I spend some more time with the Frankenstein mythos as I continue to delve into the fantastic Sci-Fi Chronicles book. This time around, I found that The Evil of Frankenstein seemed to be the weakest installment in the Hammer series (that I’ve seen so far) and seemed almost to be a mirror of some of the earlier Universal films.
Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) seems to have reclaimed his name, while he and his assistant, Hans (Sandor Eles), scour the countryside for fresh corpses to continue their macabre experiments. The Baron seems to have fallen on tough times, and is completely broke, but his need, his desire to reanimate dead flesh with life continues to drive him.
After a run-in with the local clergy, Frankenstein and Hans flee, with the intention of returning to the Baron’s ancestral home in Karlstaad. The manor, however, is in ruins, trashed, ransacked and robbed by the local villagers, no doubt after the finale of the first film in the Hammer series. In fact some of his possessions have found their way into the homes of the locals, including the Burgomaster (David Hutcheson).
Angered by this, and pursued by the police when he is recognized, the Baron and Hans end up in the cave home of a pretty and mute ginger Beggar Girl (Katy Wild). It is there, that they find, frozen in the ice, one of Frankenstein’s earliest experiments, baring an uncanny (if slightly more gruesome) resemblance to the Universal version of the Monster (Kiwi Kingston).
For some reason though, even when the Creature is thawed out, life cannot be returned to the being and it takes a Mesmerist (?!) named Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe) to coax the being back to life. Once he’s done so, Zoltan uses the Creature to exert revenge on those in the village he feels have wronged him, while also relieving them of their gold. Not unlike Ygor in the Universal films…
Cue angry villagers, a final showdown between Frankenstein and the Creature and the destruction of the Frankenstein home.
This one, after some of the better work in the previous two installments feels like a bit of a let down. There are still some great moments (the Baron pumping a heart with his hand, until the electrical current takes hold, and infuses the heart with life), and the use of colour still makes it stand out stronger than its Universal counterparts, but this one doesn’t quite sink to cornball tendencies, but it is definitely only a step or two up from it.
Still, I quite like Cushing in this role, especially for me. I only knew him threw Star Wars for the longest time, and now, I’m delighted to discover some of his other roles.
There are still a couple more Frankenstein tales coming up, stay tuned!