TITLE: The Evil of Frankentein
YEAR RELEASED: 1964
DIRECTOR: Freddie Francis
CAST: Peter Cushing, Sandor Eles, Peter Woodthorpe, Katy Wild, Duncan Lamont and Kiwi Kingston
ADAM SCOVELL reviews The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Though perhaps marketed as a sequel to the first two Frankenstein films produced by Hammer, The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) cannot really be seen as a chronological sequel within the franchise. The film is more aptly described as a reboot of the series though it is a reboot whose changes do not last for long. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) had the distinct advantage of having Frankenstein as a character well and truly grounded. Evil at first plays to this before completely rewriting the history of the previous two films, the purpose of which is never quite apparent.
The film opens with another of Frankenstein’s experiments being interrupted by a local vicar. Evil could equally be called The Persecution of Frankenstein as the majority of the film revolves around the scientist’s constant and sometimes justified torment. There is an instant sense of a more gritty nature to the film, at least visually with an extremely effective, dark opening. It does however waver as the narrative progresses into the more ridiculous end of Hammer Horror.
Peter Cushing again holds things together and is genuinely menacing as the more desperate Frankenstein. He decides to go back to his old mansion in secret in order to sell his old possessions, having been exiled from the town of Kaarlstad. On arriving in the town, he finds that it is busy in the middle of a carnival and that all of his belongings have been stolen by the town’s Burgomaster. The carnival offers a good excuse for some juicy Hammer clichés from the rowdy old gentlemen of the local pub to the over-the-top stage hypnotist who becomes integral to the story later on.
In order to show why Frankenstein is exiled from the town, writer Anthony Hinds, decides to rewrite the whole of the legacy so far through a flashback sequence. Unlike the usual Hammer flashback that often involves footage from previous films, Evil spends a lot of time clumsily rewriting history when it could have easily incorporated the past events into it. The only reasoning for this can be some sort of copyright issue preventing past footage or stories being used, though the fact that this is the first instalment with Hinds and Francis replacing Sangster and Fisher, means that the drop in quality can’t help but be put at their doors.
When Frankenstein finds his, initially believed destroyed, creature preserved in ice in a cave, the film begins to really lose its flow. The “monster” itself is a terrible attempt at the original Jack Pierce design and fails on most levels. Coupled with the hypnotist side-plot (using the monster to steal and kill) and the final confrontation being utterly ridiculous (the monster gets drunk, accidently drinks some chloroform and then sets fire to the laboratory) it is the first weak instalment in the series. However, some nice visual touches, an energetic performance from Cushing and an overall sense of adventure just about saves The Evil of Frankenstein from complete ridicule.
ADAM SCOVELL is a music student specialising in film music. When not obsessively watching and writing about film, he can be found making short films found at www.celluloidwickerman.com