Horror of Frankenstein 1970 REVIEW


Horror of Frankenstein saw Ralph Bates take the role of the Baron in 1970. ANDREW GARVEY reviews the controversial Hammer…

Horror of Frankenstein 1970 REVIEW 1
Ralph Bates and Dave Prowse in Horror of Frankenstein 1970

TITLE: Horror of Frankenstein
DIRECTOR: Jimmy Sangster
CAST: Ralph Bates, Kate O’Mara, Veronica Carlson, Dave Prowse

Horror of Frankenstein 1970 Review

Never able to resist the slightest chance to redo, revisit, remake or rehash an existing story, by the end of the 1960s Hammer had churned out five Frankenstein films of varying quality, all with Peter Cushing starring as the misguided genius.

So for the doctor’s inevitable sixth outing in a little over a decade, a new leading man, and a new approach were deemed necessary.  Ralph Bates, who starts the film looking like the world’s oldest, most impudent schoolboy, takes his first Hammer starring role as a very roguish, gleefully pantomime Baron.

Bates’ Frankenstein, befitting the film’s light, tongue-in-cheek tone, is actually great fun.  At least to begin with.  True, he does unspeakably experimental things to an innocent tortoise named Gustav, has a creepily exploitative ‘relationship’ with his housekeeper Alys (a stunning Kate O’ Mara who provides a hefty percentage of the film’s bosom-count) and offs his inconvenient old man, but he has a certain style and a cruel wit that’s hard to dislike.

Horror of Frankenstein 1970

But by the time we hit the halfway point, Frankenstein’s cold nature and single-minded obsession with his work pushes him into a series of ever-so-slightly slapstick murders that wouldn’t be too out of place in a Three Stooges dust-up.

When his monster finally comes to life, it looks remarkably like that ugly, bald bloke from the Hills Have Eyes dressed in a few bandages and with some red lines (for scars, apparently) haphazardly drawn on his body in felt tip pen.

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Yes, the makeup is awful, even for the period, and it’s never quite explained how the Doctor got hold of all those bits of different giants to cobble together a beast the size of Dave Prowse.  An imposing figure, Prowse also donned a very different, very furry costume four years later in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and later strolled about in a galaxy far, far away under the Darth Vader get-up.

Ralph Bates with Veronica Carlson and Kate O'Mara in publicity shot for Horror of Frankenstein
Ralph Bates with Veronica Carlson and Kate O’Mara in publicity shot for Horror of Frankenstein

It’s also never quite clear what the Baron plans to do with his creation.  Or exactly how such a large, lumbering monster is able to sneak up on its long, thoroughly unsuspecting string of victims.  But it’s probably best not to think too deeply about this one.

Frankenstein has some cracking lines.  On meeting the monster he cordially holds out a hand and a polite “how do you do?” as if they’re at a garden party.  Later he blithely mocks an old acquaintance who now works as a policeman investigating the spate of recent murders – “there are rogues and vagabonds roaming the countryside. You’re not doing your job, Henry.”

Jimmy Sangster, who scripted the Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958), wrote this far more playful script, on the condition he also took the director’s chair.

Aside from a genuinely awful ending, he does a perfectly good job in putting together a fun film that doesn’t take itself, or the source material, too seriously.  And gets away with it.

Watch Horror of Frankenstein 1970 trailer

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