Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
Review by Mike Finkelstein
We open in the lab of Dr. Simon Helder, a surgeon with a an interest in the experiments of deceased Dr. Frankenstein. Simon is caught working on the reanimation of dead flesh and is charged with sorcery. He's sent to an insane asylum for his crimes... the same insane asylum Dr. Frankenstein was once sent to years ago for those same crimes. While there he meets Dr. Carl Victor who is none other than Dr. Frankenstein.
Years early the doctor faked his own death. He then proceeded to take over the Asylum and work there, in secret, as the doctor on staff. Seeing the brilliant mind and potential of Dr. Helder, Frankenstein loops the lad in on his current works -- namely once again reanimating dead flesh. He already has a creature in progress, and half-living beast that just needs new eyes and a fresh brain. Of course, it's only a matter of time before this beast breaks free and starts another tour of blood and carnage. Such is the life of Dr. Frankenstein.
Although many people seem to enjoy this movie, I was honestly bored by the proceedings. This film feels very formulaic when put up against the other Frankenstein films Hammer produced -- there aren't any surprises and you can all but guess the plot beats minutes before they happen.
What works is, as always, the mad Doctor himself. Cushing had long perfected the role of Frankenstein by this point and was capable of turning in a winning performance in his sleep. To say that Frankenstein is the best part of the movie is simply once again stating pure truth without a second's thought. You know what to expect from Cushing and that's why all of these movies are worth watching (even if only once).
What doesn't work about this movie is just about everything else. There's a lot time spent setting up the asylum, letting you meet the characters within, but few (if any) of the people have any bearing on the actual story. There are evil guards to the place who basically stand around and be evil. There are crazy patients in the place whose job is to act crazy. None of this really matters and they're all just fodder or stage dressing.
The titular monster also isn't that interesting. He's a big, dumb, hulking beast who lumbers around and, while looking menacing, really doesn't do much until the last five minutes. He's barely a concept of a monster let alone a scary thing.
The biggest problem, though, is that by now we know that if Frankenstein has an idea he's going to follow it. The man has no self-control, is powered by pure id, and will follow any evil flight of fancy he wants. The monster needs eyes? May as well kill a patient to get them. He needs a brain, too? Sure, let's kill someone for that as well. Sure, he covers it up but you know what really happened (and he knows you know, he just doesn't care). There's no tension about what will happen next because Frankenstein already telegraphed that five movies ago and we're all just on auto-pilot.
I think what's most galling, though, is that the movie doesn't really serve anyone any kind of comeuppance. I don't know if Hammer planned to have future movies set in this asylum with Frankenstein at the helm. They certainly never produced any, but this film feel like their attempt to start a new series. As such, Frankenstein lives. With a shrug and a wink he moves with his experiments and the movie just ends. It's almost as if the "Monster from Hell" was actually supposed to be the creature all along and not Frankenstein. We were supposed to suddenly be happy that the true villain if the film lives? You don't even make a try and saying he died before bringing him back again?
The movie left a bad taste in my mouth. It was little more than a retread of previous ideas that never went far enough and didn't bring everything to a head like it should. It's a disappointing movie and a terrible way to end the series.