Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review - "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" (1969)

"Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" begins with Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) fleeing town after committing a particularly gruesome murder. Adopting a new name, Frankenstein takes to staying at a boarding house run by Anna Spengler (Veronica Carlson). With the help of Veronica's fiance, Karl (Simon Ward), who works the local asylum, Frankenstein abducts one of the patients, Dr. Brandt, who knows the secrets of successful brain transplant.

Brandt suffers a massive heart attack, and so Frankenstein kills Professor Richter (Freddie Jones), head physician at the asylum, and uses his body as a new home for Brandt's brain. However, in usual fashion, once his creature is brought to life, it turns on Frankenstein.

To many critics, "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" is considered Hammer Studio's finest hour. I don't know if I'd give it that honour, it was nevertheless a very enjoyable film, mostly due to Peter Cushing's wonderful performance. To most, Peter Cushing is often remembered as the good guy of horror films - mostly due to his heroic roles in "Horror of Dracula," "The Mummy" and of course his many turns as Sherlock Holmes. However, Cushing's portrayal of Baron Frankenstein is a wonderfully evil one. Just as Christopher Lee embodied evil in the form of the demonic Count Dracula, Cushing's Frankenstein is evil at its most snobbish. Cushing creates a character who is wonderfully haughty, pompous and manipulative. In a satisfying bit of writing, the Baron's vanity soon leads to his downfall, as his plans begin to crumble as soon as he goes out to buy himself a buttonhole.

Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward also turn in good performances as victims of the Baron's cruelty. By the end of the film, you truly sympathize for these characters despite the fact that they have committed a number of crimes, because it's all under the Baron's control. Thorley Walters also turns up as a representative of the police, and he manages to show off a comedic side. Walters is well-known in Sherlockian circles for having appeared as Dr. Watson three times (opposite Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer and Christopher Plummer) and he also had a part in 1983's "The Sign of Four."

"Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" was directed by Terence Fisher, a veteran of many Hammer horror films. The direction of the film is great, especially when it makes the most of its show-stopping sequences. The opening murder scene is done very well, and there's a splendid scene of Hitchcock-like suspense as the police search Anna's boarding house, unbeknownst that the Baron is conducting his experiments in the basement below. The climax of the film is truly show-stopping and it shows that Hammer knew how to end a film on a dramatic high-note.

This film is also included in TCM's Greatest Classic Films Collection of Hammer horror films. It is included on a double-sided DVD with Hammer's first Frankenstein film, "Curse of Frankenstein" which featured Peter Cushing in the role of the Baron and Christopher Lee as his creation. In my humble opinion, this collection is great for anyone who wants to try out the Hammer horror films, as it wonderfully supplies a good sample of what the studio excelled in during the 1950's and 1960's. Hopefully in future, I can acquire some more of Hammer's horror classics and review them on this blog.

"Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" may not Hammer's finest film, but it is an excellent one. Peter Cushing is an excellent actor, and he makes for a wonderfully villainous Baron Frankenstein. I award the film a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars.

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