The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Starring: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe and Duncan Lamont
Showbox Home Entertainment
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: 18
Available 15 October 2007

Baron Frankenstein is driven away from his work when a local priest discovers he has stolen a recently deceased body for use in his experiments to create a living being. He decides to return to his ancestral chateaux in Karlstaad with Hans, his assistant. After a run-in with the local police, they find the object of those earlier experiments frozen in ice in the mountains. Frankenstein revives the creature, but when it fails to respond to his verbal commands he employs the talents of a carnival hypnotist. However, Zoltan, as he calls himself, has his own agenda and uses the creature for criminal activities. The Baron is forced to confront Zoltan, but the authorities associate the monster with Frankenstein and arrest him instead. Now the creature is on the loose with only Hans and a deaf mute beggar girl to stop it...

This is by far the best Hammer Frankenstein film, with generally strong performances (in particular a sublime portrayal of the outcast scientist from Peter Cushing, who made this role and the part of Van Helsing for Hammer his own), a tight script with no padding and a relentless pace. I should also mention the sets which are highly impressive, particularly Frankenstein's laboratory, and the matte paintings of distant views.

There is a refreshing slant on the world famous Mary Shelley tale inherent in this film. Rather than body parts being assembled and stitched together on-screen, we start here essentially halfway through. It's assumed that most people realise that the monster is concocted from grave-robbed parts, and leaps ahead to the most interesting part of the story, which is how the creature reacts to possessing a semblance of life. We see Frankenstein lose control of his creation to Zoltan, and witness the creature's pain - which is less emotional in this instance and more physical.

Every follower of the horror genre should make a point of seeing this film. True horror classics don't come along very often, so savour this gem from the past.

Ty Power

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