easier. I couldn't refuse to do it. Terence Fisher (the director) was very understanding but it was totally humiliating. Every alternative was more vulgar than the last... Terry just said 'Cut, that's it,' and turned away. Peter and I just stayed there and held on to each other."
This does explain why, after this scene, Anna doesn't seem to act any differently around Frankenstein compared to before the rape, as most subsequent scenes were filmed earlier on. I suppose the validity of the scene's inclusion depends upon each individual viewer. Ironically, the scene was cut from American prints.
Though the film is incredibly dark, there is some vague delight to be had at actor spotting. For your Doctor Who fans there's George Pravda (who appeared in three stories, best remembered as Spandrell in "The Deadly Assassin") and the chap who played Dr. Warlock from "Pyramids of Mars". Then there's also Windsor "It Ain't Half Hot Mum" Davies as a policeman, and Thorley Walters as the chief inspector with Geoffrey Bayldon as his wonderfully cynical aide. The latter partnership provides the only comedy to be had in the whole feature, and it's a shame that they have no bearing on the story at all.
There's not much more I can say about this film, really. It's a very good story, and I've left most of it for you to discover. Beware however that it's not a rosy-cheeked bit of "so bad it's good" fun, and may actually disturb and even frighten you to some extent. It should definitely be near the top of any Peter Cushing fans' list of films to see.
This is easily my favorite Frankenstein film, and one of my favorite Hammer films. The acting, lead by Peter Cushing, can't be any better; Simon Ward, Maxine Audley, and Freddie Jones deserve special comment in this regard. (There is little point in praising Cushing as Frankenstein; he plays it with such depth and understanding that the role is his and always will be! I can't use any superlatives here that haven't already been used for Cushing's Baron.) And for once, a Frankenstein movie really gets to the key point Mary Shelley is making - by leaving the monster out entirely! Terence Fisher's direction doesn't miss a cue; with the conventionalization of the monster gone, Fisher can take the movie in new, unexpected directions, and does so with the steady hand of a master director. An unqualified success for all involved!
This is one of the most vigorous of the Hammer productions and features Peter Cushing being uncharacteristically nasty. Even though some of his transplant theories have a certain logic he remains mean and unpleasant throughout with the (again uncharacteristic) rape scene adding icing to the already surprisingly (and ironically) nihilist cake. All the rest of Cushing's violence is aimed at 'getting the job done' but the rape, preceded by it's sexy build is a seeming sideswipe justified simply because in the temporary absence of his fiancée he could. Well dressed, surprisingly well paced and eventful. Not your ponderous Hammer production at all, rather as if its some impostor. Well worth catching.
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