Hammer's finest hour?
Libretio | 05/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED
(UK - 1969)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) blackmails a young medical student (Simon Ward) and his fiancee (Veronica Carlson) into helping him with a brain transplant which goes horribly wrong.
Following a long period of cheap-looking productions designed to play as double-features on their home turf, Hammer returned to premium quality horror with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, arguably the company's finest hour, and certainly Peter Cushing's definitive portrayal of the monstrous Baron. Instead of the misguided adventurer depicted in previous films, screenwriter Bert Batt emphasizes the Baron's ruthless pursuit of knowledge and power, culminating in an unexpected sequence in which Cushing's domination of Carlson segues from mere tyranny to rape, a scene which Cushing reportedly found distasteful. Overall, however, Batt's script allows the characters to evolve via a skilfully constructed plot which employs levels of drama and emotion largely absent from much of Hammer's output at the time, alongside the usual elements of horror and suspense. Director Terence Fisher rises to the occasion with remarkable dexterity, orchestrating set-pieces which have been compared to Hitchcock in some quarters, especially the opening sequence in which a petty thief (Harold Goodwin) breaks into the wrong house and has a truly hair-raising confrontation with its volatile owner (leading to a truly great 'reveal'); and the traumatic moment in the back garden of Carlson's boarding house, when she's forced to deal with a corpse (one of Frankenstein's cast-offs) ejected from its makeshift grave by a burst water pipe.
Freddie Jones adds pathos to the proceedings as the helpless victim of Frankenstein's latest experiment, his brain transplanted into another man's body against his will, traumatizing his incredulous wife (Maxine Audley) who refuses to accept his new identity (a scenario echoed by a similar plotline in John Woo's FACE/OFF in 1997). The period decor may look a little cramped and cut-price in places, but this is Hammer/Fisher/Cushing at the very height of their creative powers, and the film is a small masterpiece of British Gothic.
One of Hammer's greatest on DVD at last
www.DavidLRattigan.com | United Kingdom | 01/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed represents one of Hammer's most delicately crafted productions. Production values are above par. Bert Batt and Anthony Nelson-Keys deliver an excellent script. Arthur Grant's photography, James Bernard's score and Terence Fisher's direction are all exemplary. The talented cast includes Peter Cushing in one of his greatest performances, an amusing Thorley Walters and an early appearance from Freddie Jones, as the screen's most tragic and pitiful Frankenstein's "monster" since Christopher Lee (1957) if not Boris Karloff (1931).
Central to the film is a pervasive irony: The irony of a man whose everyday manners are impeccable and gentlemanly, but whose total contempt for human life will lead him to murder and rape without a second thought; the irony of a man given back life only to be cheated out of the one thing in life he loves. Never is this irony more clearly captured than in the very first scene, in which a lilting ballad accompanies a beheading, or (a few scenes later) the quick cut from Anna's words, "You'll find it very quiet here," to a screaming patient in an insane asylum (a surprisingly effective shock moment).
Baron Frankenstein here is no longer the ambiguous anti-hero of sorts that he was in Hammer's previous Frankenstein outings (excepting The Evil of Frankenstein). In Fisher's Hitchcockian opening sequence the camera follows a pair of black and white shoes, suggesting a certain ambiguity, as they make their way through the Victorian streets, but when the owner of the shoes (having just committed one murder and an attempted murder) tears off his hideous mask, it is revealed to be none other than Frankenstein himself. Now the Baron is clearly the monster, and it is he who must be destroyed.
The Baron here takes on god-like dimensions like never before. In Fisher's series there were always clear allusions to the wrongness of the Baron's attempts to usurp the place of God; here Frankenstein's spiral of descent into degeneracy, tyranny and blasphemy is complete. With great command, he exerts an almost supernatural force over the two young lovers he blackmails into assisting him in his experiment.
The first hint of his demise is towards the end of the film when Karl (Simon Ward) watches him, unbeknownst to the Baron, and discovers his plans, which information he then uses to foil the Baron. Thus for the first time, the shoe is on the other foot: Frankenstein is no longer in control, and his destruction is imminent.
His destruction is one of the film's finest sequences. The shoe really is on the other foot now: "I fancy... that I am the spider and you are the fly," says the creature. Frankenstein is trapped inside a burning house with the police waiting outside. In the words of his creation, he must choose between "the police and the flames." The implication is clear: Even if Frankenstein manages to evade human justice, "the flames" (a symbol of divine judgment) are totally inescapable. In a finale that harks back to Mary Shelley's original novel, the embittered creature himself carries his creator with him to their shared fate.
Other fine sequences include the water-pipe bursting, forcing the cadaver of one of the Baron's victims to resurface, as well as the forceful scene in which Professor Richter, transplanted into the body of Freddie Jones, and hidden behind a screen, pleads with his frightened wife to believe his story.
Don't miss this now it has received a long-awaited DVD release."
CLASSIC BARON FRANKENSTIEN
Nicholas B. Stewart | 05/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As with the other Hammer Frankenstien films, this entry concentrates more on the creator than the monster(s). This film is the most accoplished in the Hammer Frankenstien series, and one of the best Frankenstien films ever made. Cushing gives his finest performance as the mad doctor, which is saying alot, because all his performances are excellent. Actors like Cushing are rare indeed. Color photography and atmosphere are both top notch as is the excellent screenplay which will hold your interest throughout. No horror libaray would be complete without this movie."
"Terence Fisher's Cynical Horror Masterpiece."
Decimated1184 | NJ USA | 03/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is with out question Hammer's and Terence Fisher's greatest film-not to menion the best of the hammer frankenstein series. The film is a technical masterpiece, and in subtext one of the most brooding, most powerful horror films of the modern era, a reflecting of the nilihism of society of the late 1960's, coupled with Fisher's genius as a Director (hammers best) and one of the best of the post modern era of horror. Fisher's film is Hitchcock at his best-not to mention Htchcock himself admired this film, it's not ironic both Fisher and Hitchcock were in many ways on par with each other-in similarites. Fisher was a director who never went for flashy camerwork, or complex narratives, he was pure story telling, and while his direction seemed somewhat static, he was a master of composition, an framing--This film alone is a prime example of his dead on framing and his precise editing style and unigue cross cuttings--this is a film in which i believe is perhaps the best Frankenstein film 3rd only to universal's The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and the classic orginal , Frankenstein (1931) Which is enhanced by Peter Cushing's most cold-blooded and best portrayal of the Baron-a man sick and embittered with society-a man who will go on ends to fulfill his scientific desires-even if it means he has to Blackmail, Rape and Kill--This is the begining of the end of the Baron's career. "Buy this movie now!"Rating: 5 out of 5 Grade: A 95%"