Review: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)

Terence Fisher takes on the Baron once more with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, the most self-destructive picture in the Hammer Film Productions series. It is the fifth of Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN movies and it features a screenplay by Bert Batt, with cinematography by Arthur Grant. The 1969 outing is among the most overt in the series, with influences from Italian crime cinema and the depths of Gothic tragedy in play.

Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is once again at work. He disturbs a thief who stumbles on his experiments and has to relocate once more. This leads him to a boarding house run by Anna (Veronica Carlson), who has an intended named Karl (Simon Ward). It turns out that Karl works at the local asylum, where a former associate of the Baron resides. Frankenstein extorts the young couple into helping him, which naturally sets off a chain of awful events.

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FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED pushes the obsession of Frankenstein to a boiling point. There is a singular scene in the picture that was opposed by the stars and director – and for good reason. In it, the Baron forces himself on Anna in a fit of sexual violence that seems only incited by the sight of her. This burst of appalling vigour from a precise but ethically-challenged figure is odd. His treatment of women has always raised eyebrows (see THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), but it’s the loss of control that makes an unnecessary mark.

And the scene may have otherwise ruined the production if not for the excellence found in the balance. The attack on Anna infuses the rest of FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED with an odd energy, as no character approaches the subject again and the subtext is left in the mind of the viewer. But the element of the Baron pushing the bar further from civility does have rewards, especially as he blackmails the young couple into doing his will and grows more comfortable with murder and death in the fashioning of his latest offering. His distorted progress is worthy of carnage, so the real monster must be thus destroyed.

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