Thursday, January 26, 2012

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, David Prowse, John Stratton, Michael Ward, Elsie Wagstaff, Norman Mitchell, Clifford Mollison, Bernard Lee

More info: IMDb

Tagline: His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from hell!

Plot: Last of the Hammer Frankenstein films, this one deals with the Baron hiding out in an insane asylum, so that he may continue his experiments with reanimating the dead, along with inmate Dr. Helder, who has been institutionalized for conducting such experiments.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

#55 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

This is the last of the Hammer studio Frankenstein pictures, the last of their Gothic pictures, the last picture for Terence Fisher and the next to last for composer James Bernard (for Hammer) and it's not that shabby. I rather enjoyed it but it's not without a few problems. Take for example the mute girl, Sarah (Smith). She doesn't speak until the end of the picture when she suddenly pipes up and has a mouthful to say. Then there's the 'monster' who looks more monster than man and it's never explained why he looks like he does. These are kind of important when you spend a great deal of time developing characters and a story. And I don't think I'm being nit picky here by letting this bother me even just a little bit.

The exterior model and matte work is fantastic. Cushing is fun as usual. I've thoroughly enjoyed his take on Dr. Frankenstein over the many outings he had with Hammer. He was brilliant and his performances in this role are definitive. Bernard's score is weighty and solid. That man sure knew how to get a lot from such a small orchestra, much in the way Bernard Herrmann could but heavier. Listening to the commentary it was mentioned that the budget was something around 137 (or 187) thousand pounds! That's astonishing. You would never know it from watching the film. It looks fantastic.

There's a commentary track with Madeline Smith, David Prowse (who, by the way, does a fantastic job as the monster. He's very sympathetic and brings a lot of humanity to the creature) and genre historian Jonathan Sothcott. Prowse and Sothcott are very pleasant and knowledgeable while Smith, despite knowing her stuff, is pleasant, full of herself, a drama queen and condescending. At one point she asks Prowse if that scene was filmed at night and he said 'no'. She then says something along the lines of if it were filmed during the day (it was a night scene) then it must have been shot as 'day for night', proceeds to ask Prowse if he knows what 'day for night' is (as if someone who's been in the business for 40 years wouldn't know) and after he responds in the affirmative, she tells him to explain what it is to the listeners as no one listening would know. Bitch. She pulled shit like that often enough I had to turn it off prematurely. I hate actors who can't handle themselves with dignity and courtesy.

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