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Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
18th Jan 07
The usual story. A brilliant gifted scientist yearns to make a man out of body parts - as you do - and bugger anyone that tries to stop him!
In attempting to broaden their appeal to a younger audience Hammer Studios decided it was time to revamp their output. Out went Peter Cushing as Frankenstein and in came the younger, dandier Ralph Bates. Indeed the studio was so keen to get behind their new fresher-faced star that they even had publicity shots taken showing Mr. Cushing handing over the role he had made his own by the form of a handshake with the charming Mr. Bates. For many critics, and on this occasion when we say many, we MEAN many critics, the Horror of Frankenstein was considered a very low-point for Hammer.
The movie is a remake of 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, the very movie that broke out big-time at the box office and established Hammer Studios properly in the marketplace. Employing that movie’s writer Jimmy Sangster to revamp his work for a hipper audience, Hammer put out a movie that, rather than juice up their takings at the all-important box office, threatened to put a stake right through their own heart.
As well as reworking his earlier work for Horror of Frankenstein, Sangster also made his debut as a director and I must say it is a joy from start to its surprising finish - what may have upset the stuffier critics worked for me. Veering very close to being a Carry on Frankenstein with its huge amount of innuendo and boobs squeezing out from tight bodices Sangster’s comedy is an absolute hoot. Until writer/director Mel Brooks unleashed his superior comedy on the same subject a few years later, Horror did very nicely indeed.
If there was ever any question that the movie was out to get laughs then look no further than such a cheap shot as the reanimated arm giving a two-fingered salute (one finger for the American audience). Indeed the whole thing is rather camp making for a far more entertaining movie that first impressions would give.
Ralph Bates, whom Hammer also worked with on Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde, is a delight throughout conveying the arrogance of the Baron with a gleeful relish as he letches after womenfolk and kills off anyone who stands in the way of his creation. He is cold, callous and calculating with wonderful dark humour to spare.
In support, Kate O’Mara provides the ample cleavage as Frankenstein’s housekeeper and bed-mate Alys, although it is stretching things a little having her aged thirty-one playing a sixteen year-old. But then it wasn’t her age she was cast for, nor was it her acting. As the finished monster, David Prowse walks around like someone has just given him a wedgie showing off the torso that was later to fill out a certain Mr. Vader’s one and only outfit.
The movie’s climax comes unexpectedly but works well, delivering one last laugh before it declares it’s the end.
For all you lucky folks there is a commentary courtesy of writer/director Jimmy Sangster plus an enlightening interview with Veronica Carlson, who plays Elizabeth Heiss in the movie. Rounding things off is a Poster and Stills Gallery.
Versions The DVD version reviewed was taken from the Ultimate Hammer Collection Box Set. See our earlier news story for full details of the 21 films included in the set.