Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Director: Terence Fisher

Time for another Hammer double bill—an actual double bill, too, with both films originally being released together—with one film supposed to kick off a new series, and the other one bringing another series to an end… After essaying a reboot of their Frankenstein films with Horror of Frankenstein, someone must’ve decided a couple of years later that the Ralph Bates experiment had failed and they need Peter Cushing back in the role. Poor Peter Cushing. Still in mourning from the death of his wife in 1971, Cushing was kind of desperate for work to distract him and he didn’t want to turn down an offer from Hammer, who he felt he owed something for having effectively made him. So once more unto the Baron, who, before the film begins, has been confined to an insane asylum for his “sorcerous” practices, but the lunatic has kind of taken over the asylum as we see… but he literally needs another pair of hands to help with his ongoing researches, cos his own have been badly burned somewhere along the way; how lucky that a devoted acolyte of his, Dr Helder, has just been committed to the very same asylum… This wound up being Terence Fisher’s last film, as his eyesight was apparently deteriorating badly after a car accident (he hadn’t made a film at this point since Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) and it was a faintly sad note to end on; it’s a kind of flat affair which has some nice individual moments (particularly the man who thinks he’s God), but in which no one really seems to be giving it their all but Cushing, who has a pretty neat bit of stunt work to do in one scene where he must subdue his creature, played by Dave Prowse. Him and whoever did the gore effects, which are still kind of extreme in their own way (particularly the brain transplanting business) but which do seem like a slightly desperate attempt by Hammer to keep up with trends in horror. And I suppose Cushing’s wig—which he designed himself, and came to regret later (perhaps with some good reason)—is a point of interest too… but on the whole it’s kind of nondescript. Hammer’s own lack of faith in it was evidently shown by the fact that it waited two years to finally release the thing, whereupon having been flung into a post-Exorcist world (and a crumbling British cinema industry) it kind of died at the box office, presaging Hammer’s own imminent collapse…

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