“Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell” is one of the last Hammer Studios movies and one of the worst movie titles. The international version is 99 minutes
instead of the 93 minute version like this one. Apparently, those six minutes knock the gore level up a few notches, as the international version has Peter Cushing holding
a vein in his mouth. This is the seventh Hammer Frankenstein movie and the fifth one that Terence Fisher directed. Fisher is almost synonymous with Hammer movies, as he had directed the original Hammer versions of the Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein. The Hammer Frankenstein movies may not go out on a high-note, but they certainly don’t go
out on a feeble note either.
The idea that Frankenstein has faked his death and is now using an insane asylum for a lab hasn’t been done in other movies. It does offer some protection
though from those local villagers that would normally storm the local patrician’s castle. As much as people have an inherent distrust of hospitals, funeral homes, etc…, wouldn’t
an asylum be on the top list of places people don’t want to go? Granted, asylums are nowhere as bad as they were in the 1950’s let alone the 1850’s. The attendants
seem worse than any of the patients in this movie, but could you imagine an escaped patient trying to tell the local townsfolk that the asylum’s doctor is Frankenstein and that he’s sewing corpses together to create a new being? Frankenstein would have automatic deniability. There’s a sort of inherent distrust of nobility, whereas even things that are completely outlandish don’t seem to be totally out of the realm of possibility where nobility is concerned. Think of celebrities as new nobility. Isn’t Michael Jackson considered pretty strange? If there was a rumor of him
trying to do something like Frankenstein, wouldn’t it sound outlandish enough to be plausible?
Shane Briant comes across a lot more believable as Frankenstein’s apprentice than he did as a master swordsman in “Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.” Hammer actually was planning on developing Briant as a new horror leading man, but the studio went out of business before they could really do so. It’s too bad they weren’t able to pull it off, but even if they did, Shane Briant didn’t have the sinister charm of either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee.
David Prowse (the man no one knows until you say Darth Vader) despite a hulking monster suit and layers of makeup, manages to seem tortured and pathetic. Actually, he spent years as a body builder before getting into Hammer films. It is kind of funny to think that in almost every movie he ever appeared in you never really see what he looks like. Originally, I thought he was just a tall man, not unlike Angus Scrimm.
Peter Cushing had just lost his wife about the time of this movie, and that definitely had to affect his performance. It does take a little while before we get to
Peter Cushing though. At first, he seems motivated to care for the inmates. He starts off being caring and compassionate to them until he needs them for
spare parts. As Frankenstein has found the perfect hiding place to complete his experiments, he continues to desperately believe that his ideas are sound and that everything he has done has been justified. Cushing has an air of authority about him. Everyone automatically senses that he is going to order everyone around and that they had better get used to it. He has a severe case of “abrupt Englishness” about him. “Abrupt Englishness” isn’t an insult, it’s simply a term to describe Cushing’s air of authority and how he automatically knows what is best for everyone.
There are a lot of sites that tell of the Fall of Hammer Studios. This is a movie I’d rather not get into the back story of because Hammer was almost bankrupt at this point. It was the last gasp of Hammer, which revolutionized horror movies from the late 50’s on. When Hammer started their Dracula and Frankenstein movies, these definitive legends of horror had been relegated to playing second banana to Abbot and Costello. At last they were given new unlife so to speak with Christopher Lee bringing new depths to these monstrous characters.
If you talk about how certain countries brought horror into a new direction. Italy may be best known for an incredible love of zombie and cannibal movies, and
they certainly brought more gore into the fold. Japan is known for pushing the envelope today with movies that in no way could have been made here in the US. So what about
England? Hammer studios brought seriousness to horror movies that had become juvenile in films like “I Was a Teenage Frankenstein” and “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” The
viewing public for lack of a better term ate it up, which allowed Hammer to make even more movies featuring the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. Think about some of the actors like
Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Donald Pleasance that appeared in so many of these films. Vampire Lestat whether it is Tom Cruise or Stuart Townsend, all
pale before Christopher Lee. Can you picture the wise vampire hunter expert without thinking of Peter Cushing? More than that, this was the man who showed
us a real mad scientist. It is hard to think of any American mad scientist in the same league with Peter Cushing.