Directed By: Terence Fisher
Starring: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith
Tag line: "His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from hell!"
Trivia: The role of Sarah was first offered to Caroline Munro
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell was the final entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, which started way back in 1957 with The Curse of Frankenstein, and while I’ve been less than impressed with some of the studio’s later films (1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula was downright awful), I’m happy to report that Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is a solid motion picture.
We’re introduced once again to that renowned scientist, Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who, for years, has been locked away in an asylum for the criminally insane (which is, ironically, the only place he can continue his ghastly experiments in peace). Still hoping to re-animate dead tissue, the Baron has just met the perfect assistant to aid him in his notorious research; Dr. Simon Helder (Shane Briant), himself an inmate, who was imprisoned for attempting to duplicate Frankenstein’s experiments. With Helder at his side, Frankenstein is hopeful that his latest ‘creation’, a Neanderthal-like creature (David Prowse, the man behind Darth Vader’s mask in Star Wars), will prove he’s not the lunatic everybody believes him to be.
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell offers an interesting answer to the age-old question of what happens when the inmates take over the asylum. Frankenstein has been given free reign of the entire sanitarium by its oft-nervous director (John Stratton), and in return, the good Baron helps out from time to time, serving as the facility’s resident physician. Of course, he has his reasons for doing so. While paying a visit to a patient known as the Professor (Charles Lloyd Pack), the Baron warns the man, a brilliant mathematician, to stop writing out math problems on the wall because doing so will only “tax” his brain. Now, why is Frankenstein so keen to protect his highly advanced brain? Why, indeed!
But what I really liked about Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell was the introduction of Dr. Simon Helder as Frankenstein’s assistant, a man who shares his interest in reanimation and has the will and determination to see the project through to the end. As played by Briant, Dr. Helder is no mindless Igor; he’s a scientist with great intelligence and skill. In the opening scene, the soft-spoken Helder takes delivery of a corpse that’s just been stolen from its grave, only to be apprehended shortly after removing the dead man’s eye (going so far as to chastise the constable, played by Norman Mitchell, for dropping a jar of eyeballs, thus ruining some perfectly good specimens). Watching Frankenstein and Helder play off one another, each equal in their desire to create life, was a nice addition to the Frankenstein story, taking it in a fresh and exciting direction.