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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hammering out the Horror, 24 Jun 2002
This review is from: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed [VHS] [1969] (VHS Tape)
Peter Cushing's four previous interpretations of the role of the Baron cannot for one moment prepare you for this sadistic portrayal.
The vileness of character that was only touched on in Curse of... (and then later played down to more gentlemanly effect in Revenge of..., Evil of..., and ...Created woman) is here explored to the full.
Infact, the underlying menace of the film is that Frankenstein himself is the true monster of the piece.
Baron Frankenstein has been collaborating with Doctor Frederick Brandt, an eminent brain specialist, on the subject of brain transplantation. Transplanting the brain of a near dead person into a corpse, and maintaining that anyone undergoing such surgery will survive.
To add to this seemingly insane notion, Brandt has also perfected the technique of preserving a brain indefinately until a suitable body can be found.
However, before they can correspond on the final experiment, Brandt becomes insane; driven mad by the pressure of the work, and unable to bring Frankenstein in on the secret.
Before long, Frankenstein is blackmailing young Doctor Holst, who works at the asylum where Brandt is confined, and is forced to help him spring the near comatose lunatic from his cell.
Unfortunately, Brandt suffers a massive heart attack, and it is a race against time to find another host for his brain.
Professor Richter, the mental specialist who has been overseeing Brandt's case, is murdered for the purpose, and after a successful transplantation, Frankenstein cures the insanity...
So begins a chain of events incorporating murder and misdeed in the best Hammer tradition.
Alright, so the plot might be 1950's American black and white grade Z movie exploitation fodder, but this is British cinema we're talking about, and this particular Hammer offering is anything but as cheap as the plot may suggest.
This was their last great film of the 60's, and with each repeated viewing offers something extra for the gothic horror devotee. It certainly is the pick of the crop so far as cinematic story telling is concerned.
The film is dramatically an improvement on the previous sequals to The Curse of... (new screen writer Bert Batt's screenplay is brilliantly complimented by the ever reliable James Bernard's pounding score) and the fiery climax is a sure fire nerve tingler.
From the rivetting opening murder sequence in which haunting zither music is played in the background, leading to Frankenstein's fight with a burglar, we are catapulted into a film stuffed with cliffhanging sequences and rivetting set pieces.
The palm soaking tension of the robbery scene, where Frankenstein and his unwilling accomplice are cornered in a store room by an unknowing guard; the tense abduction scene amid the screams of the insane; the suspense of the burst water pipe sequence, with Brandt's body being unearthed with each spurt of water; and the terrible frenzied attack by Frankenstein on Anna (Veronica Carlson), Dr. Holst's defenceless fiance.
If you think you know Peter Cushing... think again. You've never seen him act like this before; though at the time he was dead against the scene, and kept reassuring Carlson, "Just remember, this isn't me." The gentleman as always, though this role definately drew on his large reserves of acid courtliness.
What ranks this as one of Hammer's high points, is the interest that is maintained in the central character. Deeply explored in all the films, Cushing and his writers imbue the Baron with that little extra something they couldn't find for their own Dracula.
All credit to Christopher Lee, his dissatisfaction with the role he made his own never showed through. But when your screen time is demoting you to glorified "extra" status, then there's very little you can do to save a film.
Cushing's material, however, was always top notch, and here you can savour him in a role he kept consistently interesting. Though he appeared in what was to be Hammer's final instalment in ...and the Monster from Hell, for the time being you will certainly be clutching at your armchair screaming, Frankenstein MUST BE DESTROYED !!!
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