These days it’s hard to imagine the fifth film in a series—a horror series, at that—being acclaimed as the best in that series, and yet that seems to be the very reputation this one has in some quarters. Although Hammer had arguably peaked in 1968 and things were about to go downhill for them and the British film industry at large, the slump had yet to hit hard. However, while the studio would be the dubious beneficiary of impending changes to film censorship, they’d arguably also be the victim of them in this case, with Warner’s (their then-backers in the US) insisting upon the inclusion of a contentious rape scene (which would never have passed before, and was ironically cut from the American print) that none of the participants (including director Terence Fisher, who otherwise considered this his best film) liked. Seeing the film, though, it’s in keeping with the Baron’s characterisation in this film; having mellowed slightly in his last few appearances, Peter Cushing reverts to the more murderous type he played in Curse, only amped up in nastiness, he is very much the monster in this one. Substantially longer than Hammer’s earlier series efforts, the film actually manages to pace itself quite well despite that, there’s actually a reasonable amount of story going on. It is perhaps a little disappointing that it ultimately falls back on “things man was not meant to know”—Frankenstein’s work in this film involves saving a fellow experimenter in brain transplantation by, well, transplanting his brain, and the latter winds up not especially happy to be the subject of his own research when he realises the things it involves, like, well, murdering someone else for their body—but on the whole I can understand the acclaim that’s been given to it in more recent years, this really is the sort of thing Hammer was good at. Liked this a lot.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)