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Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969).

June 18, 2010

The Scoop:
This fifth entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series is among the studio’s strongest work, but also one of its bleakest films. All the familiar trademarks are here — atmospherics, tension, lurid color and heaving bosoms — but they are mixed with a mean spiritedness that is unusual, even for the evil doctor.

Peter Cushing returns as Baron Frankenstein, still traveling the countryside and trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities as he continues his grisly medical research. While seeking out former brain transplantation research partner Dr. Brandt (George Pravda), Frankenstein finds him going mad in an insane asylum. The Baron then blackmails a young medical student (Simon Ward) and his fiancee (Veronica Carlson) into helping him to spring Dr. Brandt, only to have the whole thing spin predictably out of control.

Cushing gives another typically fine performance that is powerfully icy and seemingly effortless. Director Terence Fisher and writer Bert Batt also do tight, solid work to maintain the suspense throughout. However, they infuse the story with a darkness that is practically nihilistic.

Frankenstein’s habitual evil is now infused with a casual cruelty that not only destroys those around him, but does so for reasons that go beyond his single minded pursuit of forbidden medical knowledge. It is no longer enough to just hurt and kill people because they stand in the way of his research. This time around he also does it just because he can. By the end of the film, the body count is positively Shakespearean, and there’s even a completely unnecessary rape scene that serves no function to the central plot.

No wonder he must be destroyed.

It’s not often that a film series still has something worthwhile to say in its fifth time around the block. But “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” not only manages to be the best of the Frankenstein series, but also arguably one of the best Hammer films, period.

Best Bit:
Dr. Brandt’s gripping reunion with his wife.

Side Note:
The rape scene was added at the last minute, just before the film wrapped, because studio head Sir James Carreras wanted to sex up the film a bit. Cushing objected, but shot the scene anyway, and then apologized to Carlson immediately afterward.

Companion Viewing:
“The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957).

Dictionary of Hammer Horror.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The opening sequence:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2010 9:46 am

    It really is a fantastic film in the series and, as you say, the best one. Very bleak, and Cushing is on top form. Great review. Thanks.


  1. Movie-A-Day #301: Frankenstein (1931). « Desuko Movie Spot.

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