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To clarify, it's really no treasure, but, neither do I agree with the consensus. As of this writing, other comments are overwhelmingly negative. But I don't think that this flick is all that bad. Sure - it's a temptation to compare it to other Hammer films and Frankenstein movies in general. But, because Peter Cushing and Boris Karloff aren't in it, THAT shouldn't be held against Horror of Frankenstein. (They weren't in Citizen Kane, either, but THAT'S a pretty good pic.) I'm guilty of too much comparing, myself, but, for some reason, I did not do it here. Maybe that's why I rated it "respectable". I'm satisfied with most aspects of this production, although, admittedly, the outset is a bit dialogue-heavy and action-starved. It takes a long, mundane time, but, through it all, we meet (among others), sociopathic med student, Victor Frankenstein; his straight-as-an-arrow classmate, Wilhelm; destitute-destined neighbor, Elizabeth; the buxom housekeeper (but lousy cook), Alys; the one-step-behind police lieutenant, Henry Becker; the good-at-what-he-does body and parts supplier and his widow; and, of course, the towering, impetuous monster. It has an easy-to-follow story, with enough Hammer cleavage... urrr, diversions... to make it interesting. This attempt is okay, in my book.
I'd heard nothing but bad things about 'Horror Of Frankenstein', but after watching it I was surprised at how entertaining it was (for the most part). The first two thirds are pretty damn good in my opinion. It's basically a remake of the first Hammer Frankenstein movie but with added humour, which in places reminded me of Stuart Gordon's 80s classic 'Re-Animator'. Ralph Bates, who was in a few Hammer movies during this period (like 'Lust For A Vampire', the disappointing sequel to 'The Vampire Lovers'), plays an intense young Frankenstein who isn't that far removed from Jeffrey Combs' Herbert West. Bates gives a strong performance and the supporting cast includes lovelies Kate O'Mara (the French governess in 'The Vampire Lovers') and Veronica Carlson, which certainly helps a lot, as well as Jon Finch ('Frenzy') and a great comic turn from Dennis Price ('Theatre Of Blood', 'Vampyros Lesbos') as an eccentric grave robber. So far so good, but unfortunately when we finally see Frankenstein's monster (played by David "Darth Vader" Prowse) it's very anticlimactic. Prowse's monster is the worst I've ever seen in any Frankenstein movie and things fall apart very quickly from then on. Oh well. Anyway, while this movie ultimately disappoints I think Bates and Price make it worth watching all the same, and O'Mara is extremely sexy as a saucy servant girl. But it must be said that 'The Horror Of Frankenstein' ties with 'Lust For A Vampire' and 'Dracula A.D. 1972' as the weakest Hammer movie I've seen to date.
By the 1970s, Hammer was struggling to find an audience still willing
to cough up to see lavish Gothic productions; as a result, their output
became increasingly targeted at the more profitable youth market.
Having been exposed to more explicit teen horror films from the US,
this particular demographic demanded that the studio adapt its format
to suit. Graphic gore and nudity now had precedence over fog-shrouded
graveyards and creepy castles.
In accordance with this new approach, The Horror of Frankenstein presents its viewers with a decidedly different take on Mary Shelley's classic: it's a sexier, nastier, gorier, and generally far more exploitative effort than any previous film in the series, and one which benefits greatly from a deliciously twisted script loaded with gallows humour.
This shake-up also called for a new leading man: out went Peter Cushing's well respected, but severely obsessive scientist, and in came Ralph Bates' more loathsome incarnation of Victor Frankensteina younger, mean-spirited, murderous, and cold-blooded individual. Bate's performance is practically perfect, convincingly portraying the utter contempt that his character feels for all mankindeven his closest friends and admirers.
Also rather memorable, albeit for completely different reasons, are the obligatory hammer babes: Kate O'Mara as Alys, the slutty housemaid who sees to the Baron's every needs (if you know what I mean), and Veronica Carlson as Elizabeth Heiss, the prettiest girl in the village and Victor's secret admirer. Both girls are absolutely stunning and possess quite impressive 'talents' (which, particularly in O'Mara's case, regularly threaten to spill completely out over the top of their costumes!).
Many Hammer aficionados seem to have a problem with The Horror of Frankenstein, unable to appreciate its wicked sense of humour. I however, think that it is an extremely fun flick, and a refreshing change to the usual Hammer style. The only gripe I do have with the film is that the monster itself (played by Dave 'Darth Vader' Prowse) is rather weak in its conception: with a little more time and effort spent on the creature make-up FX (the stitching looks like it was drawn on with marker pens), he wouldn't have been quite so laughable.
7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
If you try to compare this remake to the original, it will of course fall short as most recreated films do, but this feature is still very good for a late night scare. The biggest difference between this and the original is Victor Von Frankenstein is practically more frightening than the monster himself. He is a cold blooded, emotionless character, who uses Frankenstein as his personal executioner. He is also intelligent and careful to tie up loose ends. Great Halloween time film. No need to worry about watching it alone, but a fine flick with some exceptional acting to boot.
This was top Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster's first directorial
effort for the company (incidentally, I watched the other two - LUST
FOR A VAMPIRE  and FEAR IN THE NIGHT  - in quick
succession). I hadn't picked this up on DVD earlier because of its
much-maligned reputation: however, I was extremely surprised to find it
Given that it's basically a remake of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Sangster took a radically different approach - treating the events as black comedy; the resulting film is very funny indeed at times (though it almost feels like "Carry On Frankenstein": witness the disembodied hand coming to life to give the two-finger gesture and Ralph Bates' comments at Kate O'Mara's cleavage!). The film features an abrupt, doubly ironic ending - while, as opposed to STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (1972), there's plenty of gore here but no nudity. Still, despite being made on the cheap, it all looks pretty decent (a virtue common to most Hammer product, in fact).
Bates (who showed real promise but, essentially, came to Hammer too late) and Dennis Price (as a cheerful body snatcher who likes to have his pregnant wife do the dirty work for him!) are very good; from the rest of the cast - which includes Jon Finch as a dogged police lieutenant who happens to be a former colleague of Frankenstein's - O'Mara as Bates' sexy but conniving housekeeper/lover comes off best (though Veronica Carlson, who's somewhat underused here, also proves undeniable eye-candy).
There are faults, however: Bates's scientist is, ultimately, too glum in comparison to Cushing's animated characterization; the monster itself is an unfortunate creation (pun intended) - Dave Prowse's physique is certainly ideal for the role (in fact, he returned for FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL  and proved far more successful at it) but, as depicted here, it comes across as a mere killing machine, showing no emotion or curiosity at its surroundings (such as when the monster kills the O'Mara character or when it ventures outside into the countryside).
Essentially, then, the film emerges as an interesting but not entirely successful reinvention of the Frankenstein saga and, actually, a curious attempt on Hammer's part at this particular stage - given that it followed closely on the heels of one of their finest (and bleakest) efforts! That said, having now watched Hammer's entire Frankenstein series, I can safely say that it's superior overall to their Dracula films.
The extras include a 14-minute career overview by Hammer starlet/beauty Carlson - she feels lucky and privileged to have worked three times for the studio and in the company of such talented people as Freddie Francis, Christopher Lee, Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Jimmy Sangster and Ralph Bates. Sangster describes in the Audio Commentary how, when he started as a screenwriter, he was careful not to overstep the limitations set by the budget - which he learned from having been a Production Manager for Hammer for the previous several years; as a director, then, he often consulted with his editor to determine whether the latter got all the necessary coverage for any particular scene. He also discusses the rest of his career, going into some detail on the making of such films as TASTE OF FEAR (1961) and THE ANNIVERSARY (1968), and seems baffled - but, at the same time, amused - by the critical about-turn Hammer's output has enjoyed in recent years. With respect to THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN itself, he admits that he was initially averse to the idea of Ralph Bates as Baron Frankenstein - but, eventually, the two became very good friends and, in fact, Bates appeared in all three films Sangster directed! By the way, Travis Crawford's interesting liner notes compare the film's self-mocking attitude to the even more radical 'revisionist' approach to the Mary Shelley tale seen in FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (1973).
Being a huge fan of Hammer's brilliant Frankenstein cycle starring the
immortal Peter Cushing, I delayed the viewing of "The Horror of
Frankenstein" (1970) several times, convinced that a Hammer
Frankenstein without Cushing could only be disappointing. Having
finally seen it a few nights ago, I must say that, while the film is
nowhere near as great as the Cushing Frankensteins, I actually liked it
quite a bit. My main concern before seeing this film was that nobody
but Peter Cushing could effectively play Baron Victor Frankenstein in a
Hammer film. While he is definitely not en par with Cushing, however,
Ralph Bates is actually very convincing in his role of a younger, and
very different Baron Frankenstein here. Actually, I must say that
Bates' performance as a very cynical and cold-hearted Frankenstein is
one of the greatest aspects of this film. I did not like how
Frankenstein became a pure villain in this one, but that can hardly be
blamed on Bates. Peter Cushing's Frankenstein character was obsessed
and unscrupulous, but he was also likable and did what he did convinced
of doing what was best for mankind (though he became quite villainous
in "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed" of 1969). The young, arrogant and
entirely cold-blooded Frankenstein in this film shares none of these
positive character traits, which is a bit of a shame. That being said,
Bates gives the character a glorious touch of sarcasm, which made the
film enjoyable. In the beginning, the film annoys with pseudo-funny
episodes in Frankenstein's youth, but it gets a lot better after a
while when he has reached adulthood. Frankenstein is a womanizing cynic
who has no scruples whatsoever in order to reach his goals. Two
incredibly beautiful women, his maid Alys (Kate O'Mara) and his former
schoolmate Elisabeth (Veronica Carlson) fall for him, yet his only true
dedication is the creation of artificial life.
"The Horror of Frankenstein" was directed by Jimmy Sangster, who is mainly famous as the masterly screenwriter of many Hammer classics, including such milestones as "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957), "Dracula" (1958) and "The Brides of Dracula" (1960). Sangster deserves a lot of praise for his magnificent writing work. His work as a director is less memorable, it includes this film, the equally mediocre "Lust for a Vampire" (1971) as well as "Fear in the Night" (1972), which I haven't yet seen. Unlike other Hammer the Frankensteins, which all had a original and innovative storyline, this one merely repeats the story of Frankenstein's first creation, which had already been told (in an incomparably superior manner) in "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957). The monster in this one is quite a letdown, and I was surprised to see David Prowse, who would later become world-famous as Darth Vader, perform so poorly in the role. I couldn't say whether it was the fault of Prowse or director Jimmy Sangster, but, the monster looks real silly here and seems like an angry thug rather than a real monster. Prowse would also play a monster of Frankenstein's creation in "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" (1974), the last film by legendary director Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing as the Baron. The makeup was way better in that film, one of Hammer's best, and so was Prowse's performance. "The Horror of Frankenstein" has some atmosphere, Frankenstein's castle laboratory is a terrific setting, and it also has its moments otherwise, but it certainly isn't too memorable. Overall it wasn't nearly as disappointing as I feared, and therefore a positive surprise. "The Horror of Frankenstein" is recommendable to my fellow Hammer fans, but only AFTER seeing all of the marvelous Frankenstein films with Peter Cushing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I hadn't watched this one for years. So despondent was I with my own vague memories and subsequent negative reviews that I more or less consigned the film to the scrap heap. However, I caught part of it on ITV4 a few weeks ago and thought 'I wouldn't mind watching that'. Remembering that I had the DVD as part of a box set I settled down recently and prepared myself for what many people consider to be not only the worst of the Hammer Frankensteins, but one of their worst films generally and found my opinions, whilst not totally blown out of the water, were to change considerably. Inevitably the lack of Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing takes its toll; one only need compare 'The Evil of Frankenstein' (1964) directed by Freddie Francis to the others in Hammer's canon to realise just how much Fisher brought to the Frankenstein movie sub genre, and it was once said of Peter Cushing that he could have been the next Olivier. Despite these apparent shortcomings, the director, Jimmy Sangster, does manage to adhere here and there to accepted Hammeresque aspects and does include a couple of nice scenes; there's an almost fairy tale quality to the scene of the monster lumbering towards the woodsman's cottage and, although the majority of direction is pedestrian at best, there is the occasional flourish that suggests Sangster at least had the ability to do better. Ralph Bates does a good job in his role as the young Baron Frankenstein; the fact that so many people have described how pompous, spoilt, cold and unpleasant he is providing proof of the quality of his performance and the juxtaposition between his utter contempt for human life, a contempt that leads him to murder several people, including his father thereby killing off the old values for good, and his goal of creating life is quite well considered. Dave Prowse, who played the strongman in 'Vampire Circus' (1970) and a far more sympathetic monster in 'Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell' (1973) has little to do other than lumber around killing or threatening people but there is no denying that his is a physically intimidating creature that you really wouldn't want to come across while walking through the woods. Despite the lack of 'monster' makeup I actually found the design interesting and felt it suited this particular variation on the Frankenstein myth, perceiving the monster as a deeply psychotic extension of the Baron's already disturbed personality. Kate O'Mara is very convincing as the conniving Alys. Physically she reminds me of Nell Quick in James Herbert's excellent novel 'Once' and Veronica Carlson does her best with a fairly weakly written role. The next acting honours must go to Denis Price as the grave robber and Joan Rice as his downtrodden wife. I was, I suppose, surprised at how tame this movie was. Given the strength and gore quotient in the same year's 'Scars of Dracula', it would have seemed obvious to extend the gore factor in this one; there is very little horror in 'The Horror of Frankenstein' beyond the horror of what humans are capable enough if they are driven in the way Frankenstein appears to be here. All in all though, 'The Horror of Frankenstein' is a fairly intriguing relic; a reminder of a time before cinema audiences were so completely desensitised that they need shock after shock to sustain their interest and an unusual, if watered down, echo of Hammer's prior greatness.
The Horror of Frankenstein is the sixth and second to last entry in their Frankenstein cycle. Many, and I mean many, revile this film as nothing to do with the other films in content, style, and acting. It is the only film that does not star Peter Cushing as the evil Baron Frankenstein. That in itself is a huge obstacle to get past. I love Cushing in everything he does. He personifies the character of the Baron with his cold, heartless, calculating mind. Cushing with Terence Fisher, the director in most of those previous Frankenstein films, always made the Baron the focal point of the film rather than the monster. This is a huge departure from the Universal cycle. Cushing's creation stayed very much in character for all of the films until the last one Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. In that film Cushing moves from that cold, heartless baron with some ethics to a womanizing, truly evil and terrifying man bent of personal pleasure as much as creating life. That film is not one of my favorites in the Hammer cycle; however, The Horror of Frankenstein takes that Victor Frankenstein and runs amuck with it in this version written and directed by the very, very talented Jimmy Sangster. Ralph Bates is that very same Baron only younger, and yes this is really just a reworking of The Curse of Frankenstein with some additional violence, a younger cast, some more graphic effects, and plenty and plenty of glorious cleavage. Bates is rather good in this role as a weaselly Baron who cares only about himself and how individuals can please him, and when they no longer can they no longer have value in his eyes except for whatever value he can place on pieces of their anatomy. Sangster defines his characters fairly well, and I enjoyed the story and the acting and the film much, much more than I had thought upon hearing so much negativity for the film. Is it as good as The Curse of Frankenstein? No way. The Revenge of Frankenstein? Nope. Any of the others - probably not though I found it more entertaining if not as good as Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed AND Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. Sangster's direction is very typically Hammeresque and the acting follows suit with some great character performances by Bernard Archard as the brain-giver and Dennis Price chewing up scenery as the resurectionist. His lines are worth seeing almost by themselves. And how about Veronica Carlson and Kate O'Mara? I cannot think of four - I mean 2 - things that are more captivating in the film. The Horror of Frankenstin is not groundbreaking at all, and it does marshal in the beginning of the new Hammer direction of sex and bloodier violence soon to hit the screens with the likes of The Vampire Lovers and what followed. but it is not over-the-top at this point and is much better than some would have you believe. The apparatus for acid used throughout the film was very intriguing and a wonderful set piece.
"Tomorrow we shall initiate a new series of experiments. Something
harmless, like splitting the atom, perhaps?" Dispensing with Peter
Cushing's services and intended to revitalise the series with a younger
generation of stars as the studio headed into the uncertain 70s, The
Horror of Frankenstein instead found itself on the wrong half of a
double-bill with the inferior Scars of Dracula and much detested by
many Hammer purists for its tone. Which is a great shame, because this
is one of Hammer's best and most delightful latter films as long as
you're not expecting the traditional horror film of the title there
may be one of the highest body counts in a Hammer film, but it's not
frightening. Instead, despite a wonderfully crude moment with a
reanimated hand and the odd joke at the expense of Kate O'Mara's
cleavage ("You've put on weight in a couple of places"), rather than
pure camp or Gothic chiller, this is an elegant comedy of murders with
much dry wit. If anything, the influence here is more Kind Hearts and
Coronets as the presence of Dennis Price as a grave robber who leaves
all the digging to his devoted wife attests. Ralph Bates' young
Frankenstein is a sociopath with good table manners but no great
purpose: creating life from various assorted body parts isn't a quest
to free man from the shadow of mortality, it's just something he wants
to do, and if that means killing a tortoise, his father or his best
friend then he'll do it without his heart skipping a beat. As the
sleeve notes to Anchor Bay's Region 1 DVD note, it's easy to see him as
a forerunner of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman.
Although he was uncomfortable in the role, Jimmy Sangster's direction is above average for the studio at this period (their once-top director Terence Fisher's drinking having led by this time to a significant drop in the quality of his work), and the film looks better than a lot of the later Hammers. Despite the traditional 19th Century setting, it's very much of its time, even offering digs at the British welfare state (which makes finding bodies so much harder these days, what with people living longer) and the permissive generation (Victor sees no reason to get married when he can have sex with the hired help whenever he wants and merely sees Veronica Carlson's smitten heroine as a potential housekeeper). It's also quite anarchic in its own way, breaking with the expectations of the Hammer formula. The forces of good are completely powerless, retribution is not handed out and evil goes unpunished at the movie's back-to-the-drawing-board end. Well, more or less Useless trivia note: the Australian-sounding highwayman who appears early in the film played the ape attacked by a leopard in 2001: A Space Odyssey!
Hammer is good at sets, props, costumes, and casting overall. However,
the writing for this one is on the weak side, as was the casting of
Prowse as Frankenstein's monster and the makeup for the monster.
Frankenstein is played as a smart-alecky sociopath, which I didn't so much have a problem with. The people are him are rather stupid, which works out well for him but I found it a bit boring and perhaps it should have been played a little more for comedy than it already was. Prowse's monster is one of the least interesting monsters in any Frankenstein movie. He's a killer from the start, and then Frankenstein's attack dog essentially. He's also not merely large, but exceptionally fit, which just doesn't seem right.
Kate O'Mara shows off as much cleavage as is possible without showing more, suggesting Frankenstein perhaps invented tape. It didn't strike me as a particularly bloody film, so some of the other comments make me wonder if I didn't happen upon an edited version. I watched the Republic Pictures videotape released 1994.
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