Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
UK --- science fiction/ horror

Dir: Jimmy Sangster

Hollywood may have reinvented the word reboot for their declaritive use of tireless remakes, but they didn't invent the idea. Remakes is one thing, but a reboot is basically doing exactly what good old Dr. Frankenstein would do; reanimate the dead. Even going so far as to murder someone to accomplish it. Here was Hammer Studio's answer to the remake, when they felt the needed to get in touch with a new generation of filmgoers, they remade their 1957 classic "The Curse of Frankenstein" with decidedly unfound results. There is, however, one thing they did that would anger original Hammer Horror fans of the films, they made this entry with intended comedic elements. Personally if their was intended humor in this one, I didn't see much of it. Saw it in Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein", but not here.

Helmed by multiple Hammer feature (including "The Curse of Frankenstein") screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, "The Horror of Frankenstein" stars Hammer alum Ralph Bates assuming the role of the mad aB. Honestly, his performance isn't bad in this film. I think with a better script, he could have wrestled the honor from the excellent Peter Cushing. His Victor Frankenstein also seems to come off as slighty more intelligent, and while he's less malicious, he's also more promiscuous. The film begins in Frankenstein's youthful days with a group of school friends Henry, Elizabeth, Stephan, and Maggie. Frankenstein yearns for more as he plans to attend the university to further his studies in anatomy; a hint at Baron's genius and desire for banal scientific experimentation.

When he gets home to his castle, he catches his father finishing up with a young housekeeper named Alys. He begs his father to finance his studies at the university, but his father is against it. Thus, we get our first victim of the film, as Victor rigs his father's shotgun to backfire. While at the university, Victor meets a fellow eager student in Wilhelm, whom he invites back to his castle to work in his personal laboratory.

While en route Victor and Wilhelm rescue Elizabeth and her father from bandits. Then they get home where Victor reacquaints with Alys. They soon prepare the lab for work, but unbeknownst to Wilhelm the Baron begins his horrific adventures into mad science. The first is the headless corpse of the highwayman he killed earlier to save Elizabeth. A police officer visits Frankenstein, and it is his childhood chums Henry and Maggie who is now his wife. After a visit to Elizabeth he soon plots to steal Elizabeth's fathers tortoise for his experiments. Then soon, with a large electrical generator, a massive vat of acid, and the bribery of an undertaker for fresh bodies, Frankenstein begins his infamous travails.

"The Horror of Frankenstein" definitely falls far below in quality than any entry in the series. Hammer's attempt to usher in a new generation failed, as evidenced by the return of our man Peter Cushing in the next film of the series. Featuring too many bad gags that fall short even for British humour, a monster that looks all too human, with a silly look on his face, to be believeable, and too many bad cleavage shots and sexual content took away from the gothic atmosphere that Hammer what it was. The great cinematography that was always a staple in the series is also non-existent in this one. Though it has an interesting ending a destruction of the monster.

As mentioned, the plot is basically a reworking of "Curse". Similarities abound such as having a mistress in Justine and Alys, having an old friend that is in love with him, but not in return, both oddly enough named Elizabeth. The character Wilhelm, in this film, serves the same purpose as Paul Krempe did in Curse as well as all the multiple Hans incarnations. I have always thought it would be interesting if Hammer made a film where Frankenstein met Dracula. How would Frankenstein react to a supernatural umdead plague going against all scientific reason? Not sure, but it's a shame they never took up the challenge.