Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell was the last of the Hammer Frankenstein series, as well as Terence Fisher’s final film. It is generally regarded as a weak swansong. At first glance, it seems a remake of The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), but with a noticeably reduced budget.
Peter Cushing, in his final portrayal of Baron Frankenstein, inexplicably sports a curly blond wig which makes him look a bit like a deranged Shirley Temple, and he looks alarmingly emaciated. Off-screen, the actor’s wife had died, after a long illness, only the previous year, in 1971 (Monster from Hell was filmed in 1972 and remained on the shelf for two years). Cushing was openly despondent and in intense mourning. He later admitted to having had suicidal tendencies during this period. Cushing never remarried, nor did he ever fully recover from the loss. The toll of that recent personal tragedy is clearly visible on him in this film and, despite all of the atrocities committed by his character, that off-screen blow adds a layer of wearied pathos revealed in the actor’s eyes.
Despite the many elements working against this film, its bad reputation is mostly hyperbole. Like nearly all of Fisher’s films, Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is stamped with the director’s assured composition and electric editing. The opening sequence, with a grave robber (Patrick Troughton, from Doctor Who and Scars of Dracula) being pursued by a constable, is nearly as kinetically paced as the tense opening of Frankenstein Must be Destroyed. Later in the film, the Baron, momentarily young again, springs to his old self in a leap atop the creature’s back. The creature’s eventual fate is gruesome and frenzied. These are diversions from a prevailing, fatigued bleakness. Indeed, a desolate milieu permeates this culmination of Fisher and Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein saga.
David (Darth Vader) Prowse plays the monster, and he is as encased in his rubbery, hairy ape-like latex as he was in black armor. Prowse attempts to inject sympathy into his monster, much the same way that Freddie Jone’s monster did in the superb Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Prowse, however, was at the mercy of an immobile costume which defeats his efforts.
The Baron himself is a complicated mix of ruthlessness and an occasional “weak”, but not Continue reading FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974)