Friday, August 20, 2010

The Evil of Frankenstein (1963)
UK --- horror/ science fiction

Dir: Freddie Francis

When it comes to sequels, they are either good, bad, or equal to the originals. Which is really just a nice way of saying bad, but at least they tried. The unique thing about Hammer's Frankenstein series is each successive film seems to have a new take on the Frankenstein mythos. Often times, foregoing the events established in the previous films. "The Evil of Frankenstein" tries to go back to the root of Frankenstein films, not just to the "The Curse of Frankenstein", but all the way back to the Universal/Karloff era. Because this film derived its inspiration from those films anyway, it is the only reason why it, in my humble opinion, sustains its saving grace as one of the better entries in this series.

Baron Frankenstein returns to his nefarious intentions of creating artificial life, as seen in the beginning of this adventure into mad science. He has a hired hand steal another corpse from a cabin in the country. It is of course to use the heart of the dead man and reanimate it through the use of electrical power. But his blasphemous intent is never too far ahead of the "hounds of heaven", and when a local priest learns of his blasphemous efforts, he destroys his experiment. And so to flee the authorities, he and faithful assistant Hans return to Frankenstein's roots in the town of Karlstaad (what was in "Curse" called Ingolstadt) to see what he can pillage of his castle.

Upon arrival to town, they find a carnival fair going on, which provides the Baron a perfect cover to hide as a stranger in town. Unfortunately for the Baron, he discovers the Burgomaster has done his own pillaging of the Frankenstein estate, as it would appear he has acquired some of the Baron's belongings. Frankenstein only returned to see if he could find something of value to continue his scientific affairs, but alas, it would seem there may not be anything to return to. After outright accusing the Burgomaster of thievery in public, he blows his cover to the authorities in a bar, leaving Frankenstein and Hans to flee the town, with the assistance of a wild mute girl from the town, and into the wilderness of the hills. It is here that Frankenstein finds his true roots; his first creature is discovered frozen in ice.

We have just seen a speechless re-enactment of Frankenstein in the midst of his first creation. This was obviously scripted into the film for two reasons. As mentioned earlier, this was to reboot the past for audiences who do remember "Curse". Also to take advantage of the lifted embargo from Universal (now that they were distributing this film), which barred the filmmakers to have any visual references to the original 30's and 40's Frankenstein films and allowing them to use the distinct enlarged Karloff brow and the sophisticated electrical set pieces of the laboratory.

Upon freeing the monster from the ice, the trio return to castle Frankenstein as the Baron and Hans once again begin to resurrect the already undead creature. The Baron, however soon discovers the creature will not obey his commands, and so they recall a hypnotist in town for the carnival and plan to use him to control the monster. Albeit, a worthy effort at first, the Baron soon regrets his decision when the conniving Zoltan soon requires more for his gift of control over the creature. When Zoltan finally uses the monster to murder the Burgomaster, all bets are off. The Baron kicks the hypnotist off his property and must wrestle control of his creature from the locks of the unscrupulous Zoltan power, before he loses yet another creation.

In this venture, it's easy to see that in the beginning they are really trying to establish Dr. Frankenstein himself into being the true monster. With an early scene with Frankenstein and a little girl in the forest that seems to be a reference to the original Frankenstein story, except here it's not the monster. However, throwing in another antagonist does not help this effort, as by the end of the film, you do have a little sympathy for not only Frankenstein's monster but what his seemingly benevolent father as well. Aside from the fact the Monster's head looks to be made of plaster, this entry into the series, cinematography-wise, looks akin to its predecessors. Besides altering of the story and not much on scares or gore, it stands for me a harmless homage to the Universal films.