Well now I’ve seen all of Hammer’s Frankenstein movies thanks to youtube. With so many horror movies that I haven’t seen yet, such as The Creeping Flesh, Vampire Circus, Countess Dracula and Frankenstein’s Daughter, available, I wonder if there is even a reason to have a netflix account anymore.
One important thing to note about The Horror of Frankenstein is that it is not canonical with the rest of the Frankenstein movies, all of which feature the continuing struggle of Peter Cushing, the famed mad scientist/anti-hero and his experiments to bring the dead to life. Instead The Horror of Frankenstein, directed by in-house Hammer-man Jimmy Sangster, tells the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein all over again. But, even moreso, I feel that it tells the story of an entirely different doctor who happens to be called Victor Frankenstein. Let me explain.
The Horror of Frankenstein begins with Victor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates) as a student. The opening sequence is Frankenstein drawing dotted lines all over the picture of a naked woman; an action which obviously foreshadows his later work. When he is caught, the headmaster threatens to beat him but Frankenstein convinces him not to and it’s immediately revealed that Frankenstein is not some sick, antisocial weirdo but a cunning, manipulative and charming young man. He even has all the young ladies pining for him
It’s also revealed that he’s a sociopath; when his charm doesn’t get him what he wants, he simply kills people. Thank god forensics and fingerprinting didn’t exist back then or he would have been caught for his little trick of booby trapping his father’s gun so he could inherit his estate and use his dad’s money to go to college.
Ralph Bates does a fantastic job as the morally bankrupt mad scientist who will do anything to get his way. And it’s good fun watching him move his plan forward to create life from death by various forms of cajolings; it’s pretty amusing his sidekick Wilhelm (Graham James) was so naive that he thought he convinced Frankenstein to stop his experiments by threatening to go to the police only to have Frankenstein kill him.
Basically Frankenstein through the help of a grave robber collects parts to create his monster. The doctor also finds time for a few casual shack ups with hot as hell house maid/sex worker Alys (Kate O’Marra). In addition to that, there is a subplot in which a woman named Elizabeth (Veronica Carlson) inexplicably falls in love with Frankenstein only to become his replacement house maid.
And all that is fine and dandy and enjoyable for a time but that does not warrant it taking 66 out of 95 minutes to finally introduce the monster. Granted, when this happens, the monster does stalk and kill a few people. It’s not some misunderstood creature; it’s just a mindless killing machine that either works on its own or when the master tells it to. How it managed to understand English is best left to suspension of disbelief.
The Horror of Frankenstein is a Hammer film through and through with neat looking gothic set pieces, characteristically hammy acting and low-cut, cleavage exposing dresses. Allegedly it’s supposed to be somewhat of a comedy and, though there were moments of dry humor, including its brilliant ending, it’s still pretty much a monster movie. My only other complaint aside from its taking forever to show the monster (which kind of resembles Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes) is that the severed limbs looked a little too rubbery at times.