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.
Starring: Ralph Bates, Veronica Carlson, Dave Prowse
Director: Jimmy Sangster
One of the greatest decisions Hammer ever made was to switch the focus for their Frankenstein films from the Monster to the Baron himself.
Even though each film portrayed a different side to the character, there was a continuity there of sorts, as each one was carried by the considerable talents of Peter Cushing, an actor so capable that he could make even a lesser film feel important purely by dint of his presence.
By the time the series had reached its sixth instalment, and it was felt a reboot was required, one that would appeal to the burgeoning youth market that Hammer felt they had been left behind by.
All of which are understandable sentiments, but the idea of a Hammer Frankenstein without Peter Cushing is insane, frankly. Worse, the decision then to not only leave him out, but loosely remake the original Curse Of Frankenstein as a bawdy comedy just beggars belief.
Already a prodigious intelligence in school, young Victor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates) is forced to abandon medical school in Vienna when he gets the Dean’s daughter pregnant. Returning home with his friend Wilhelm Kassner (Graham James), he continues with his experiments into creating life from dead subjects.
While re-acquainting himself with old school friend Elizabeth Heiss (Veronica Carlson) and taking full advantage of the benefits of his housekeeper Alys (Kate O’Mara), Frankenstein sets about creating his creature, a hulking monstrosity that initially kills for no reason, but soon is under the Baron’s power, offing anyone who is unfortunate enough to get in his way.
There’s possibly no greater misfire in the history of Hammer films than The Horror Of Frankenstein. Pretty much everything that could go wrong with it, goes spectacularly wrong. It’s a bad idea made flesh, a wrong turn with no way back. It is a bad, bad example of film making.
The irony is, Ralph Bates isn’t all that bad as the young Frankenstein. He’s cold and aloof, charming when he needs to be, but can’t contain sneering at almost everyone he meets. Given even a half decent script, he could have done a job. Obviously he’s no Peter Cushing though, but who is?
Both Veronica Carlson and Kate O’Mara are fine enough in their roles too, particularly O’Mara as the scheming, but ultimately doomed servant. Okay, Prowse has all the presence and menace as an oak door, but on the whole, there’s not a huge amount wrong with the casting.
The problem with Horror Of Frankenstein is that it’s not a horror film. Not really. It’s laden with broad comedy, from the severed arm giving the fingers to the camera to Victor seeing a dissection number on Professor Heiss’ (Bernard Archard) forehead as he tunes out of listening to him. Not only that, but so much attention is paid to the Baron’s lothario-like antics it feels more like it should be called Confessions Of A Mad Scientist at times.
Maybe the series could have survived the absence of Cushing if Jimmy Sangster (being allowed to direct as well as write for once) delivered a great horror film in its own right, but to come up with this? It had no chance.
Horror Of Frankenstein can’t decide if it wants to amuse or terrify, but actually doesn’t come close to doing either and is, for me anyway, the real low point of the entire Hammer horror era. Dreadful.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy