Though it wasn't Hammer Studios' final film, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell can be considered its swan song, an intelligent, inventive, stylized reworking of the themes that had sustained the series for almost two ... more »decades. Dr. Frankenstein has buried his old identity and reigns over an insane asylum as Dr. Victor (Peter Cushing under a flamboyant blond wig in his sixth and final turn as the mad scientist) as if it were a live-parts yard for his continuing experiments. With the help of an ambitious acolyte he builds his latest creature, a hirsute apelike brute stitched together from the asylum's most promising inhabitants and turned into a sad, tortured slave. The film was shot at the end of Hammer's glory days, and the budgetary constraints can be seen in unconvincing miniatures and the rather bulky and stiff ogre suit, but the dark, claustrophobic sets create an effectively gloomy atmosphere. Director Terence Fisher effectively pulls out all stops for a marvelous sequence of the creature digging through the asylum graveyard in the middle of a flashing electrical storm, a demonic twist on the iconic gravedigging images that go all the way back to the 1931 Frankenstein. This was the last reunion for Cushing and Fisher, who together gave birth to Hammer's gothic reign with The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Fisher retired after finishing the film. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Though their reign as the Empire of British horror had surely diminished by the time of its release in 1974, Hammer Film's FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL marked a return to their familiar gothic traditions. Not only did it mark the last performance of the gaunt and fancy-wigged Peter Cushing in his most famous role of Baron Frankenstein, it was also the last film directed by Terence Fisher, the man who pretty much made the series his own. Also back were Anthony Hinds doing the writing choirs (under his "John Elder" pen name), composer James Bernard, and a bevy of familiar Hammer supporting players (Patrick Troughton, Charles Lloyd Pack, Peter Madden, Sydney Bromley, etc.).The plot has Simon Helder (Shane Briant), a young doctor inspired by the work of Victor Frankenstein, being sent to an asylum for practicing "sorcery." There he meets Dr. Carl Victor (Cushing), who apparently harbors secret information on the underhanded director Klauss (John Stratton), and is able to run the place his own way. Young Helder quickly realizes that Dr. Victor is actually Baron Frankenstein, who wants the outside world to believe he is dead. Helder knows that Frankenstein could never give up his experiments, so after doing some snooping, he discovers his secret laboratory and his latest project.The Baron's new experiment is the hulking, ape-like Herr Schneider (David Prowse), a homicidal inmate whom Frankenstein has kept alive after a violent suicide attempt and has grafted on the hands of a recently deceased sculptor (Bernard Lee). Since Frankenstein's hands were badly burnt in the name of science, the shabby stitch-work was done by Sarah (Madeline Smith), a beautiful mute girl who is nicknamed "Angel" who assists him. When Simon tells the Baron that he is a surgeon, the problem is solved. Soon new eyes and a new brain are given to the creature (allowing this to be a gorefest as far as Hammer is concerned), but he ultimately runs amuck in the asylum.Filmed in late 1972, Hammer's final Frankenstein entry is one of those films that has divided appreciation among fans, some who think it's masterful and others who deem it a low point. The ultra low budget does show in Scott MacGregor's claustrophobic sets, unconvincing miniatures, and the monster's get-up is obviously a pull-over mask designed by Eddie Knight (though the monster is unique in the annals of Frankenstein cinema). But Fisher's direction and Cushing's consummate performance (adding complete madness this time to the character) display a true dedication to this kind of cinema, and the confinement of the asylum only adds to the doomed, somber mood. Prowse, who essayed the role of the monster in HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, is able to give the part some empathy--more so than any other Frankenstein monster in the Hammer camp. FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL may be nothing groundbreaking, but it's certainly entertaining and a worthy end to an important chapter in British horror.It's great to see that Paramount is the latest studio to unleash Hammer films on to the DVD market, but they have released the R-rated U.S. theatrical version which is missing some scenes only found thus far on an atrocious-looking Japanese laserdisc release from the early 90s. The footage not found on this DVD is as follows (those who haven't seen the film may want to view it first before reading this, as I'll reveal some plot points): a few seconds of a sequence where the Baron damns his useless hands and grasps an artery from the monster's wrist with his teeth, followed by his rinsing his mouth out with water; when Briant inserts the monster's eyeball, and Cushing says, "Pop it in," a brief side view of this procedure is replaced in the American version with a reaction shot of Madeline Smith; a second split-second shot of Bernard Lee's character's handless arms in his open coffin (looks to be the same exact brief shot as the first, so perhaps the Japanese just wanted to repeat the bloody sight); after the asylum director has his throat mutilated by the monster, the gushing of blood that comes from his neck is a split-second longer on the Japanese version, and; a few seconds more of the inmates tearing apart the monster during the climax, most notably missing in action is a shot where his guts are being squashed by someone's feet.Quite simply, Paramount went back to the original negative for this transfer, and these scenes were never meant (or were demanded to be censored) for the U.S. version. Getting past that, Paramount's DVD of FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL looks terrific, and far better than ever before. The film is nicely presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. As usual, the studio has done an excellent transfer. Sharpness and detail are very solid, and dark scenes that were once hard to make out are now clear as day. The print source is free of any major blemishes, and the somewhat subdued (for Hammer) colors appear greatly corrected, as do the various fleshtones. The audio is the original mono--there is some audible hiss present, but dialogue is generally clear and James Bernard's score is adequately robust. Optional English subtitles are also included.The DVD has one extra feature (no trailer), and it's big one. A running audio commentary with actress Madeline Smith (Sarah) and actor David Prowse (the monster) moderated by genre historian Jonathan Sothcott. The commentary is rather energetic and quite funny, as both actors are never at a loss for words or a story to tell. They have plenty to say about the film, Cushing, Fisher, and the other players--which eventually leads to anecdotes about some of the other films of the period that they were involved in. This is very fun stuff, remaining interesting until the end, and you'll hear a lot of scoops you've probably never heard before in written interviews."
At once fun, frightening, depressing, and entertaining ...
Matthew Newland | Tropical Montreal, Quebec | 09/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first film I ever saw in Hammer Studio's Frankenstein series was also the very last, which I feel is a terrible shame, as this was a very good movie. While Hammer's Dracula films drastically revamped themselves twice over the course of their last three films, the Frankenstein series, which was running simultaneously, did it once and even then only partially (by doing no more than cast a younger actor as Dr. Frankenstein). So we have Peter Cushing returning for one final time, after a one-film break with the new guy, in the role of the good doctor, where we get to see him act with Darth Vader three years before the making of "Star Wars" (David Prowse, the man in the Darth Vader suit, is the monster in this one). And I'm glad that Cushing came back, because his performance is what makes this movie so great.
Rather than discuss plot points, as I'm sure you by now have a fairly vague idea of what to expect from this series (though I would like to mention that we get to see the second Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton, as a grave robber at the beginning of the movie), I would instead like to discuss Dr. F, because the character absolutely fascinates me ... especially in this particular film. Here we have a true monster, far worse than any undead beast he could ever bring back to life. Dr. F cares for absolutely nothing but his work ... not only does he have no second thoughts when it comes to disturbing graves, but he goes so far as to see the living as nothing more than potential materiel for his experiments. Witness the casual way he speaks of the patient he prompted to commit suicide (without ever explicitly stating his intention, but by leaving for the patient to read such depressing news that he knew exactly how the patient would react). When I first saw this scene, together with the final one, when Dr. F speaks optimistically about "the next time", I shared completely the shock, dismay, and revulsion felt by our young protagonist, Dr. Helder (Shane Bryant), as he realizes that the man whose work he'd dedicated his studies to and who(m) he'd idolized is so completely inhuman beneath his appearance and kindly manner, so totally obsessed with his life's work that nothing else matters at all, not even his own creations.
Dr. Frankenstein is amoral ... he does whatever he feels is necessary for his experiment to succeed, and hasn't a single care when those actions bring harm or death, let alone anxiety, to anyone else. And yet while certainly not a "good" man, the wicked acts which Dr. F commits are not motivated by malice or a desire to harm ... He's simply so completely blinded by the world of science that it's impossible for him to think in any other way. This makes him, for me at least, one of the most frightening characters in the whole realm of Horror ... a totally conciousless scientist, fanatically devoted to his work and more brilliant than we can even try to imagine. From the films I've seen, I don't believe that any of them give a better, more thought-provoking portrait of the character than this one, without having to rely on any of the films which came before.
"Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell", in spite of suffering from such an awful title, is a wonderfully intelligent and intriguing, visually striking (I love the dreary hallways of the mental institution, as well as the shots of the creature in the graveyard at night), and very well acted indeed. Peter Cushing is one of my favorite actors, and here he certainly doesn't disappoint. Do yourself a small act of kindness and pick up a copy of this DVD today, and then watch it tonight after the lights are out. I think you'll have a marvelous, though somewhat unsettling, time ...
This film will entertain you, but it will also make you think. Definitely five-star material.
Carry on Carry on
Hammer Studios' last gothic masterpiece
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 12/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell was not famed Hammer Studios' final film, but it in many ways represents the swan song of the premiere maker of vintage gothic films. Not only does the film play well even today, it has an incredible number of fascinating facts surrounding its production that makes it particularly notable. Consummate actor Peter Cushing and director Terence Fisher can be viewed as founding fathers of Hammer Studios, and this film marks a return to the spirit of the early days. It stands as the final entry in the famed Frankenstein series starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein, and David Prowse makes an unprecedented second appearance as a Hammer monster. Some wonderful actors appear in even the smallest of roles, the overall look and feel of the film is wonderfully dark and serious, and the story is allowed to tell itself, foregoing sex appeal for violence and intellectual passion. Despite its almost ridiculously paltry budget, Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell truly shines as Hammer's last truly gothic motion picture.Baron Frankenstein is dead; there's a death certificate to prove it, and he's buried in the yard of the insane asylum where he spent his last days. One young researcher sets out to fill his shoes, however, eventually being arrested for "sorcery" and consigned to the same mental institution as his idol. Simon Helder (Shane Briant) inquires about Dr. Frankenstein as soon as he arrives. The story of the Baron's death notwithstanding, he quickly recognizes the asylum's Dr. Victor as none other than Frankenstein himself. Assisted by the mute and ever so lovely Sarah (Madeline Smith), known as Angel among the inmates, the doctor has continued his work. He explains to young Dr. Helder how he managed to "kill" Frankenstein and get himself appointed the medical doctor in the asylum, and soon the ever-curious Helder is an active participant in the doctor's ongoing unconventional medical experiments. Rather than resurrect the dead, Frankenstein is now working on making a new man piece by piece based on an existing flawed creation. With the help of Helder's surgical skills, the men have soon given an animalistic misanthrope the hands of a craftsman and the mind of a genius, but of course the newly created monster seems less than overjoyed with his new life. I am an unabashed fan of Peter Cushing; he was the ultimate gothic actor, a meticulous perfectionist who demanded the serious commitment of everyone surrounding him on whatever project he was working on. In Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, he makes one of his most memorable entrances and delivers a sterling performance. At this particular time, Cushing was in deep mourning over the recent loss of his wife, and he is as grim and emaciated as you will ever see him. This makes his obviously whole-hearted commitment to this role all the more amazing. This sixth and final Hammer-produced Frankenstein film offers yet more proof that Peter Cushing is the greatest horror actor to ever live. Madeline Smith is just beautiful and delivers an amazing performance almost wholly devoid of spoken lines, and Shane Briant, looking quite James Spader-like, makes young Helder an admirable and deserving new underling of Dr. Frankenstein's. The monster is played wonderfully by David Prowse, the man who would later serve as the man behind the mask of Darth Vader; his costume isn't that impressive, but it works well given the budgetary constraints this movie operated under. Doctor Who fans will no doubt note the presence of Patrick Troughton as Helder's bodysnatching accomplice at the beginning of the film; Troughton would of course go on to become the second man to play Doctor Who on the famed BBC television series.Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is vintage Hammer horror, a really quite extraordinary achievement given the monetary and personal constraints the production faced. Terrence Fisher and Peter Cushing make an unbeatable combination, even when both men are laboring under heavy burdens of their own. The DVD comes with a commentary by actress Madeline Smith, actor David Prowse, and horror historian Jonathan Sothcott, and this commentary ranks among the best and most interesting I have ever heard. The trio expound upon all types of things, oftentimes going beyond the subject of the film itself to relate fascinating stories about their fellow performers and about the very history of Hammer Studios as well. All of this adds up to a film that all Hammer fans simply must own."
Late night Hammer Horror from the great Terrence Fisher!
B-MAN | Earth, occasionally. Until I get bored. | 11/10/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Frankenstein & the Monster from Hell (1974) is not a bad movie. Its not terribly exciting, but it definitely has it's moments and is worth a look for horror fans and most likely a buy for lovers of Hammer Films, Terrence Fisher, and Peter Cushing. I guess also for fans of David Prowse (body of Darth Vader) who plays "the monster from hell"! This is Hammer director Terrence Fisher's last film, another reason why it's worth a look. Fisher is responsible for much of Hammer's horror classics: all 5 Frankenstein films, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy, Curse of the Werewolf, The Gorgon, Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, Phantom of the Opera, the list goes on... This is also the last film in Hammer's Frankenstein series. It all started in 1957 with The Curse of Frankenstein, an absolute classic starring Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the Creature. This is followed by Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), Frankenstein created Woman (1967), and Frankenstein must be Destroyed (1969), which brings us to The Monster from Hell (1974).The plot concerns Victor Frankenstein (Cushing) being the resident medical doctor at an insane asylum where he secretly experiments with creating his own being. He's also a patient, by the way! He soon meets a young patient/doctor, Simon Helder (Shane Briant), who is sent to the asylum because he is caught doing similar experiments in the outside world. Frankenstein takes Helder under his wing and uses him to perform surgeries that he can no longer do because of his burnt hands. Frankenstein lets Helder in on what he's doing and introduces him to "the monster from hell" played and grunted by David Prowse of Darth Vader fame. Long story short, Frankenstein's creation grows tired of his lifestyle...and watch out!This film is nowhere near as bad/silly as others may write. Yes there are bits of cheese, a laugh or two, and some underacted scenes, but don't most horror films have that? Its not a scarefest, but its not a laughfest either. Besides,its Cushing, Fisher, and Hammer for cryin' out loud! Paramount's DVD has a good looking 16:9 widescreen transfer, decent dolby digital mono sound, and english subtitles. Making it special is a commentary by David Prowse, Madeline Smith (Sarah/"Angel", Frankenstein's initially mute assistant) and historian Johnathan Sothcott. It also can be purchased for the same price as renting it a few times! All in all, it isn't the best Hammer film to start with, but it has its good qualities, most importantly atmospheric direction from Fisher and a solid creepy performance by Cushing, may they both rest in peace. Thanks to both of them for giving us so many classics."
Good at what it does, but depressing
B-MAN | 09/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some interesting attempts at social commentary (note Frankenstein's proposal to dope the Monster up on aphrodisiacs and sic him onto the heroine, it plays like a creepy satire of the whole better-living-through-sex-and-chemistry ethos of the hippie era), some good dark humor and sinister imagery. Overall quite good character work too. I think its bad rep stems from its depressing nature: you have unpleasant things happening to fairly likable people, you have this melancholy soundtrack, and you have this dour prison of an asylum where everything happens. The ending, which implies that character is destiny & the surviving characters have basically a pretty lousy destiny, suits the film rather well, but is both a downer and mildly funny. If funny but depressing is your bag, you might like this."