The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
DIRECTOR: Freddie Francis
WRITER: John Elder (Anthony Hinds)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Wilcox
MUSIC: Don Banks
CAST: Peter Cushing, Sandor Eles, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Katy Wild, David Hutcheson, Kiwi Kingston.
SYNOPSIS: Isolated and misunderstood, Baron Frankenstein is forced to flee by an irate priest warning him not to dabble in blasphemy. With trusty assistant Hans, he returns to the chateau he was made to leave several years ago, only to find it ransacked and looted. In disguise, for fear of being recognized by the villagers, Frankenstein ventures down to the village, where he discovers the Burgomaster is wearing a ring stolen from the chateau. In a fit of temper, Frankenstein reveals his identity, and finds himself being pursued by police.
Again forced to flee, the Baron and his companion head for the mountains, where they are looked after by a mute beggar girl. In her cave, Frankenstein is amazed to discover the frozen body of his creature, shot dead by villagers years earlier. He and Hans, with the mute girl in tow, take the body back to the chateau, and set about bringing it back to life.
However, having been resuscitated, the monster appears to have suffered brain damage, and will not respond to the Baron's commands. He calls upon a hypnotist from the village carnival to restore the creature's mental faculties. But the greedy mesmerist has plans of his own, and begins to manipulate the creature for his own ends.
COMMENTS: Having made two brilliantly original and successful Frankenstein films in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), Hammer here made an abortive attempt to cash in on the earlier Universal series which began in 1931 with Boris Karloff's inimitable portrayal of the Monster. Universal were Evil of Frankenstein's distributors, and therefore Hammer had free reign to copy as many elements as they liked from Universal's series. And copy they did.
The main character of Baron Frankenstein loses all the ambiguity of the earlier character, becoming more akin to Colin Clive's basically good, but misunderstood scientist. (One wonders why the title was Evil of Frankenstein, when the film clearly portrays Frankenstein so sympathetically?) Don Mingaye's sets are imitations of the Universal originals, designed by Kenneth Strickfadden. The most distinctive element borrowed from the Universal movies is the creature's look, designed by Roy Ashton, by now Hammer's regular make-up artist. The result is embarrassingly crude, however, and New Zealand wrestler Kiwi Kingston's lumbering performance does nothing to help it.
The plot is also heavily influenced by Universal, with the Baron's discovery of the creature entombed in an ice glacier borrowed directly from the 1943 film Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Surprisingly, the discovery (pictured below) is one of the film's most beautiful scenes, thanks to the combination of John Wilcox's lighting and Don Banks's ethereal music.
Other plot contrivances, such as the carnival, the hypnotist and even the angry villagers complete with pitchforks, are taken straight out of Universal. In a Hammer film they simply look silly.
There are some stylistic flourishes that lift the film. Director Freddie Francis, first and foremost a cinematographer, could always be trusted to deliver something visually compelling on some level - if lacking the depth and sophistication of a John Gilling or Terence Fisher film.
Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) and Hans (Sandor Eles):
Peter Cushing on Don Mingaye's Universal-influenced laboratory sets:
The creature (Kiwi Kingston) and his creator (Peter Cushing):
Kiwi Kingston's monster with carnival hypnotist Peter Woodthorpe:
Mute beggar Katy Wild: