Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: John Edler
Cast: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, Dave Prowse, John Stratton, Michael Ward, Elsie Wagstaff, Norman Mitchell, Clifford Mollison, Patrick Troughton, Phillip Voss, Chris Cunningham, Charles Lloyd-Pack, Lucy Griffiths, Bernard Lee, Sydney Bromley, Andrea Lawrence, Jerold Wells, Sheila Dunion, Micha De La Motte, Norman Atkyns, Victor Woolf, Winifred Sabine, Janet Hargreaves, and Peter Madden
Composer: James Bernard
Release Date: 5/2/1974
MPAA Rating: R
Convicted of sorcery and sent to an insane asylum, surgeon Simon Helder (Shane Briant) seeks guidance from Baron Victor Frankenstein—the head doctor of the institution. Aided by both Simon and a mute girl named Sarah (Madeline Smith), the Baron succeeds in transplanting the brain of Professor Durendel (Charles Lloyd-Pack), a brilliant mental patient, into the body of a giant, hirsute madman known as Herr Schneider (Dave Prowse)—with a tragic outcome.
Though hampered by B-grade production values, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is a worthy final chapter in Hammer’s lineup of Frankenstein films. Especially effective are the vivid gore effects, squalid prison sequences, and haunting motifs by composer James Bernard—all of which enhance the Gothic direction of Terence Fisher.
Turning out a sympathetic performance, Shane Briant—whom Hammer buffs will recognize from Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter—deserves praise for his portrayal of Simon Helder. Unlike prior assistants to the Baron (e.g., Paul Krempe from The Curse of Frankenstein), Simon fully believes in Frankenstein’s work while maintaining a strong ethical compass, even showing compassion for the monster and refusing to commit murder in the name of science—aspects that compel the audience to relate with Simon, whose character benefits from the gentle and unassuming attributes of Briant.
Wearing a cheesy pull-on mask instead of elaborate facial prosthetics, David Prowse struggles to convey emotion while acting as the monster—an otherwise sensitive and tormented creature.
Serious horror fans may also criticize this film for its campy tone and gallows humor, which undermine the solemn nature of Baron Frankenstein’s research.
Possessing the brain of a musical/mathematical genius and the body of a violent savage, the so-called monster from hell will evoke pity for his conflicted personality—similar to the creature from Mary Shelley’s novel, who comes across as an elegant and articulate figure in spite of his gruesome, towering appearance.
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell serves as a chilling and atmospheric finale to the Hammer Frankenstein series. Classic horror enthusiasts will therefore enjoy this entry, which suffers only from severe budgetary constraints.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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