Director: Freddie Francis
Writer: John Elder
Cast: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Sandor Eles, Katy Wild, David Hutcheson, James Maxwell, Howard Goorney, Anthony Blackshaw, David Conville, Caron Gardner, and Kiwi Kingston
Composer: Don Banks
Release Date: 5/8/1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Returning to Karlstaad with his protégé Hans (Sandor Eles), Baron Frankenstein locates his original monster (Kiwi Kingston) in a block of ice. Unable to revive the creature through conventional methods, the Baron seeks assistance from Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe)—a hypnotist with nefarious plans for the monster.
Recreating the set designs, makeup effects, and laboratory props from the 1931 version of Frankenstein, The Evil of Frankenstein will likely appeal to those who enjoy the Universal Monster series. British horror buffs, in contrast, may take issue with this film for its lack of Gothic atmosphere.
A professional wrestler standing at six-foot-five, Kiwi Kingston turns out a menacing performance as the Frankenstein creature—especially when complemented with the facial prosthetics of the Boris Karloff monster (i.e., a square-shaped head with protruding bolts and mottled green skin).
Despite deviating from the structure of a typical Hammer film, The Evil of Frankenstein also deserves praise for its classic horror tropes: a lumbering monster who communicates through grunts and groans; a macabre castle sprinkled with body parts and electrical equipment; and a mad scientist who complains of being misunderstood by those who persecute him.
Providing a new origin for the Baron and his monster, The Evil of Frankenstein may evoke criticism—at least from Hammer horror fans—for its confusing and slapdash continuity, which often contradicts The Curse of Frankenstein and The Revenge of Frankenstein. The Baron, for example, assumes a reinvented personality in this offering, at one point erupting into a fit of rage over the burgomaster’s theft of a family ring—a jarring contrast to the cold indifference displayed by Peter Cushing in prior Frankenstein films.
In addition to its uneven portrayal of Baron Frankenstein, this production is hampered by the antics of Zoltan—a character whose scenery chewing seems out of place in a Gothic horror story.
Hinting at a potential romance between the monster and a mute beggar woman (Katy Wild), this film makes a vague attempt to humanize the Frankenstein creature—similar to the early Universal classics featuring Karloff as the monster, who, in Bride of Frankenstein, forms a poignant, albeit short-lived, friendship with a blind old hermit.
Bringing together a hypnotist, a mad scientist, and a giant monster composed of spare body parts, this film serves as a worthwhile homage to Universal Studios’ lineup of Frankenstein entries. For its campy and simplistic narrative, however, The Evil of Frankenstein may fail to satisfy the majority of Hammer enthusiasts.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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