Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Peter Cushing is Victor Frankenstein in the average third entry to Hammer's Frankenstein series. From Universal R1 Hammer boxset.

The Film

Hammer were in a slump in the early 1960s, their big budget Curse of the Werewolf (1961) and Phantom of the Opera (1962) has lost money, and many of their key staff had left the studio. After shooting a few low budget thrillers they wanted to return to their original, and most popular format - the gothic monster horror. For this third film in the Frankenstein series, Hammer made a co-production deal with Universal Films - creators of the original 1931-45 Frankenstein series. This meant that the pains taken to avoid copyright violations in the first two films were no longer necessary, and this is evident in both the design of the creature and the storyline.

Without reference to Curse (1957) or Revenge (1958), Evil of Frankenstein opens with the Baron (Peter Cushing) up to his usual tricks, having bodies stolen to provide him with organs for his creations. However, while in the middle of restoring life to a human heart, he is stopped by a priest, and along with his assistant Hans (Sandor Eles) he is forced to flee once again. On the road, the penniless Baron decides to return to his hometown of Karlstaad in the hope that the property remaining in his abandoned house will be sufficient to fund further experiments, but finds the house looted and overgrown. Bemoaning the stupidity and interference of others, Frankenstein gives us a 10 minute recap of how he came to find himself in this situation - working alone in his basement he created a creature and gave it life, but it escaped and was shot by villagers, seemingly plunging to its death. Arrested and charged with crimes against God, he was banned from the town. Back in the present, the Baron and Hans travel into the town and find a carnival, but the Baron is disguisted to see the town Mayor wearing his crest ring, and breaks into his house - the police arrive but Frankenstein flees and along with Hans, heads up into the mountains. A storm breaks and they look for cover in a cave where Victor discovers his original creation is encased in ice. Thawing him out, Victor and Hans take the creature back to the house where they bring him back to life - but his brain is still damaged from the gunshot wounds and they can't restore him. Victor's only option is to call in Zoltan, a hypnotist from the carnival who brings the creature's mind back, but retains complete control over it. Victor's only hope is to work with the man, but Zoltan has designs for revenge on the town leaders who kicked him out...

The film has no direct links to the previous two in the series, writer Anthony Hinds starting the storyline anew, and although this seems strange, it was a whole five years since the previous film and audience memories were shot without TV or video releases to refresh them. The storyline is pretty standard for a Frankenstein film and seems to be partly based on Universal's Son of Frankenstein (1939). Pacing is pretty average and the film doesn't drag, the climax is big, and a wonderful reference to the old Universal films. However, the plot is full of holes and flaws: While Frankenstein's assistants in the first two films had strong motivation to help the Baron, Hans merely seems to be the generic assistant, there for the good of the storyline. Zoltan's revenge on the town leaders seems very over-the-top since their crime seemed to be nothing more than asking him to leave town, Ygor's revenge in Son of Frankenstein on which it is based, is on men who sentenced him to death. Finally, Victor losing his temper when he sees the burgomaster wearing his ring seems to be completely out of character.

This was the only Frankenstein series film not directed by Hammer mainstay Terence Fisher - instead, Freddy Francis was brought in for the role. His camerawork is not as good as that of Fisher, preferring short cuts instead of long held shots - but he does bring some interesting camera angles into play, and there is a very good sequence in the flash-back creation scene where the creature's electrical cage is raised upright, all viewed from a camera placed on top of the cage. As with the earlier films, the frame is always filled with fantastic looking sets, from the highly elaborate laboratory to the abandoned house and the village. Music is by occasional Hammer composer Don Banks - his score more like that of the Universal films than the earlier Hammer pictures.

The film's main problem comes with the design of the monster. Finally allowed to produce a creature similar to the famous Boris Karloff design of the Universal series, the monster is block headed and shuffles along in inexplicably massive boots. However most of the time it resembles a cheap paper-mache version of the classic design, and wrestler Kiwi Kingston behind the mask is completely unable to perform any facial movements. The use of a non-actor means that gone are the wonderful 'awaking into a new body' performances that gave a backing to Curse and Revenge.

Hungarian actor Sandor Eles gives a relatively uninspired performance as Hans, and young actress Katy Wild is unable to perform much as the mute/deaf girl. Only Peter Woodthorpe as the drunk, crazed Zoltan threatens to steal scene from Peter Cushing, but he is not in the film for long enough to have much of a chance. As it is, Cushing's performance as Victor is forced to carry the film, and although there are a few standout scenes, the script limits him severely and it stands as one of his less impressive performances.

The film has been much maligned before, and it does suffer from a bad looking monster, and relatively average performances from most of the cast - however the plot is acceptable and the production values are very good, making the film more than watchable, although one of the weakest in the series.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Peter Cushing - Hammer's biggest name, star of many cult-horror films of the 1960s and 1970s
Directed by anyone interesting? Freddie Francis - Occasional Hammer and Amicus horror director who went on to be cinematographer for a variety of big Hollywood films, including Dune (1984) and Glory (1989), for which he won an Oscar.
Is it scary?Not really.
Any violence? Minimal.
Any sex? No
Who is it for?
Fans of the series should check this out, but not recommended.
Good soundtrack? Don Banks gives a decent Universal Frankenstein style score.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The picture quality is good, some very light grain throughout and some speckling in many scenes.
Audio Original English mono - Dolby Digital - sounds great, no hiss.
Spanish dub track included.
Subtitles English, Spanish, French
Run TimeMain Feature: 1hr 26m 36s
Extras None.
AvailabilityOnly available as part of the Hammer Horror Series boxset.
Region Region 1 - NTSC
Other regions? None known.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language.
An alternate verison of the film was shown on TV in the US with some addition scenes shot, but these are not shown here.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd January 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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