The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 22, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 83 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Freddie Francis
Starring: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Sandor Elès
Screenplay: Anthony Hinds
Country: UK
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Mary Shelly's 1818 novel 'Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus' is is one of the world's most read books; an amazing tale of life and birth and man's control, or lack thereof, over both, that is well worthy of the following it has. So many storytellers have adapted the tale in many different ways: from the late 19th century London burlesque presentation, through the mid 20th century's portrayal from Universal pictures, and more recently with Hugh Jackman vehicle-that-ran-into-a-tree Van Helsing. For me though, my favorite portrayal of Frankenstein (and Dracula and The Mummy for that matter) has always been from the UK's greatest export other than Benny Hill and The Young Ones: Hammer Films.

The Evil of Frankenstein was Hammer's third foray into the Frankenstein Mythos, the first two being The Curse of Frankenstein and The Revenge of Frankenstein, and was distributed by Universal in the United States. Hammer decided to move completely from their previous look for the creature, and tried to adapt the Universal ideal of the flat-topped monster into their own… with disastrous results. Make Up artist Roy Ashton's design is dreadful, and looks like a paper mache Halloween mask made by a young Tim Burton at a pre-school… really, the second worst Frankenstein design ever. The first of course being the hairy, and not too scary creation for Hammers later production Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.

The Evil of Frankenstein has us return after the events after The Revenge of Frankenstein, to find Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) and his sidekick Hans (Sandor Eles) continuing their "bringing life back to those who have passed" experiments, but the pair are chased out of the town after a preacher reveals their horrible schemes involve the theft of the dead.

The two escape, and return to Frankenstein's home town of Karlstadt, only to find his house has been ransacked by the local Burgermeister (David Hutcheson) and his Chief of Police (Duncan Lamont) for their own usage. Frankenstein reveals the success of his original experiment in a flashback to Hans, where he reveals his original creature's (NZ wrestler Kiwi Kingston) demise from a gunshot to the head whilst trying to escape the police, and the two decide to get started right after they have consumed a hearty meal at the local pub.

The two hide themselves behind masks and go into the town square where a festival is taking place, but after an altercation with the Chief and the Burgermeister, they are forced to hide out in the tent of hypnotist, Professor Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe), and eventually run to the cold hills surrounding Karlstadt, where they meet a deaf and mute girl (Katy Wild) who offers them her cave to sleep for the night.

The next morning, Frankenstein discovers his experiment is in the cave, frozen in a glacier. How convenient! The three now defrost the beast and return him to Frankenstein's chateau, where they operate on his brain, but to no avail. Frankenstein needs something to get the spark back into the creature's brain, and he knows how to do it…the hypnotist! His amazing powers could straighten out the creature's brain patterns and help him to recover… a sound plan, if not for the villainous Professor Zoltan's ulterior motives…

From a style and design point of view, The Evil of Frankenstein is beautiful to behold. Freddie Francis replaced Hammer-man Terrance Fischer at the last minute due to an unfortunate accident, and turned out a visual feast! The lighting is exquisite, and the performances are hammy and melodramatic to some extent (actually completely overdone in scene chomper Peter Woodthorpe), but it suits the film to a 'T'. This film was written by John Elder and has some surprising elements to it that are delightful. One case in point, Frankenstein recounts a tale to Hans, and the scene of the flashback is played out with no dialogue until it is almost over. The entire 10 minute odd scene has one sentence spoken, and other than that nothing but the score to keep the viewer engaged in something other than the visuals… and it works amazingly. A true feat!

The good Baron is also probably my favorite role of the late Peter Cushing's, well other than Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars anyway, and in this film he shows so much charm, and pathos that he is a joy to watch. His character goes from austere to suave to a professional demeanor with no alteration of the characters core principals. He occasionally flashes a rare smile in this film, and no doubt proves that he was genuine class and a cinematic legend!!
Video
The film is somewhat spotty and has film artifacts galore, but they are fairly small and mostly inconsequential. The image however is bright and crisp, and is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement.
Audio
Presented in 2.0 mono only, but films of this type don't require the 6.1 super-digi-hyper-mega-wonder-surround to get its point across. Subtle and capable.
Extra Features
There is a stills gallery of the film which normally I would look down upon, but this one has images from the international version of the posters, daybills, press books and lobby cards and are a bit of a treat. Much better than the usual 'freeze frames' from the movie on the disc that a lot of DVDs have.

There are also two trailers, one for the Hammer film The Abominable Snowman and the other for The Brides of Dracula, both available from Umbrella.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
While this film does indeed drip class, it is not one of Hammer's best. For a start, the title is a complete misnomer, as this film doesn't explore the evil of Frankenstein, but instead it shows him to be a victim, and of those that are perceived to be the bad guys, not all are punished satisfactorily, if at all!! Peter Cushing laps up the role of Frankenstein, and it is well worth watching for him alone. This is certainly not a must see film, but absolutely necessary for those who feel they should see all of Hammers films, even though this is not necessarily seen as 'Hammer Frankenstein cannon' with its flaunting of events in previous installments. Hammer fans will definitely dig it, but other genre fans should give it a go, just to see if they could add some 'ham' to their love of 'cheese'.

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