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"The Evil Of Frankenstein" (1964)


LiamCasey

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Tonight on METv's Svengoolie is 1964's The Evil of Frankenstein:

 


 

Hammer made two important decisions with respect to their series of Frankenstein movies.

 

The first of these decisions was to make the creator rather than the creation the focus of their series.

 

Although I enjoy Universal's series of Frankenstein movies, Frankenstein's monster is pretty much just a misused tool of others once one gets past The Bride of Frankenstein. So the monster's value as a recurring character was practically nil as the monster could have been replaced by any generic nameless brute with nary an impact upon the resultant movie. Is it any wonder that Boris Karloff saw the writing on the wall and stopped portraying the monster after Son of Frankenstein?

 

By focusing on Baron Frankenstein instead, Hammer provided a true recurring character where each appearance (more or less since Hammer had as much respect for continuity as Universal did) was enhanced by that character's previous appearances.

 

The second of these decisions was to cast Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein in all but one of their Frankenstein movies (No disrespect to Ralph Bates, but what the heck was Hammer thinking of when they made The Horror of Frankenstein?!?). And Mr. Cushing is the primary reason that I expect to be watching The Evil of Frankenstein again tonight.

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I am starting to "get" why Hammer is so beloved....

 

I LOL when the camera zoomed in on the Burgermeister's hand on that blonde's shoulder in the pub. All I saw was luscious bewbies ...... then Dr Frankenstein exclaims, "My RING! That guy stole my RING!"

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The tendency of Hammer horror movies to focus on certain aspects of female anatomy is not why I watch those movies. But I will admit that I do find that a lovely bonus.

 

:)

 

Despite my crack about continuity in my original post, I had forgotten until I rewatched The Evil of Frankenstein last night that it completely fails as a sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein and The Revenge of Frankenstein. In many ways, The Evil of Frankenstein needs to be treated as a reboot of Hammer's series of Frankenstein movies (although I doubt if anyone used that specific term back in the 60s).

 

And what does this reboot give us? A Universal horror movie. A kinder, gentler Baron Frankenstein who is driven, but not necessarily evil. A monster with reminiscent features who has been found on ice and has to be revived. A secondary character using the monster to carry out his illicit desires. Another secondary character with a physical handicap. An ending that climaxes in the destruction of the Baron's lab (along with both the creator and the creation). And a number of incongruities that exist only to drive the plot ("Hey, doc! You've just snuck into town and want to be ignored? So what the heck are you doing by throwing a fit over a bloody ring!" I'm sorry, but am I supposed to accept that Baron Frankenstein is this stupid?).

 

But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this movie does, again, give us Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. I especially enjoy Mr. Cushing in these earlier Hammer horror movies because it is a joy to watch him portray a character who is more physical. More athletic. And he gets the most out of his dialogue (a trait that appears to be more common with British actors than with American actors). For example, I love how he paused in his escape to say "Goodnight" to the lady in bed (Yes, I am back to thinking about those bonuses!) just before he rappelled out the window using bedsheets. In many ways, Peter Cushing is the horror genre's answer to David Niven.

 

So, all in all, although The Evil of Frankenstein is one of the lesser entries in Hammer's series of Frankenstein movies, even a bad Hammer horror movie is better than many other horror movies made by other companies.

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If "sex sells" was ever in doubt, someone merely has to look at the '60s and '70s proliferation of Hammer Films in drive-in movies.

 

EVIL OF is a favorite of mine probably because it, for the most part, introduces a new level of activity to the old tale.  The carnival, new bad guys, everything is 'fresh' to the story.  Even the make-up is far different than anything before. 

 

I don't know how successful this film was.  I remember it was late in the VHS Release Cycle, and not an earlyl DVD release either.  But both made it.

 

Christopher Lee's CURSE OF ('57) make-up was vastly different, too, and yet it was never repeated but obvioulsy employment alone wasn't his issue.  Maybe Hammer was proving FRANK, DRAC and MUMMY films were following some Corman-esque poster-mania - "find a title, get pretty babes on the poster, cleavage in the film and you'll make money!"

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