Sunday, 9 November 2008

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is I think one the best of Hammer Films’ horror movies. It has Terence Fisher, the best of the Hammer directors, at the helm. And it has Peter Cushing at the very top of his form. Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein is chillingly evil because he isn’t just mad - he is absolutely convinced that he is right and that anyone who stands in his way is standing in the way of progress, science and the happiness of the human race. So he feels that he doesn’t just have the right to destroy anyone who gets in his way and to mercilessly exploit anyone who can be useful to him – he has a positive duty to do these things. He’s a much more convincing figure of evil than Christopher Lee’s Dracula and he’s one of the reasons the Hammer Frankenstein films are, overall, better than their Dracula films.

The other reason the Frankenstein films are better is that the formula is more flexible. In Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed Baron Frankenstein is working to develop his technique for transplanting brains. He makes use of a young doctor who works at an asylum. The information he needs to perfect his technique is locked in the brain of a former colleague who is now hopelessly insane.

The supporting cast is excellent with Freddie Jones being particularly good. Art director Bernard Robinson does a particularly good job in this one, and with Fisher’s sure touch as a director the movie looks great. It also moves along at a rapid pace right from the start – the opening sequence is very well done and sets the mood nicely.

There are real chills too, chills that don’t rely on gore - Dr Brandt’s realisation of what Frankenstein has done to him, and then his wife’s realisation of what has been done to her husband, and the growing awareness of Frankenstein’s young assistant and his fiancee that they have been hopelessly entrapped in the baron’s schemes. A very fine example of Hammer horror.

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