ADAM SCOVELL reviews The Evil of Frankenstein 1964
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
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 1964 from complete ridicule.
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EXTRA: Evil of Frankenstein 1964 is the nicest Frankenstein
(Article originally published on Spooky Isles on 16 March 2014)
The Evil of Frankenstein 1964 is probably the least honest of any Hammer Frankenstein film, DAVID SAUNDERSON writes
The Evil of Frankenstein is probably the least honest title of any Hammer Frankenstein film.
If anything, it should be called The Contributory Negligence of Frankenstein because acts of evil by the Baron are few and far between in this none-the-less engaging 1964 Hammer Horror.
Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) returns to his castle in Karlstadt when he needs to make some quick cash by selling off his family’s valuable artwork. But when he arrives, he discovers the Burgomeister who banished him from his home town for his original acts of medical wickedness has looted the place and left the castle as an empty ruin.
To cut a long story short, the Baron gets stroppy about this, causes a ruckus and must hide in the mountains where he discovers his Creature (Kiwi Kingston), who has been preserved in ice. Despite reviving the man-made monster, the Baron is able to get him to wake up and must use the talents of a stage hypnostist, Zoltan (played by Peter Woodthorpe) to “kick start” his brain.
Unfortunately for the Baron, honest stage hypnotists are clearly hard to find and Zoltan decides to use the creature for some burglary and murder.
It is for this reason why I think the title The Evil of Frankenstein 1964 is a little unfair. Compared to the other Hammer Frankensteins, this version of the Baron is practically angelic. He doesn’t murder anyone; he doesn’t attempt to murder anyone and his only acts of anger erupt when he discovers he’s been robbed.
Compare this to say, Curse of Frankenstein, where he murders a professor and a maid, or Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, where he commits rape, The Evil of Frankenstein is a benign nursery rhyme.
Yes, it is Baron Frankenstein’s fault for creating and reviving the creature in the first place but he goes out of his way to prevent the creature for doing bad things – which is unlike most Hammer films in general. The Evil of Frankenstein doesn’t follow on from the preceding sequel The Revenge of Frankenstein. He starts off new and there doesn’t appear to be any murder in his past.
New Zealand-born wrestler Kiwi Kingston makes a fine creature. He is sometimes too nimble when he should be more clumsy but his hulking size makes him a impressive sight as he lumbers around.
The makeup is the closest Hammer came to Universal’s Jack Pierce-Boris Karloff makeup, bar for The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) with Dave Prowse. The makeup is pretty grotesque but surprisingly, it is quite effective. The laboratory scenes also bares a resemblance to Universal’s original Frankenstein (1931) set with lots of electrical equipment the key to bringing the creature to life.
The Evil of Frankenstein isn’t quite as great as other Hammer Frankensteins – not a lot happens and the horror is rare – but it is still an interesting film if only because Peter Cushing creating life as the obsessed scientist is always worth a look.