24th Apr2014

‘Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, David Prowse, John Stratton, Michael Ward, Elsie Wagstaff, Patrick Troughton, Philip Voss, Bernard Lee | Written by Anthony Hinds | Directed by Terence Fisher

monster-from-hell-blu

I often pride myself on the fact that I grew up on Hammer films and many of my favourite moments have come from actors such as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  As I watched most of the movies for the first time as a child there were some that never really connected me that much, one of them being Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.  As I’ve grown older though and more mature I’ve discovered that the movies I felt were the weakest of Hammer’s collection of horrors are often their strongest.  Now that Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is making its way to Blu-ray, this is my chance to revisit it and give it a second chance.

When Dr. Helder (Shane Briant) is committed to an insane asylum for acts of sorcery based on his imitating Baron von Frankenstein’s work on reanimating the dead soon he discovers that the Baron that he idolised his hiding their under the name of Dr. Carl Victor (Peter Cushing).  Working with Victor in his experiments with reanimating the dead it’s not long before they have a new creature.  As Helder discovers Frankenstein’s dark secret method of obtaining body parts though can he condone his methods?

One thing that is noticeable about earlier Hammer Horror films is that although there is gore present the focus of the horror is more about shock and human emotion rather than the over use of blood & gore.  In a move away from this Terence Fisher in his last Hammer movie pushes more for gore, especially in the surgical procedures shown while still trying to focus on the human side of the horrors we see on-screen.  Fisher is of course one of the Hammer greats so the movie is in good hands, though I would say it is not the best of his work.

In many ways, although this was not Peter Cushing’s last Hammer film he too was coming to the end of his glory years with the company.  His private life too was heavily affected, especially with the loss of his wife, he never shows this on-screen though.  Cushing had played this role so many times that he could probably play Frankenstein on autopilot, though he would never do that.  Just watching the documentaries included on the Blu-ray we see the perfectionist nature of his performance, creating rules for himself in notes all over his script.  I doubt Cushing could ever give a poor performance, and this is an example of how even in one of the weaker Hammer films he still rises above and shines in his performance.  It can be said without much doubt that Peter Cushing was one of the best Frankensteins and in my opinion it will take a lot to beat him even after all of these years.

One thing that has always bugged me about Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell though is the look of the creature itself. David Prowse (yes Darth Vader) under a lot of makeup plays the monster for a second time in a Hammer Horror movie and while his performance is good, the makeup itself always confuses me.  The creature’s body is meant to be a “Neanderthal man” but why so hairy? The creature looks more like an ape than an actual man, and in ways is something of a distraction.  I will say though that this does not stop you from pitying the man, especially when even in his animal like state, the creature is the closest intellectually and emotionally to a normal person that we’ve experienced.

After watching Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell again after all these years I can’t say that it’s one of my favourite Hammer film but it’s also not my worst.  As with some others it has been raised in the ranks, you can see Terence Fisher’s style at work and Peter Cushing’s performance is as good as ever.  With some visually striking scenes such as the creature digging up graves to find one of his past bodies, Frankenstein and the Monster of Hell is both a memorable and thought provoking closure to Hammer’s tales of Frankenstein, and to Fisher’s relationship with Hammer.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is available in a 3 disc set (2 DVD and 1 Blu-ray) from April 28th 2014.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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One Response to “‘Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell’ Blu-ray Review”

  • DK

    When I first saw the film, I was struck by the creature’s vague resemblance to the monster in Thomas Edison’s 1910 “Frankenstein.” I don’t know if it was intentional, but it could have been the inspiration.