The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

A rather unoriginal but partly entertaining misfire from Hammer Films. Optimum UK DVD, from the Ultimate Hammer boxset.

The Film

In the late 1960s Hammer seemed to be on a roll, they had sucessfully brought back the gothic horror films, with the incredibly popular Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) and Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969), made with the big budgets of a co-production deal with American distributors Seven-Arts. However, after the big budget flop that was 'Space Western' Moon Zero Two (1969), the production deal ended and Hammer found themselves hard pushed even to meet the salaries of their famous leading men.As a result, the next Dracula film, Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) was to star the new leading man Ralph Bates as the 'new' Count Dracula - but the studio executives insisted on Christopher Lee's return. Foiled here, Hammer instead created Horror of Frankenstein - attempting to restart their popular franchise with Ralph Bates in the lead role. Created after the big budgets of the Seven-Arts co-productions, Horror of Frankenstein is a notably smaller production with small sets and casts:
After doing away with his father, a young Victor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates) travels to University in Vienna. After sucessfully impregnating the dean's daughter, and becoming tired of his teaching, he returns home to his castle and begins work on his own experiments. While ignoring the advances of local beauty Elizabeth (Veronica Carlson), he employs a grave robber (Dennis Price) to collect body parts, and eventually suceeds in creating a monster (David Prowse), but with a damaged brain, it soon goes on a murderous rampage...

Essentially a remake of Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Frankenstein simply does not work, although scripted by Jimmy Sangster, who sucessfully wrote many of Hammer's original gothic horrors. Sangster tried to add some comedy into the script, but this is very broad (missing the wonderful opportunities for self-parody that made Mel Brooks' Universal tribute Young Frankenstein (1974) so effective) and ultimately rather cheap and juvenile - only the character of the professional grave-robber who reads newspapers looking for recent deaths, and has his wife do the digging, can really raise a laugh. The script misses any opportunity to create a more interesting 'Son of Frankenstein' theme, and simply comes off as unoriginal and tired. The climax seems rather rushed and clearly shows up the low budget, something that Sangster had managed to sucessfully cover-up in many of the earlier films.

Jimmy Sangster also directs, and aside from a few well timed comic edits, does nothing particularly exciting. The soundtrack is similarly a standard orchestral score.
Hammer's new big name Ralph Bates takes the lead role here, and handles the dark, uncaring character well. Dennis Price gives the best performance in the piece, in the all too brief role as the grave robber. Dave Prowse has good presence as the monster but only gets a few scenes. The attractive Veronica Carlson is criminally underused.

While Hammer were pushing the boundries of blood-letting and nudity with their female vampire movies, Horror of Frankenstein seems bizarrely tame and a throw back to the early 1960s. While it is not boring (surely saved by Dennis Price's acting and character), Horror of Frankenstein is an unnecessary film with a lazy script, and a complete failure as far as 'restarting' the Frankenstein franchise goes. Not recommended.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Ralph Bates - a late Hammer actor with the lead role in Lust for a Vampire (1972).
Dennis Price - A former top British star who appeared in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).
Veronica Carlson - star of Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969) and Dracula has Risen from the Grave.
Directed by anyone interesting? Jimmy Sangster - a frequent Hammer writer who penned many of their early gothic horrors.
Is it scary?No.
Any violence? Some mild gore, very mild compared to many of the 1970s Hammer horrors.
Any sex? No
Who is it for?
Hammer Horror fans might be interested, but it is not a recommended film.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The print is decent quality, mild grain and damage.
Audio Original English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
ExtrasThe disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with Jimmy Sangster - interesting and full of facts. (From the ABUS disc).
  • Interview with star Veronica Carlson, full of interesting stories. 14 minutes. (From the ABUS disc)
  • Publicity photo/lobby card gallery. Presented as a video file, no music or scrolling.
AvailabilityAvailable in the Ultimate Hammer Collection, and on a single disc release.
Region Region 2 - PAL
Other regions? OOP Anchor Bay US release with some extra trailers.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 9th October 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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