Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell - 1974

Welcome to my first Hammer horror film review.  Two firsts in a row now, a first martial arts film review and now a Hammer review.  This movie is directed by Hammer director Terence Fisher and features Peter Cushing, who reprises his role as Frankenstein.  Yes, the man.  Because I'm sure people are aware, the monster is not called Frankenstein.

In this one, a guy with tall hair named Simon gets put in an insane asylum, and there he meets up with a local doctor who is working on experiments.  Turns out this doctor is none other than Frankenstein, going as a different name I don't remember.  Well, Simon was put into the asylum cause he was doing work similar to Frankenstein's, so soon enough Simon and the mad man are tag-teaming on Frankenstein's latest work - some ape thing.

I have to say I don't remember why in this movie he's working on an ape, say, rather than a human.  It's odd, because this movie is a sequel, at this point in the continuity Frankenstein has already created his actual monster, and at this point this is his next project.  Well, didn't he learn anything having to fight off a human previously?  Don't mess around with creatures that are huge and strong!  Do the work with like a cat! Or a midget!  Not a huge strong ape.

Anyways, the ape experiment works, in that when he puts a recently deceased professor's brain inside the ape, the ape now has the consciousness of the professor.  It turns out that the body is transforming the brain into an ape brain though, somehow, so the ape creation thing needs to be destroyed, and that's about the time it escapes.

Like a lot of Hammer films, this one got a lot of things right.  The acting, the sets, the costumes and music, all are top notch.  This film looks great.  Then, there are the points where it's not especially strong.  There's a scene where the ape man gets unleashed.  This ape man has nothing but hatred for Frankenstein, and we see it approaching him, the door is closed and Frankenstein can't escape.  Then we cut.  Then a few minutes later, Frankenstein shows up with a partially bandaged, bloody arm?  That's it?  The monster scratched him, and then left?  Way to show him!  Stupid monster.

Additionally, I have to say that the monster doesn't look to great.  It's very obvious the suit is overly puffy, it looks like one of those foam bodysuits that are meant to look like muscle.  For something that gets a lot of screen time, it doesn't look too good...so....you know.

It does have a really cool ending.  It's probably not a spoiler to tell you that the monster dies and Frankenstein and Simon live through it.  I mean, Frankenstein must always survive these stories so that he can try again.  But the end is genuinely clever.  Simon, disillusioned from the experience and in mortal terror, stares on in absolute disbelief as Frankenstein talks about the "next time" he'll perform these experiments.  What he'll do differently, how he'll control them, etc.  It's really cool to see Simon, who was his lackey and student, so horrified by the man Frankenstein truly is.

It's a good but not necessary film, the last Hammer Frankenstein film, and it felt like it.  It sort of had that been-here-done-that feel to it, yet it was still energetic and good.  If you are a Hammer fan or a Frankenstein fan, see it, otherwise, probably doesn't matter so much.  It is mostly slow paced and kind of talky, so if you're looking for thrills and horror, look somewhere else.

I will just rate it a total middle of the road 2.5 stars.

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