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The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
7th Dec 07
After falling foul of a local priest, Baron Frankenstein and his apprentice Hans (Eles) find themselves forced to flee their laboratory. Penniless they return to the Baron's chateau to find it completely ransacked. Needing money to rebuild his laboratory at the chateau, Frankenstein ventures into Karlstaad, from where he was banished years behind, with his assistant both disguised as a carnival holds sway.
Upon noticing that the Burgomaster (David Hutcheson) is wearing a signet ring that was once his, Frankenstein becomes enraged, blowing his cover. Later, after a robbery attempt to claim back all his possessions, the Baron is again forced on the road.
Seeking refuge in the mountains, they bump into a Bjork-look-a-like deaf-mute girl who allows them sanctuary in her cave. Coincidentally, in this very cave, Frankenstein finds his monster frozen in a glacier.
The three of them take the monster back to the chateau with the intention of bringing the beast back to life. Not surprisingly after years of being frozen, the monster's brain is mush and he is unable to register the demands the Baron makes of him.
The Baron calls upon the village carnival's hypnotist Professor Zoltan (Peter Woodthrope, the voice of Golllum in Ralph Bakshi's animated 1978 Lord of the Rings) to assist with restoring the monster's grey matter and turn his unconscious mind back on. Consequently the only person that seems to be able to have the knack at getting the monster to respond now is Zoltan.
Rather stupidly the hypnotist gets a little greedy, getting the monster to do his own bidding and in doing so causes a bummer of a day for all as soon the standard torches and pitchforks are out in force.
One of the less well received movies from Hammer Film Productions, The Evil of Frankenstein met with a harsh reaction from both critics and film fans alike. It's not hard to see why.
Firstly it doesn't maintain any consistency with the previous Frankenstein Hammer picture - The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) - nor does it have any bearing on the follow-up picture Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) effectively making it a one-off. Secondly it's just a tired retread of themes and story strands from before.
On the plus side Evil doesn’t look as cheap as other Hammer productions, in fact it was the most expensive Hammer film to date at the time of release, and it benefits from being released through Universal. In the past Hammer, as with 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein, have been refused to replicate details that featured in Universal's own Frankenstein productions such as the laboratory sets and Jack Pierce's monster make-up as designed for Boris Karloff.
This time a round the elaborate sets designed by Kenneth Strickfadden are back, courtesy of Don Mingaye, and in some oddly misshapen form so is the original monster design. Instead of imitating or replicating the iconic Karloff make-up we are presented with a monster that looks plain dumb, like something a kid's class have made out of a cereal box. It's a shame as outside of the monster, the lush camerawork and excellent production design are a joy.
Upon its 1968 showing on US television, some theatrical scenes were replaced by newly shot ones. Some scenes were shortened to reign in their impact, to make them ‘less intense’. This was a common practice at the time. The additional footage was filmed by another director and with additional actors from the States. One such scene added showed the mute girl's father hoping an operation will bring back his daughter's speech back and another detailed a reporter missing his opportunity to do a story on Frankenstein. Another reason additional footage was filmed was due to the film's short running time, padding it out so that it would better fit a two-hour network TV slot.
Peter Cushing turns in his customary dignified performance as Baron Frankenstein however he is later upstaged by Woodthorpe's enjoyably hammy screen eating performance as Professor Zoltan.
Cameraman Freddie Francis stepped in to direct after the original director Terence Fisher suffered an automobile accident. His movie suffers from the plotting, but finds some salvation in the form of some humour, both intentional and otherwise. The effects work is pleasing - dig the removed heart being pumped back to life. His film looks good too, bragging some neat imagery, such as the monster in the glacier. Things get off to a great start as a young girl's father is taken through an open window but yet this mood-setter is never capitalised on. Instead the tone veers between dumb and farcical.
The Evil of Frankenstein was written by Anthony Hinds (under the pseudonym John Elder) – who also produced - and here replaced Frankenstein regular Jimmy Sangster. Hind's plot feels like a direct steal from the Universal series with the monster being found entombed in the ice glacier cribbed from 1943's Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as one of the more obvious examples. Add to that angry hoards of villagers and exploding labs and you kind of wonder why he bothered putting pen to paper at all. The plot rambles feeling ill-constructed. The deaf-mute girl is a redundant plot strand. The film didn't need her, regardless of what her relationship to the monster might be.
Rather oddly given the title, Baron Frankenstein takes a back seat in the 'evil' department to the hypnotist Zoltan. That said Zoltan gives the otherwise autopilot storyline a much needed kick, adding a vibrancy lacking elsewhere.
Versions TV version removes some scenes from the theatrical release and features 13 minutes of additional footage starring Steven Geray, Maria Palmer, William Phipps.