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The Horror Of Frankenstein (1970)

And so we come to the nadir of the Hammer horror cycle, the innapropriately named Horror Of Frankenstein. For a horror film it's a remarkably un-horrific effort from the studio, especially considering its heritage.

Compared with undoubted classics like Curse Of Frankenstein, Revenge Of Frankenstein and the brilliant Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Horror is an extremely anaemic affair. All these others came before it, remember, yet there's hardly any blood in this offering, no shocks, no nudity, and very little violence. What were they thinking of?

The film opens with Victor Frankenstein, bored with his school lessons, drawing saucy pictures of young ladies in his textbook. The film starts as it means to go on, by getting a bunch of 30-year-olds to dress up as schoolkids for these opening scenes. The idea of a 30-year-old Ralph Bates (complete with five o'clock shadow) and an extremely chesty Veronica Carlson (luckily without same) still being at school is not just absurd, it looks stupid. If they'd just gone for it and stuck Veronica in a Britney Spears-style badly fitting uniform, it might have worked. But they didn't. What's more, on getting home. "young" Victor finds his dad cavorting in the sheets with housemaid Alys (Kate O'Mara), who's supposed to be 16(!)

Young Victor (what a shame Melvyn Hayes couldn't reprise his role in Curse) is a right pain in the arse as well as being a randy little bugger, and after being told by his equally randy dad "You'll see me in my grave before I let you gallivant off to Vienna for a couple of years", makes sure that's exactly what happens by fixing the old duffer's hunting rifle to explode in his face. You don't actually get to see this spectacle, which for 1970 was nothing short of a crime against horror movies.

Within two minutes of arriving in Vienna, the University Dean's daughter is up the duff and Victor's out on his arse and heading back to Karlsbaad for the summer.

"We'll have a marvellous time," he tells his best mate Wilhelm, "the whole of the summer with nothing to do but mess around in my laboratory!" (He knows how to party, this one).

As the film spirals into ever more dreadfulness, we get treated to a severed arm doing the old two-fingered salute (Victor: "I think I'll send it to the Dean as a going-away present"), and the worst highwaymen in the history of film, two of which get shot by Victor and Wilhelm. Ever resourceful, the young Baron nicks one of their heads and sticks it in a pickle jar.

Victor re-aquaints himself with the locals in several interminable meetings with his old schoolfriends, and carries on where his dad left off by nobbing Kate O'Mara.

After successfully re-animating a tortoise(?), Victor starts getting body parts delivered by grave robber Dennis Price, who puts in an actually quite good cameo, complete with wife doing all the dirty work. But the viewer is left wondering why the bloody hell does Victor need lots of different bits to make one body? Why not just use a ready-made one? This is never explained - and is obviously only in the script because the writers thought it ought to be, not for any other reason. All of the other Hammer Frankensteins just use one body - but this seems to be there to add to all the other awful cliches that abound throughout the film.

As Victor gets more bonkers, his hair-do gets bigger and bigger, and eventually the film reaches its lowest point. During a dinner party he looks up and sees a "25" painted on the head of his brainy host (he has been meticulously numbering all the body parts as he goes along). This is a "joke" unworthy of even the worst Carry On. And that's saying something.

Of course, after bumping the old guy off (with poison? Come on - in the first one he got chucked down the stairs and landed on his head), the brain gets dropped on the floor and knackered.

Just over an hour into the film's 90 minute running time, the monster is finally unveiled. And it's crap. David "West County Darth Vader" Prowse in a pair of white cycling shorts. Ooh, scary. Complete with square head.

Of course, the monster escapes, kills a passing bloke by dropping a Christmas tree on him and then chopping him up with an axe (off screen), and then eats a bird. Victor (the scientist, remember?) manages to subdue the monster using the practised medical art of twatting him with a big stick.

The next ten minutes fly by, with Victor sending his bored-looking creation out to bump off anyone who tries to blackmail Victor/go to the police/take a walk through the woods. But this does give us an entertaining bit of dialogue, with Victor telling Dennis Price's widow: "Take the SHORT CUT to the village... remember... the SHORT CUT... through the woods." Which, considering she knows that the castle was the last place her husband was seen alive, should have led her to reply "Sod you, mad bloke... I'm sticking to the tried, tested and brightly lit main road back to town." But of course, she doesn't.

There's an odd bit when the monster takes a detour through a house and appears to molest a small child: "He hurt me... nasty monster", and the whole shebang finishes on possibly the worst ending ever. In fact, it doesn't end at all. The only good thing you could possibly say about it is there's no huge, all engulfing fire, like all the rest. No blood, no violence, no point, no way of getting that 90 minutes of your life back. You have been warned...

Director: Jimmy Sangster Writer(s): Jeremy Burnham, Jimmy Sangster

Cast: Ralph Bates - Victor Frankenstein, Kate O'Mara - Alys, Veronica Carlson - Elizabeth Heiss, Dennis Price - The Graverobber, Jon Finch - Lt. Henry Becker, Bernard Archard - Prof. Heiss, Graham James - Wilhelm Kassner, James Hayter, Joan Rice - Graverobber's wife, Stephen Turner, Neil Wilson, James Cossins - Baron Frankenstein, Glenys O'Brien, Geoffrey Lumsden, Clethbridge Baker, Terry Duggan, George Belbin, Hal Jeayes, Carol Jeayes, Michael Goldie, David Prowse - The Monster, Sue Hammer - Maid


Last updated: February 23, 2010

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