FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Ben Batt/story by Ben Batt & Anthony Nelson-Keys; cinematographer: Arthur Grant; editor: Gordon Hales; music: James Bernard; cast:Peter Cushing (Baron Frankenstein), Freddie Jones (Professor Richter/Dr Brandt), Simon Ward (Karl Holst), Veronica Carlson (Anna Spengler), Maxine Audley (Ella Brandt), George Pravda (Dr Frederick Brandt), Thorley Walters (Inspector Fritsch); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: GP; producer: Anthony-Nelson Keys; Warner Bros.; 1969-UK)
“Hammer’s fifth of seven Frankenstein films might be the best one in the series.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Hammer’s fifth of seven Frankenstein films might be the best one in the series. Reportedly it was the favorite Frankenstein that Terence Fisher (“A Distant Drum”/”Kill Me Tomorrow”/”The Sword of Sherwood Forest”) directed for the studio.It’s based on the story by Ben Batt & Anthony Nelson-Keys, and is written by Batt. This one has the bad Baron at his most craven, ruthless and sexually perverse.
Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is disturbed by a burglar while beheading a patient for an illegal brain transplant operation, and to avoid the authorities flees his native Bohemia to stay in Altenburgunder an assumed name in the boarding house of Anna Spengler (Veronica Carlson). He chooses Altenburg because that’s where his former colleague, Dr. Brandt (George Pravda), is an inmate in a lunatic asylum. Dr. Brandt is needed by the Baron to show him how to freeze the brain so it can be stored for future use. The Baron schemes to remove Brandt from the asylum and cure his insanity by an operation, and he then plans to transplant Brandt’s brain into the dead body of the pompous anti-progressive scholar Professor Richter (Freddie Jones). When the mad scientist discovers Anna’s fiancé, Dr. Karl Holst (Simon Ward), is stealing cocaine from the asylum where he works to supply Anna’s mother with pain relievers she can’t afford, he blackmails Holst into letting him setup a lab in the basement, forces Anna to kick out all the guests, forces Holst to help him steal medical equipment from the asylum and assist him in the abduction of Dr. Brandt.
Hot on Frankenstein’s tail is the gruff Inspector Fritsch (Thorley Walters), who arrives in Altenburg. Things get dicey when Brandt’s wife Ella (Maxine Audley) reports to the Inspector that it was Frankenstein who has her missing hubby and has operated on him in Spengler’s boarding house. It ends in a fiery climax, with Brandt, a crushed man, seeking revenge against Frankenstein, even though he cured his insanity but, also, cost him any chance of worldly happiness by giving him Professor Richter’s body when he accidentally killed Brandt during the escape (his body surprisingly emerges in the garden when there’s a water main break). This transplant experiment made Brandt into a monster in the eyes of his startled wife, who doesn’t recognize him or his voice. In the end, Brandt is able to trap Frankenstein in his burning house and supposedly his creator dies in the fire.
The unmerciful bullying by Frankenstein of the helpless young couple throughout is hard to watch, and when Frankenstein rapes Anna in a moment of wanton lust things become quite dim. To those who oppose his cutting edge science, the anti-social Frankenstein defends himself saying “It’s fools like you that have blocked progress throughout the ages. You make pronouncements on half-facts that you don’t even understand anyway. . . .” Of course, Frankenstein’s rant about how the world would be a poorer and more primitive place without those progressive pioneers taking risks makes sense, but his evil methods of obtaining such knowledge defies reason and morality.
The diabolical storyline of the mad scientist driven more insane by his rejection by the scientific community, in this well-crafted and well-acted film, is entertaining in a gory and grim way.
REVIEWED ON 11/1/2010 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ