Frankenstein—1970 (1958)

Director: Howard W. Koch

So the other day I watched Hammer’s last Frankenstein film. As such, by way of contrast, here’s Boris Karloff’s last Frankenstein film… Hilariously, the producer of the film changed the title from Frankenstein 1960 because they thought audiences would find the idea that an independent scientist could access an atomic power source for his own use by 1960 risible and that 1970 would seem much more feasible for that sort of thing; one can only assume the audience was meant to find the idea of Frankenstein using that power source to create a monster the very stuff of gritty, realistic drama. Anyway, for the first time here we have Karloff as Frankenstein rather than (or, technically, as well as) the monster; he’s the last of his line, and he needs the aforementioned atomic thing to continue his work, and to get it he’s rather reluctantly allowing a TV crew to make a film about his ancestor Richard (?) von Frankenstein, the original creator of the monster. It’s vexing, but the money is useful, and the crew might be good for spare parts too… Wm. Everson reckons there were basically three kinds of Karloff film, ones he took seriously, ones he didn’t take seriously but put in an effort anyway, and ones he essentially just turned up to collect a pay cheque; he specifically cites this film as an example of the last case, but I think that’s a bit unfair… I presume he was about as unhappy at having to make this film as his character was, but I think he does at least make an effort (what a great voice he had, and how well he uses it here), which is far more than can be said for any of the other performers. What it does have apart from Karloff (and a small change mandated by the Production Code people, who objected to the sound of Frankenstein’s body-disposal machine and ordered the effect to be replaced with the sound of a flushing toilet) is pretty good Cinemascope visuals and sets, some of which were borrowed from another film, with the producer also borrowing the cameraman from that film on the grounds that he’d know how to shoot it properly. Ploddingly ponderous and ho-hum otherwise; amazing to think that director Koch—who also made the last Andy Hardy film the same year as this—would go on in the next few decades to be a producer on things like The Manchurian Candidate and The Odd Couple, not to mention several Academy Awards nights…

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