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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Horror Of Frankenstein (1970)
(2018 Restored Blu-Ray & DVD Doubleplay)


Starring: Ralph Bates, Kate O'Mara, Veronica Carlson and David Prowse
Distributor: StudioCanal
RRP: £TBC (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 29 January 2018

Victor Frankenstein walks out of medical school when he believes he can learn no more… and after getting the Dean’s daughter pregnant. When his father dies, Frankenstein returns to the castle where he creates a laboratory with a fellow student. Victor spends all his time attempting to bring life to dead body parts – punctuated only by bedding the maid. Eventually he is obliged to seek the help of a grave robber. However, his success in creating a living creature is tempered by a systematic down-turn of events. Both his colleague and his lovely maid turn against him, so Frankenstein uses the creature to remove his obstacles. But the creature’s activities attract the interest of the local police...

Hammer was actively looking for young stars to replace its stalwart classic actors such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (how could you ever replace those two gentlemen?). They wanted a reimagining of The Curse of Frankenstein (Hammer’s first proper gothic horror) and approached reliable regular scriptwriter Jimmy Sangster. The man took some tempting back, so they offered him the producing and directing positions, too. Sangster felt that this type of film had run its course; his decision to send the film up and create a black comedy was a curious one, because that’s not exactly what emerged. There are probably only two clear-cut moments of gallows humour: one being when an electrical charge is put through a disembodied arm and it raises two fingers (one finger in the American cut of the film), and the other being when the brain to be used is dropped.

Many people (including Hammer historian Marcus Hearn) dismiss this film as a spoof of sorts, but that’s simply not the case. Purposefully or not, I believe Sangster turned in one of his strongest projects. There is a misunderstanding that the dialogue is dark comedy, but this is by far the best acting role I’ve seen from Ralph Bates. He plays the entire piece straight, which means his portrayal of Frankenstein is self-obsessed and flippant. He cares nothing about the people around him; merely using them as a means to an end: his work. A far cry from Cushing’s misguided formal and gentlemanly scholar. Irony takes its part, of course. Particularly at the conclusion of events when Frankenstein hides his creature in the acid tank to avoid discovery by the authorities, and an annoying little girl pulls the rope which unknowingly tips acid on it.

Aside from Bates, who is refreshingly different as Frankenstein (mainly down to Sangster’s screenplay), we have a gorgeous young Kate O’Mara as the jealous maid/housekeeper, and Dennis Price as the gloriously upper-crust grave robber. The creature is played by none other than Green Cross Code man and Mr Darth Vader – David Prowse. Veronica Carlson, who had been in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, is given very little to do in this one aside from follow Victor around like a love sick puppy being repeatedly rejected.

I last reviewed the DVD release of The Horror of Frankenstein in 2004. I was taken with it then and I still love it now. Perhaps I am the dissenter here because, despite those who might tell you differently, there is so much to appreciate in this film. There is no padding and no disrespect for the root subject. It’s just that Frankenstein is so absorbed in his work that nothing else matters – and that come across as a rather fun interpretation. Don’t listen to those other critics; buy yourself a copy of this Doubleplay release. You won’t be disappointed.


Ty Power

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