As we start to wind down the marathon, I decided to call another audible on my list. I had been on a kick with Hammer’s films, so why hit that particular well again? Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell was Peter Cushing’s last go-round as Victor Frankenstein, and Terence Fisher’s last film. A certain kind of fan might enjoy the paring of Darth Vader (David Prowse plays the creature this time) and Grand Moff Tarkin a few years before Star Wars, but for me this was a fun last hurrah to show that some mad scientists will just never learn.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Simon Helder is a brilliant young surgeon, caught during a grave robbing incident continuing the experiments of infamous Baron Von Frankenstein. He’s committed to an insane asylum, the same one the Baron was committed to years earlier. There he finds the doctor carrying on, having made a deal with the director to fake his death and take over the ministrations to the asylums patients. The pair, along with the beautiful mute Sarah continue their attempts to create new life from the parts of the dead, and when they do, it turns out the monster isn’t quite as happy about the success as the scientists are. Secrets are revealed, much glass is shattered, even more blood is splattered, and Peter Cushing once again proves why he’s the absolute best. His brain came from a genius! His body from a killer! And his soul? FROM HELL!
Cushing was getting on in years, but his performance is still incredible, meticulous and physical – there’s a moment where he nimbly jumps onto a table and then on to the massive monster, wrestling him to the ground and knocking him out with chemical fumes. It’s clearly him, and that physicality matched with his smaller, precise movements in the quieter moments shows not only his commitment to the role, but how seriously the man took his craft. For his swan song in the role, it’s a blast.
The story works in his favor as well. We spend a good portion of the film seeing a Victor Frankenstein seemingly with a new conscious. As the film progresses, that consciousness goes away the more obsessed he becomes with the potential for success. Fisher is always reliable as a director, and even though the budget for this latest Frankenstein entry is lower than previous efforts, he makes the most of things with some great sequences, such as early on when Simon is hiding from the police in his apartment, or the more intense (and graphic) scenes of violence.
By the time I got to the end of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell I was surprised at how effective the film turned out to be in showing us just how insane the Baron is. Of all the inmates in the asylum, perhaps he’s the one who belongs there the most…