REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE
(director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Jimmy Sangster/Hurford Janes; cinematographer: Jack Asher; editor: Alfred Cox; cast: Peter Cushing (Dr. Victor Stein aka Frankenstein), Michael Gwynn (Karl (after) the Synthetic Man), Francis Matthews (Dr. Hans Kleve), Eunice Gayson (Margaret Conrad), Lionel Jeffries (Fritz the gravedigger), Michael Ripper (gravedigger), Arnold Diamond (Dr. Moelke), George Woodbridge (Janitor at the hospital), Margery Cresley (Countess Barscynska), Richard Wordsworth (Night Watchmen), Oscar Quitak (Karl as a Dwarf); Runtime: 90; Hammer Film; 1958-GB)
“There was a staid quality about the film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A fine sequel to the 1956 “The Curse of Frankenstein.” It is set in 1860 where Baron Von Frankenstein is sentenced to die as a murderer, accused of creating a monster killer. But he escapes the guillotine. It is arranged by payment to have the priest, who gave the Baron his last rites, be executed in place of him by the executioner and his hunchbacked assistant (Oscar Quitak). Frankenstein then flees to Carlsbruck, another central European town. Peter Cushing is excellent as Dr. Victor Stein, the new name he takes after escaping the execution.
After being in the new town for three years, Dr. Stein has a successful practice established among the rich hypochondriacs and also works with the poor in a charity hospital. He upsets the other doctors in town by not joining their medical council and by taking away many of their patients.
Dr. Hans Kleve (Matthews) is new in town and immediately recognizes Frankenstein. He blackmails Dr. Stein into accepting him as an assistant in payment for his silence. It is his hope to learn from Dr. Stein his secrets and to become his disciple; he does this since he considers him the most learned doctor in Europe.
Most of the film takes place in the tacky hospital setting where the poor are operated on for their body parts, which Dr. Stein uses to build another monster. This time he will attempt to build a perfect man and place a live brain in him. The brain will be Karl’s, he is the one who agreed to help Dr. Stein escape with the promise he would operate on him and give him a new body. He mentions that he is tired of having everybody stare at his hunchback and hooked hand.
A very attractive nurse Margaret Conrad (Eunice) volunteers to help in the charity hospital and when she’s on the ward, the nosy janitor (Woodbridge) tells her that he knows a lot of secrets around here and gets her curious about a mysterious patient. He gives her the master key to a room hidden out of sight where Karl, now played by Michael Gwynn, is recovering from the operation that transferred his brain into another body. Dr. Stein has him strapped to the bed as a precaution that he doesn’t leave the hospital too soon, as his brain needs more time to adjust to the operation. There is some additional hokum about the creation becoming a cannibal, if his brain does not heal properly after the operation. When Karl questions Hans about what will happen to him next, he is told that Dr. Stein wants to get revenge on the medical profession that rejected his genius and will display both the new Karl and the old one to all the medical groups in order to get recognition as the greatest doctor in the world. Karl becomes unhappy with this, mentioning he has been stared at all his life. He thereby gets Margaret to loosen the straps and escapes. He goes to the lab and burns his old body in the furnace; but, a boorish night watchman (George Woodbridge) comes into the cellar and beats him up, which turns him back into a monster as he strangles the watchman.
Karl then goes on the loose killing a woman he runs into and then crashing through the window to enter a society ball, and calling out to Frankenstein for help while he is looking at Dr. Stein. The police will take care of him offscreen. The film’s ending in the hospital is smartly done, as Dr. Stein meets up with the wrath of the patients who stomp him to death. But there is another body he created waiting for him in the lab and Hans has learned enough from the master to transplant Frankenstein’s still living brain into the new body. He is next seen as Dr. Franck in London, with presumably another successful practice and the same old diabolical plans.
These climactic scenes suggest the ambivalent nature of the cruel and egomaniacal Frankenstein who becomes a martyr for genius and inspiration, someone fighting the repressive forces of the elite society who wish to exploit the people and keep everything mediocre. This theme is what sustains the B-film with a deeper meaning to the original Frankenstein myth and keeps him from being a one-dimensional villain. But, overall, there was a staid quality about the film that kept it from being as gripping as it could have been.
REVIEWED ON 11/12/2000 GRADE: B-