OCTOBER 12, 2010
It’s been years (really?) since I watched The Evil Of Frankenstein, which was the 2nd sequel to The Curse Of Frankenstein, which I’m just watching now, obviously. The nice thing about seeing so many “origin” movies is that I don’t have to go in any order like I do with the others, but I probably should have gotten around to this one sooner, as it’s a pretty historically significant horror movie.
For starters, it was the first real team up of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They had appeared in two other, non-horror films prior to this, but in minor roles (and one of them they didn’t even appear together). They’d go on to make some 5691 movies together, so it’s nice to see where it all began. The Dracula movies had better chemistry for the two by design, but even with Lee playing a mute, fairly expressionless monster, you can still see how well they work together, and it’s no surprise that Lee’s scenes are the best in the film. Unlike the Uni movies, the focus is more on Frankenstein than the Monster, so Lee isn’t really in it much – something that disappointed me a bit until I realized that if he was the focus that it would be too much like the several hundred other Frankenstein movies I had watched. Also, the makeup is pretty lousy; apparently Universal was going to sue for copying their design so they had to quickly come up with a new one (it just looks like Christopher Lee wearing a thin mask – you can see his very much alive skin on his neck). Later movies just said “fuck it” and used Jack Pierce’s design. Heh.
Another important fact about this movie – it was the first Hammer film in color, and the first one to tackle the classic monsters, which would become their bread and butter over the next two decades. It’s hard to imagine there was a time where it was a pretty big deal for a major film studio to be redoing a classic horror film, huh? Like the Universal film, it leaves out the North Pole bookends, but it does have a wraparound, with the entire movie being Victor’s story as he awaits execution for the crimes he’s telling us about. And again, it focuses more on Frankenstein than the monster – there’s really only one scene of the Monster loose, where he harasses a blind guy before getting shot by Victor’s mostly unwilling partner in the experiments. So it’s a good example of how to do a new version of a book that’s already been turned into a movie without really copying either of them too closely. I should send Matt Reeves a copy.
Speaking of the bookends, I like that Cushing was all disheveled in them. He’s one of the most proper-looking guys in horror movies ever – always in a nice suit and well scrubbed. I can’t recall another film where he looked like shit; it kind of threw me off at first. In the “happy” scenes he’s his usual well-dressed self, including one purplish number that made him slightly resemble Gene Wilder in the original Willy Wonka film. Also, the bookends prevent the film from ending the second the Monster is killed – I assume that since this was the first, they were still playing with the formula. They wouldn’t often make this mistake again!
And there’s gore! This might have been the first time excess blood was seen in color (I’m probably wrong there). It’s not exactly Dead Alive, obviously, but I bet it was pretty damn stunning back then, like when the Monster gets shot in the face and blood pours out from underneath Lee’s hand, which he has raised to the wound in order to hide the blood pa-, I mean, apply pressure to his fresh, painful wound. Plus he dissolves in acid at the end instead of the usual fire (he gets set on fire too, of course).
The DVD (from Warner) has the trailer, which, as usual for the era, gives pretty much all the money shots away. Cast & Crew is completely worthless – no bios, it’s just a single page with the cast and crew listed, as if you couldn’t get that information from the film itself. Of some minor use is “Hammer Creates A Monster”, a text-based rundown of the history of the franchise as a whole. I would have preferred some more info about THIS film, instead of quick capsule summaries of all seven sequels, but it’s a nice little bonus all the same. It’s how I learned that the one I saw (Evil) was 3rd, for some reason I thought this was the only one before that one. So I need to see Revenge of Frankenstein next, and then I’ll be back on course. I’ve seen most of the Hammer Dracula ones by now, so it seems a good time to move on to their Frankenstein. Hopefully it won’t take 3 years to get to the next one.
What say you?