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Last of the Hammer Frankenstein films, this one deals with the Baron hiding out in an insane asylum, so that he may continue his experiments with reanimating the dead, along with inmate Dr. Helder, who has been institutionalized for conducting such experiments. Written by
A fitting swansong for the Hammer Frankenstein series and Terence Fisher
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell for me is one of the weaker films from the Hammer Frankenstein series- Horror's the weakest with Evil second weakest- but that is not meant to be disparaging, just that I preferred Curse, Revenge, Destroyed and Created Woman.
Unlike the previous films the low-budget unfortunately does show in the production values especially with the Monster and the brains. The costumes are very stylish and while the sets are claustrophobic considering the setting that was actually appropriate and there is still the Gothic touch. However the photography is not quite as tight this time round(it is brilliant though in the scene where the Monster digs up the graves through a lightning storm, which is one of Hammer's most Gothic scenes) and the Monster make-up/costume despite being intentionally hideous and somewhat the most monster-like also looks a little ridiculous. Cushing also inexplicably wears a wig that doesn't suit him, and even he thought so.
However Fisher's direction is as taut as ever, never diluting the atmosphere there is and the music score is appropriately eerie. The script has the odd bit of wit and is very literate, the odd tired spot on just a few occasions but that is all. The story returns to the Gothic roots of Hammer's 50s output, in a nostalgic and affectionate way without being outdated at all. It is compellingly told and while the goriest of the seven Frankenstein films it's not in a gratuitous or over-utilised way; it's also not just suspenseful and at times creepy but it is movingly melancholic too especially with the open ending. It also does a better job showing and exploring the relationship between a mute girl and the monster than in Evil of Frankenstein, there is a rape scene but off-screen and unlike that in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed it was handled with taste and served more of a point in the storytelling and interplay between Frankenstein and Helder is a delight.
The performances are uniformly great. Shane Briant gives a restrained performance while always engaging and Madeline Smith is really touching communicating with just her face, body language and eyes. John Stratton is wonderfully slimy and David Prowse acquits himself far better than he did in Horror of Frankenstein, here he is very formidable but I did find myself taking pity on the monster as well(none of which were apparent in his performance in Horror). The acting honours do go to Peter Cushing whose performance brims with authority and he's also quite moving, both from his appearance and that it was the last time he played the Doctor/Baron. Look out also for Bernard Lee and Patrick Troughton. All in all, a solid Hammer Frankenstein film and a very fitting end to the series and for Terence Fisher. From the title, you'd think it'd be cheesy and amateurish but it's anything but. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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