Sunday, October 03, 2010

DR. SHOCK'S HALLOWEENIE MOVIE OF THE DAY: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969). It hard to name one particular Hammer Frankenstein film as the best but many consider this to be it. I particularly like the sets in this one (Cheers Bernard Robinson!). The superb basement laboratory beneath Anna's house is to me the quintessential Baron Frankenstein's working lab. This is the fifth installment in Hammer's Frankenstein series and Peter Cushing is the most chillingly icy and malevolent that he's ever been! The opening scenes in which someone we presume is Baron Frankenstein is racing around decapitating unsuspecting doctors is interestingly shot by director Terence Fisher; we basically only see Frankenstein's feet. It is indeed then quite a jolt when the camera finally pans up to the face and we don't see Peter Cushing at all but a weird bald grotesque maniac! Of course, it turns out it IS Frankenstein all along but just in a rubber fright mask. A quick thumbnail of the plot finds our manipulative Baron Frankenstein blacklmailing a young doctor named Karl (Simon Ward) and his fiancee Anna (Veronica Carlson) the insane Dr. Brandt (George Pravda) in order to transplant his brain into another body (Freddie Jones) in order to obtain secret mad doctor-type knowledge. But all this is secondary to the fiendish fun. Cushing really drips venom in this portrayal. Simon Ward (whom I've always thought of as looking like a young, blond and thin Peter Lorre) and Veronica Carlson are actually quite excellent in their hapless roles as puppets of the Baron. Freddie Jones, as usual, is wonderfully pathetic (and sometimes quite fruity) as the tragic "creature" and veteran Hammer character stalwart Thorley Walters is memorably exasperating as the deliberately annoying and condescending Inspector Frisch. Terence Fisher's direction is particularly brisk this time around and avoids the infamous "Hammer lull" which plagues the middle of quite a few Hammer Horrors. The musical score by James Bernard is also quite memorable. The one sour note in the entire production is the infamous rape scene which was imposed upon the director and stars at the last minute in a boneheaded attempt by the head honcho to inject more sex into the film; Fisher, Cushing and Carlson all protested violently against the scene but were forced to shoot it and, admittedly, it plays like just what it is: a stupidly out-of-place (and out-of-character for the Baron) misstep which briefly brings the film to a crashing halt. Luckily DVD technology allows one to skip over it; this lets the viewer take on the role of film editor and produces a superior cut of the film with this one scene missing. All in all, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is right up there in the top 2 Hammer Frankensteins, I think. A real corker.

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