Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


More fun with Baron Frankenstein.
Having survived the conflagration at the climax of FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), Baron Frankenstein blackmails his way into being the secret power within a mental institution, lording it over the alcoholic and lecherous head administrator and being allowed to treat the patients. Into this scenario is thrust young surgeon Dr. Simon Hedler (Shane Briant), a talented practitioner who seeks to follow in Frankenstein's footsteps by crafting a man from choice components and animating it. Hedler's pilfering of corpses and body parts is discovered and he is sentenced to a minimum of five years in a mental asylum, despite clearly not being insane. Fate lands him at Frankenstein's looney bin and in no time they develop a master/acolyte partnership, aided by the beautiful and mute Sarah (Madeleine Smith, late of1970's  THE VAMPIRE LOVERS), aka "the Angel," and Helder reveals an obsession with the secret of life that rivals his mentor's. 
The Baron, the Angel, and padawan.
From there it's pretty much what we have come to expect from a Hammer Frankenstein outing, as the Baron slowly lets Helder into his close circle of trust, revealing that he is once more attempting to create life from the dead, only this time garnering his choice parts from the remains of two inmates who expire under, er..."mysterious" circumstances, and using the hairy, hulking body of a homicidal "neolithic" throwback as the main chassis. Resembling a foul-tempered Sasquatch more than a human being, the creature (played by a pre-Darth Vader Dave Prowse) was once a man possessed of inhuman strength and a fascination with glass, which he enjoyed breaking and using to stab his victims in the face. The body, odd though it is, will do, but Frankenstein seeks the hands of an artist (that he lops off of the murdered body of an insane sculptor) and the brain of a genius (a professor of music and advanced mathematics, whose suicide by hanging via his own violin strings was prompted by the Baron making him aware that he would never be released, despite him only being locked up for something minor and curable), and once the Baron obtains them, the shenanigans begin...
Shopping for parts.
By the time FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL was released, it was pretty obvious that the writing was on the wall for Hammer, as their once-shocking brand was more or less rendered passe by the new permissiveness of onscreen sex and violence — which they had helped to usher in over the previous 17 years — and the flavors of horror shifting away from "adult fairytale Gothic" to outright festivals of carnage like BLOOD FEAST, 2000 MANIACS, and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. To be honest, and I say this as a Hammer devotee, their best years had been behind them for a while and they had begun to run out of ideas as the 1970's dawned. But at least this final outing for the wicked Baron was a case of the Frankenstein series going out with a bang. There's no sex or nudity in this one, but the story is solid and the lashings of gore are quite vivid and satisfying. 
Back in 1974, this sort of thing got you an "R" rating.
The Baron is as evil and coldly aristocratic as ever, and it's a delight to see him reduce the hospital's sadistic and corrupt staff to fearful lumps of jelly when he takes them to task for their abuse of the patients. (Including serial torture and rape.) The Baron may be a bastard, but even he will not abide wanton cruelty inflicted upon the clearly helpless and mentally-unwell.

"Pikachu...I choose you!"

The monster is one of the most unique designs for the classic shambling abomination, and Dave Prowse acquits himself nicely with a role dependent more upon his gym-earned physical presence than the sparse amount of lines the creature is given. He's definitely version of the famous creature that no one would ever want to tangle with, what with his super-strength and a mind that is subsumed by the body's natural propensity for mutilating people with glass...

The creature.

When it's all over, the Baron and his accomplices live to cause mayhem and blasphemous crimes against nature another day, with them set in place in their asylum base of operations should the series have continued, but such was not to be. 

As a final entry in a series that had run on and off for 17 years, FRANKENSTEIN AND MONSTER FROM HELL is a lot of fun, though certainly not up to the standards of some of the installments that preceded it. Nonetheless, it's a good entry-level shocker for the older monster kids. (If released today, this would earn a PG-13.)

Poster from the American theatrical release.

No comments: