Director: Jimmy Sangster
Writers: Jeremy Burnham and Jimmy Sangster
Cast: Ralph Bates, Kate O’Mara, Veronica Carlson, Dennis Price, Jon Finch, Bernard Archard, Graham James, James Hayter, Joan Rice, Stephen Turner, Neil Wilson, James Cossins, Glenys O’Brien, Geoffrey Lumsden, C. Lethbridge Baker, Terry Duggan, George Belbin, Hal Jeayes, Carol Jeayes, Michael Goldie, and Dave Prowse
Composer: Malcolm Williamson
Release Date: 11/8/1970
MPAA Rating: R
Upon murdering his father (George Belbin) and inheriting a fortune, Baron Victor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates)—a brilliant young scientist devoid of conscience—creates a towering monster (Dave Prowse) from spare body parts. Soon thereafter, the creature begins terrorizing the residents near Castle Frankenstein—with a harrowing outcome for Victor’s maid Alys (Kate O’Mara) and childhood friend Elizabeth Heiss (Veronica Carlson).
Combining the premise for The Curse of Frankenstein with tongue-in-cheek aspects, The Horror of Frankenstein may evoke criticism for its derivative content and goofy British humor. All but diehard Hammer buffs may therefore wish to avoid this film, which also suffers from constant pacing issues, dreadful makeup effects, and unlikable main characters.
The Horror of Frankenstein will likely earn praise—at least from Gothic horror fans—for its creepy castle setting, which helps to establish a thick, penetrating atmosphere prior to the monster’s arrival in the final act. Especially ominous are the grimy dungeons, shadowy walls, and laboratory props featured in the abode of Victor Frankenstein—all reminiscent of the 1931 version starring Boris Karloff.
Viewers may feel nothing but contempt for Victor, who shows no remorse for killing and framing many good, innocent people in his life—in contrast to Peter Cushing’s portrayal of the Baron, who, though arrogant and supercilious, comes across as sympathetic in his quest to conquer death at any cost.
Frankenstein enthusiasts may likewise condemn this film for its lame depiction of the monster, who benefits only from the enormous stature of David Prowse—known for playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. In addition to his unconvincing visage, for example, the monster is marred by a notable lack of personality, existing for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc along the countryside—similar to the Christopher Lee creature from The Curse of Frankenstein, albeit less horrifying in appearance.
Forgoing the philosophical insight of both Mary Shelley’s novel and prior installments in the Hammer Frankenstein series, The Horror of Frankenstein may fail to satisfy those of an analytical nature.
The Horror of Frankenstein provides a languid, mean-spirited, and superfluous update on The Curse of Frankenstein. Classic horror audiences may, however, appreciate this Hammer entry for its haunting and elaborate set pieces—possibly inspired by the early Universal Monster films.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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