Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
Picture: B- Sound: C+ Extras: C Film: B-
creating the first full color Frankenstein back in 1957, the Hammer Horror
Studios found themselves at the end of their series with the seventh and last
of their series of these films, the 1974 release Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. Director Terence Fisher was their in the
beginning and also helmed this farewell installment. This one begins with another “highly
experimental” doctor (Shane Bryant, making the rounds in the genre in feature
films and on TV in the Dan Curtis Portrait
of Dorian Gray) who lands up at a prison asylum.
that does not stop him form his “puzzle people” obsessions. Upon arrival, he decides to inquire about the
Baron Frankenstein, the legendary doctor, who is not far behind. Peter Cushing is not far behind. Of note also is the fact that the monster is
played (again, but looking different here) by David Prowse, who had already
gained notice in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork
Orange. Prowse and Cushing made
enough of an impression together that George Lucas would reunite them in the
first 1977 Star Wars, as Darth Vader
and the equally evil General Tarkin respectively.
makes this final installment of the series more of a curio than ever, though it
is a nice wrap up to their series of the immortal monster and his creator. The Baron is a major force at the asylum,
where something sinister has been going on and the Baron is the resident
doctor! At this point, the Frankenstein
Mythos was reaching a new cinematic plateau with Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Paul Morrissey’s
Flesh for Frankenstein (in 3-D, also
known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein)
and all came out in the same year. The
writing was on the wall for Hammer, who had the talent, but backed themselves
into a corner they could not innovate their way out of.
casting and performances are good here, including brief bits by Patrick Dr. Who Troughton and Bernard (M from the James Bond films) Lee, but
John Elder’s screenplay is nothing beyond competent. With the Vietnam Era still in swing, it is
with great irony that Baron Frankenstein would be an authority in an
asylum. Cushing is on target as always,
but even he could only raise the film so much.
It is not bad and Prowse makes one of the more beastly variants under a
bunch of ape-like make-up. It looks a
bit dated in one respect, but makes sense in context to the story. All in all, though not the groundbreaker the
Morrissey film was, though it still certainly earns its R rating by even
today’s standards. The Morrissey film
had an X rating.
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is a bit better than what we have been
seeing from most of the DVD releases of Hammer films, but the camerawork by
cinematographer Brian Probyn, B.S.C., was not as reliant on more saturated
colors or a dye-transfer process like Technicolor. The result is truer to the original prints by
default. The earlier Hammer DVDs have
been off of their original camera materials, but that does not mean the color
was correct, due the advanced color processing.
The print has some artifacts, but it is not bad.
Digital 2.0 Mono is fine, with the James Bernard music score serviceably
backing the film. Like the Morrissey
production, this film also used an RCA optical mono system and this DVD seems
to capture that sound well enough. The
only extras in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and is a commentary by Prowse, actress
Madeline Smith and scholar Jonathan Sothcott.
It is pretty good and fans will appreciate it, especially those familiar
with British productions of the time.
That still does not excuse the lack of a theatrical trailer.
Though Anchor Bay has handled the majority of
Hammer films on DVD in the United States, studios like MGM, Columbia, Warner and Paramount in this case still have rights to
some of the films. That says something
about how scattered the studio’s films are.
However, this is a good DVD that may be nearly basic, but will not
- Nicholas Sheffo