Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) [31 Days of Hammer Horror Review]

Jules picks up where he left off in October by running through some of the choice horror offerings from the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.

Released: 1969
Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Simon Ward
Director: Terence Fisher

Out of all their long-running series of films, there’s no other that can quite touch the Frankenstein films for reinvention.

As much as there’s still a formula at work, (the Baron creates a monster which gets loose and starts killing), each film in the series made huge efforts to keep the audience on their toes and not repeat themselves, and this fifth installment is no different. What’s perhaps more impressive is the fact that, even this far into the run, they still managed to pull out another classic.

Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is on the run once again, finding himself at a guest house where he discovers Dr. Karl Holst (Simon Ward), the fiancé of the landlady Anna (Veronica Carlson) is stealing medical supplies from the local asylum where he works to help her ailing mother.

Unluckily for them, the asylum is also where Frankenstein’s old partner Dr. Frederick Brandt (George Pravda) has been committed after being declared mad for their experiments together. The experience has now driven him actually insane, but the Baron needs his knowledge, so blackmails the young pair into helping him liberate Brandt with the intention of operating on his brain to cure him.

Things do not go to plan though, necessitating a full brain transplant into another body, birthing a new creature and plunging everyone around him into a new level of horror.

Once again, this is a slightly different breed of Frankenstein than we’ve seen before. Initially he was amoral, driven and full of hubris. Most recently he was almost noble, but in this installment he has never been so cruel, so malevolent and so flat-out evil.

He’s never anything less than brilliant, but Peter Cushing is particularly magnificent in this. Clearly relishing the opportunity to play the role he has become famous for with a more calculating and manipulative edge, Cushing perfectly straddles the line of insanity, conveying Frankenstein’s compulsion to achieve his goals and prove himself to be not only correct in his ideas, but better than anyone else.

It’s overplayed at one point though, with an unfortunate rape scene crowbarred in (supposedly over the objections of both Cushing and Carlson). It’s completely unnecessary and very obviously never referenced again.

Carlson gets one of the best moments in the film, having to deal with the corpse of Brandt rising up from his shallow grave when a water main bursts on her own, bringing the nightmarish situation she has found herself in to an even worse new low, while Simon Ward more than convinces as the good-hearted young doctor forced into being the Baron’s accomplice.

As for the creature itself, it’s perfectly pitched, looking very much like a normal man, albeit with a large scar across his head from the brain transplant. He’s no shambling monster either, with the scene where he goes back to try and see his wife a real heart breaker and loaded with pathos.

It’s remarkable that Hammer could still keep delivering the goods this late in the series, but Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is up there with the best of them and is another stone cold classic in the studio’s catalogue.

Rating: 4.5/5.

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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