Evil of Frankenstein (1964) Fails
This week on Svengoolie, we were treated to an infamous Hammer horror movie starring Peter Cushing called The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). A good time was had by all Hammer, B-Movie lovers. This movie really tried its best to present quality, so much so that Hammer made a deal with Universal to reproduce the make-up and effects seen in the earlier Universal movies. However, they failed. Quite hard. They did not succeed in any attempt to re-capture previous Frankenstein success. Certainly not in make-up, anyway. It doesn’t even come close to looking like the Universal Frankenstein.
Evil of Frankenstein (1964) breaks from previous continuity and has so many flaws that it has become renown as the “worst” of the Hammer, Frankenstein movies. But this infamous tag has often been overstated and many reviews I read give it some credit, despite the hate from many fans. Many today find the performance of Peter Cushing to be its real saving grace and I agree with this.
I think the selling point of Hammer films at this point in film history are the shocks and overall horror presentation. This movie does have a decent production quality about it, perhaps more-so than its black-and-white predecessors. The opening of the movie shows this, with Dr Frankenstein operating on a recently deceased man and cutting out his heart in the midst of his colorful laboratory. However, most of the characters have no motivations whatsoever, and I’m not even sure why Dr. Frankenstein is doing what he is doing. For science? Because he can? For fun? To get back at people? What? Luckily, we have a flashback to clue us in.
Some of Dr Frankenstein’s motivation is told in the flashback, where we see another lab and the experiment that gives life to Frankenstein. Apparently, the good doctor wanted to prove something about human physiology, but I’m not sure what because it made no sense to me at all. The flashback goes on a bit too long and draws out the reveal of the monster for so long that what we get can’t be anything but an utter failure. He has a frickin block on his forehead for god’s sake.
The film presents a movie with more general interacting than your typical Hammer sequel. It shows people in town, people talking, Peter Cushing and Hans riding through the country, and the movie does present its locations pretty well. I’m not sure what location they were trying to represent, but the scenery is moody enough to be reminiscent of any past Frankenstein, European locale.
I’m not sure what happened, but Hammer really wasted their money making a deal with Universal. The deal supposedly allowed them to use the previous elements of classic Universal Frankenstein as played by Boris Karloff. However, whoever was playing Frankenstein doesn’t move or behave like Karloff. Frankenstein looks silly and ridiculous, like he’s got bad facial cream smeared all his face. Maybe, MAYBE if the make-up was good, this movie might be passable, but as it stands, I can’t help but smirk at the monster effects Hammer tries to pass off on us. Embarrassing!
No reason is given for many things in this movie. How or why Dr. Frankenstein escaped the police after his initial arrest is never explained. Why Frankenstein craves and eats only flesh is never explained. How a frickin carnival mental magician hypnotizes and controls Frankenstein to do assorted errands is never explained. It is just because of his hypnotic “power”? How hypnosis can repair Frankenstein’s brain is also ignored and glossed over.
“We have to stimulate his brain with hypnosis, get to work! Shall we give him George Clooney’s personality?” Maybe they’re all batty.
To be honest, I think I’d rather watch the 1930s original than this. Even Peter Cushing has some horrible lines and all the scenes at the carnival really are about as terrible as it gets. For example, when Dr. Frankenstein spots someone wearing what he thinks is a ring that looks like his, he jumps up like a lunatic and points accusingly, shouting his accusations across the room so that any of the 20 policemen nearby have no difficulty hearing him. For this reason, Dr. Frankenstein and Hans make a run for it and need the help of a homeless mute woman to survive in the wilderness. Just bad. There’s no point to any of it.
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) really is ridiculous, but at least the scenery and music are some of the highlights. The score is pretty well done for any Hammer movie and the countryside looks good. The laboratory scenes and the climax are some of the best points in the movie for their decor. Peter Cushing later cranked out horror performances one after another, including The Gorgon (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), and dozens more. He’s a pretty good actor, but he’s wasted in this one.
All in all, you really have to be a Cushing or Hammer fan to really enjoy this one. It does at least look good and it’s pretty short, so there is that. The movie itself has the earnest heart to try to continue Universal’s monster productions, but maybe Hammer just aimed too high. Resources should have gone to what they do best: a gripping, B-movie spectacle! Aw well, maybe next time.