Man, it's been a while. After working at a job that sucked up all of my free time, then all of my energy and eventually my sanity, not a lot of writing has gone on in the last few months. Still, with that 'experience' behind me, I can get back to doing what I love - writing about old horror!
And what better way to start than to return to one of the behemoths of horror- Hammer - and one of it's most popular series?
|Contrary to popular belief, this is not what my kitchen looks like|
The Revenge of Frankenstein is the 1958 sequel to the 1957 The Curse of Frankenstein (which will be reviewed in due course) proving that quickly bashed out sequels to unexpectedly successful films are not a new thing by any means.*
The difference is though that this is very, very good.
The plot is pretty straightforward - ole Victor Frankenstein escapes his inevitable execution, runs off to a different German town, and begins plotting to repeat all of his old experiments while masquerading as a friendly neighborhood doctor and philanthropist to the local poor. After acquiring a body through semi-nefarious means (ie: he scares some poor bastard to death) all he needs is a brain - and all that requires is a willing donor/some light murdering, which from Curse we know Vic is perfectly fine with. At this point the movie pretty much writes itself, and it's a fun romp through the inevitable.
Peter Cushing is on fine form here, as the genial, sociopathic Baron Frankenstein and Francis Matthews puts in a fine turn as the Doctor who first figures out 'Dr Stein' may be more than he seems. The addition of this character, a doctor who is Vic's assistant but also his intellectual (and moral) equal is an interesting addition, and it's a real shame that he doesn't appear in any of the other films in the series. Michael Gwynn also does very well as the 'monster', probably the most sympathetic creature since Boris Karloff in the original.
|"Frankenstein? Never heard of him. My name is...Steinenfrank."|
One of the best things about this film for me is the pervasive grimy nastiness of it all. Gone is the clean, slightly gothic castle of Curse. Instead, we get a dingy underground lab, unwashed peasants in an unsanitary ward, and aprons that have never been so much as rinsed. The surgeries are unpleasant as well, and are tactile and visceral in a way that few films from the era approach. There's one silly scene with some eyeballs which pushes the suspension of disbelief slightly too far, but other than that there is no sense of looking at anything and thinking it's fake.**
Having said that, it's still a Hammer film, so the gore is shot through with a good dose of black humor and is not unbearable because of that. It's still one that I would think twice about watching with children, and it's one of the more adult of Hammer's early films, but then again, who said that was a bad thing?
Heavily recommended, if you're into Hammer. Even if you're not, you'll probably enjoy it.
* Whenever I hear about people complaining about sequels, prequels, remakes etc. and how Hollywood is 'out of ideas' it annoys the hell out of me. They've been at it it for years. Bad sequels and remakes are forgotten. Time will heal all wounds, and terrible films of any strain will generally disappear into the void.
** Reportedly in an effort to increase the realism, Peter Cushing asked his GP how one would go about performing a brain transplant. Awesome.