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Blu-ray Review

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Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)


Starring: Peter Cushing and Shane Briant
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 29 August 2022

Young Doctor Simon Helder acquires the writings of notorious surgeon Baron Frankenstein and emulates his studies. After being ratted-on by a graverobber, Helder is committed to an insane asylum, the same one in which Frankenstein apparently died after being discovered performing gristly experiments on stolen corpses. However, after a misunderstanding with the facility’s director, he is placed with the mysterious Doctor Victor. It isn’t long before Helder realises Frankenstein is alive and well and continuing with his outlawed unorthodox experiments...

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell holds a special place in my memory, not the least of reasons being I used to follow a local band years ago called Baron Victor and the Monsters From Hell. This film was shot in 1972 but not released until two years later. By then it was said that Hammer Films had run its course and the signs were there to see: This was the last of eight outings for the Frankenstein character, and the seventh with Peter Cushing in the pivotal role. Cushing had starred in many horror movies for Hammer but, not only was he ageing with the unfulfilled idea he would be replaced by Shane Briant – as Ralph Bates was being shaped to replace Christopher Lee – also Cushing’s wife had recently died and it was felt he had become more reclusive. The horror became a little more graphic during this time, some critics even venturing as far as to opine the standard had dropped and could not compete with the new movie blockbusters. This must surely mean Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is a derisory affair and not worth the viewing time… Right?

Not a bit of it. The accusation couldn’t be further from the truth. The creature in the film is shown in the form of a beastly neanderthal who had been one of the asylum’s patients but with the brain of a professor. It was played by Dave Prowse (Darth Vader/The Green Cross Code Man), the only actor to have played the creature more than once in the eight films. He apparently struck up quite a friendship with Peter Cushing, and both would appear in Star Wars just a few years later. As for Cushing, although he had recently lost his rock in life, his performance – as always – was meticulous and exquisite. It would have been impossible to replace the sheer presence and acting prowess of Cushing and Lee. It was a common opinion of fellow actors that Cushing was always a calm, friendly and accommodating gentleman. Briant is solid in the film, but a valid replacement for Cushing? I don’t think so.

This was Hammer mainstay director Terrence Fisher’s final film for the company. He had suffered recent car accidents and ill health, though this outing was far from going through the motions. It is handled with aplomb. His decision to set the film in the Regency period is inspired; it really works, bringing the costumes and settings alive. This film is also strident with colourful actors and both interesting and quirky characters. Aside from the aforementioned Cushing and Prowse, there is Patrick Troughton as the Bodysnatcher, the lovely Madeline Smith as Sarah the mute aid to Frankenstein, John Stratton as the Asylum Director, Charles Lloyd-Pack as Professor Durendel, and Sydney Bromley as Muller who thinks he is God.

The Special Edition release of this Blu-ray comes with a Rigid Slipcase and New Artwork by Graham Humpreys. There is a Soft Cover Book with New Essays by Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam Kevin Lyons, plus Production Stills. There are Four Collectors’ Art Cards; a New Audio Commentary by Film Academic Kat Ellinger; an Archive Audio Commentary by Shane Briant, Madeline Smith and film historian Marcus Hearn; An Appreciation of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell by David Huckdale; The Music of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell; Taking Over the Asylum; Charming Evil: Terence Fisher at Hammer; a Stills Gallery; and a Choice of Aspect Ratios for the film.

For anyone into Hammer Horror – and there are a lot of us! – this release is virtually indispensable. It has been lovingly assembled, the new artwork is fantastic and there are plenty of extras with which to relive the era. Enjoy.


Ty Power

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