Frankenstein's Höllenmonster (1974)

a.k.a. Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell

Peter Cushing is Victor Frankenstein in the superb sixth and final entry to Hammer's Frankenstein series. German R2 E-M-S DVD.

The Film

By the 1970s, the writing was on the wall for Hammer studios, their traditional horror-fare was no longer popular with the audiences - the Americans was wanted realistic and modern while the Europeans wanted sexy and gory. While Hammer brought Dracula kicking and screaming into 20th century England with Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) they wisely kept the Frankenstein franchise in 19th century Middle-Europe.

We open on a dark night, a lonely man (Patrick Troughton) is robbing graves. Escaping from a police officer he takes the body to a doctor in a hidden laboratory, but this is not Frankenstein, rather, one of his followers, Doctor Simon Helder (Shane Briant). The policeman tracks down the bodysnatcher, who leads him to Helder. The doctor is duly tried and sentenced to five years in an insane asylum, where the late Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) had once been committed, but it is not long before we find the Baron is alive and well and up to his old tricks, working with impunity inside the asylum. Hiring Helder as his assistant, the Baron, calling himself Doctor Karl Victor, is once again attempting to assemble a creature (David Prowse) from the parts of his patients, trying to create a being with the body of a strongman, the brain of a genius and the hands of a craftsman. He succeeds, at first; but the creature is confused and soon becomes violent...

While the Dracula films were becoming stale and repetitive, with the inimitable count making mere cameo appearances, the Frankenstein films became better towards the end of their run, Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell topping even the previous entry, Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969) for its brutality, gore and oppressively dark atmosphere.

The script, from experienced Hammer writer Anthony Hinds (under his pen name of John Elder) is very clever and succeeds in avoiding repetition from previous entries. It does not directly follow on from any of the other films in the series, the Baron has burnt hands - although whether from the climactic fires in Evil of Frankenstein (1964) or Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969) we do not know, and the reference to the Baron's books and lectures is at odds with the previous films where Frankenstein either worked alone or was universally loathed and forced into hiding. After his sadistic streak in Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969), the Baron has softened slightly, at one point proudly declaring 'I am not a murderer', but he is still not past manipulating people, and using blackmail to get his own way. The film moves along at a good pace and the plot keeps you guessing. The climax is actually very tense and scary, certainly a first for Hammer's Frankenstein series and the film's conclusion wraps up the series nicely.

Directing his first film since Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969), and working on his final film, Terence Fisher gives a typically strong directorial turn to proceedings. A mix of lengthy tracking shots and even a few zooms generally works well, although his zoom in on Peter Cushing in his first scene is cut short far too quickly to a very jarring side shot. Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is unquestionably the darkest film in the series, the majority of the film playing out in the dark, dank interior of the asylum - the impressive set design and lighting captures this well, the climactic storm looks fantastic. In a last ditch attempt to retain viewers, Hammer upped the gore quota considerably, and the film includes brain and eyeball surgery and well as some stolen hands and a brutal hanging. Fortunately the special effects team managed to keep the gore on the realistic side, and indeed much of it is disturbingly realistic. Strangely, despite the prevalence of nudity in Hammer's vampire films, there is no skin on display in this picture. James Bernard gives another standout score, especially evocative is his repetition of a violin theme played by one of the inmates who would unwillingly donate his brain to the creation. The design of the creature has often been criticized, but although the heavy facial make-up gives David Prowse little chance to act facially, he still gets a chance to show off some good body acting - the move away from the pure humanoid creations in the previous two films, to a true monster design gives this film a new edge, and also allows for a plausibly scary climax.

Peter Cushing gives yet another stand-out performance as Victor Frankenstein. Looking very gaunt and tired, he still displays an impressive range including a dramatic fight with his creation. Again he manages to avoid pushing the Baron into the realms of comic book evil, and instead remains calm, chilling and calculated. Shane Briant gives a very good performance, at times playing like a younger version of the Baron himself, although with the handicap of a conscience. David Prowse doesn't get much chance to show off any facial acting, under a large layer of make-up, but he does a nice turn with some body acting, and his impressive frame brings credence to his violent nature. The rest of the cast, from the sadistic gaolers to the mute assistant girl known as Angel play their parts well.

Often overlooked in favour of Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969), and the impressive first entry, Curse of Frankenstein (1957); Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is actually a very good film with a great script, a wonderfully dark, atmospheric setting, boosted by a good performance by all concerned. A fitting end to the series and a recommended film that would stand quite well if watched alone.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Peter Cushing - Hammer's biggest name, from Victor Frankenstein to Abraham Van Helsing.
David Prowse - Famous for being the man inside Darth Vader (Star Wars (1977))
Directed by anyone interesting? Terence Fisher - One of Hammer's best directors in his final film.
Is it scary?The climax could be quite scary, and there are a couple of good jump shocks.
Any violence or gore? Lots of blood and surgety scenes and a few brutal fights.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
A recommended film for all Hammer fans, can stand alone quite well.
Good soundtrack? James Bernard hightens the tension and captures the mood very well.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.66:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The picture quality is good, some very light grain throughout.
Audio Original English mono - Dolby Digital - sounds fine. No hiss.
German stereo dub track is also included.
Subtitles German.
Run TimeMain Feature: 1hr 30m 48s (PAL)
Extras The disc features:
  • Original Theatrical trailer - 1.66:1 anamorphic, average PQ - 2m 30s
  • Photogallery, automatically scrolling series of lobby stills and production photos - 2m 47s, to soundtrack music.
  • World of Hammer: Peter Cushing - an collection of clips from Cushing's Hammer films, narrated by Oliver Reed, but lacking any insight or particular information about the films or the actor. English, optional German subs. 24m 52s
  • Interview with Fredrich Shoenfelder (dubber for Peter Cushing) - German, unsubtitled. 19m 01s
  • Interview with David Nathan (dubber for Shane Briant) - German, unsubtitled. 19m 03s
  • Easter Egg: Bizarre Holsten Pills advert with a young Griff Rhys Jones and footage of Peter Cushing from an unknown film. 0m 29s.
  • Booket: 6 pages of text, German language.
Region Region 2 - PAL
Other regions? R1 USA Paramount - includes exclusive audio commentary but cut version.
R2 DD Video UK, includes a scene missing from the R1 version, but still missing several shots from the German disc. The disc includes the Frankenstein World of Hammer episode, a detailed booklet and the US trailer. The print used, aside from the cut scenes, is identical to the German disc. (Available in the Peter Cushing Collection boxset).
Cuts? Approximately 40 frames (1.6 seconds) of a stabbing scene is missing, presumed lost. Print used is English language.
This is the fullest print of the film available, other DVDs use prints missing some of the most gory scenes. The additional scenes in this print, are of the same good quality, and do not stand-out visually or audibly.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 30th January 2006 - UK DVD comparison added September 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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