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
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
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
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,
Zoltan has designs for revenge on the town leaders who kicked him out...
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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?
Who is it for?
Fans of the series should check this out, but not recommended.
Don Banks gives a decent Universal Frankenstein style score.
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.
Original English mono - Dolby Digital - sounds great, no hiss. Spanish dub track included.