Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969)

Peter Cushing is Victor Frankenstein in the fantastic fifth entry to Hammer's Frankenstein series. UK R2 Warner Brothers DVD.

The Film

A doctor is brutally beheaded in a Middle-European town square, it can mean only one thing, the Baron is back!

A petty criminal discovers the Baron's lab hidden away in a basement. After a brutal fight with a masked man, later revealed to be Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) himself, the thief flees and is caught by the police. Sensing danger, the Baron dumps his preserved bodies and escapes, but the police are on his tail. He takes up residence in another town, in a boarding house run by Anna Spengler (Veronica Carlson) whom he quickly blackmails and clearing out the boarding house, sets up a new lab in the basement. The town is the location of a lunatic asylum - home to Dr. Brandt, a brilliant scientist who has been driven insane by his work. Frankenstein aims to get hold of Dr. Brandt and restore his brain, as the doctor was a contempory of the Baron, and had perfected a brain transfer technique that Frankenstein was unable to achieve. Kidnapping Brandt from the asylum, he becomes highly ill and is on the verge of death, so Frankenstein decides to transfer Brandt's brain into the body of Professor Richter, another doctor from the asylum, but when Brandt's wife arrives, things become more complex, and the Baron is forced to flee, with his creation...

Frankenstein Must be Destroyed is probably the best film in the series. Firstly it boasts a very strong script, which seemingly follows on from Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), in that the Baron's hands are no longer burnt and useless (Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)), and his name is infamous across the country, so he is forced to use an alias. Frankenstein has become, by this point, a man of pure evil - the impeccably polite way in which he treats those he meets, combines with a callous disregard for anything close to emotion, particularly in his interactions with Anna, on whom he looks down continually. Fortunately, the script avoids any semblance of comic book evil, it instead shows the Baron as cold-hearted and relentless because he is driven. The creature he eventually creates is certainly the most tragic of them all, an unfortunate man inside the body of another - eventually when he tracks down his wife only to find her totally unreceptive and afraid is the closest the series comes to a tear-jerker moment. The characters of Anna and Karl are similarly tragic, from nowhere their lives are taken over by Frankenstein and irrevocably altered and we do feel pity for them.

The script contains a fair number of twists and turns, as well as some very tense moments, it also boasts good pacing throughout and a perfect, dramatic climax - the best of the series. However, it is not without flaws. At the insistence of the producers who stated that the film lacked enough sex, an awkward sexual assault/rape scene was added, as the Baron attacks Anna in her bedroom. The subtlety of the earlier scenes is lost in a flash, however the scene is not alluded too afterwards and can be disregarded, although its presence does dampen the tone. The other problem comes from the lack of conclusion to the police story - throughout the film we see the chief of police (Thorley Walters) investigating the Baron but always being one step behind. However as the film builds to its climax, this subplot is forgotten.

Hammer had left Bray studios, home of the past 13 years of film making, in 1966. Frankenstein Must be Destroyed was the first of the series to be filmed at Elstree studios, as was its sequel Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). The big difference this made for the viewers was a much more impressive array of sets. The interiors and exteriors all look fantastic, and Terence Fisher, directing again, is able to fill his frame with some glorious detail. Fisher's solid style is visible, with the long tracking shots often in evidence, as well as a number of close-up shots. James Bernard is back behind the soundtrack, and as well as a nice light-European opening score, his strong strings build up some impressive tension in later scenes, especially when the boarding house is being searched by police. The late 1960s were more liberal times, and this is shown in the impressive amount of blood on display, including the most graphic brain surgery yet seen in a Frankenstein film. Importantly, the special effects team pull this off well, and it never looks cheesy.

Peter Cushing gives a fantastic performance as the Baron, looking gaunt, and much older than in Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), he effortlessly shifts from charming Brandt's wife to assuage her concerns, to brutalizing the young couple he has completely under his command. Thorley Walters returns, again in a Dr. Watson like role, as the chief of police attempting to track down the Baron. Although bumbling, he is also very harsh and abrupt, determined to get to the answer without a lot of interference. He often comes across as a parallel to Frankenstein himself, fed up of other people getting in the way of his master plan, although without the muderous intent.

Frankenstein Must be Destroyed could well be the only case of a film that is the fourth sequel being the best of the sequels, and even topping the original film. With a strong and near perfect script, combined with highly impressive production values and acting, this is a highly recommended film, and even to those who are not fans of the Hammer Frankenstein series, it stands well enough on its own to justify a viewing.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Peter Cushing - Hammer's biggest name, from Victor Frankenstein to Abraham Van Helsing.
Directed by anyone interesting? Terence Fisher - One of Hammer's top directors.
Is it scary?Not really, although some good shocks and tension.
Any violence? Lots of blood and a few strong fist-fights.
Any sex? A brutal sexual assault is partly shown, but no bare flesh onscreen.
Who is it for?
A must see film for all Hammer fans, one of their best films.
Good soundtrack? James Bernard hightens the tension and captures the mood well.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The picture quality is decent, some light grain throughout.
Audio Original English mono - Dolby Digital - not very good, a lot of hiss as well as muffled sound in several scenes. Acceptable but imperfect
German and French dubs are also included.
Subtitles English, English HOH, German, German HOH, French, Dutch, Arabic, Hebew, Swedish, Greek, Hungarian.
Run TimeMain Feature: 1hr 36m 38s
Extras The disc features:
  • Original Theatrical trailer - 2m 30s
Region Region 2 - PAL
Other regions? R1 USA, R2 French and R4 Australian identical releases.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 29th January 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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