FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL has the distinction of being the last of Hammer Film Productions’ FRANKENSTEIN series and the last movie directed by the great Terence Fisher, who helmed THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957. The journey from there to here passed through a great many brains and body parts, but FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL seems a significant if not particularly final turn of the screw.
The movie opens with Dr. Simon Helder (Shane Briant) taking a great interest in the work of one Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing). He’s busted for “sorcery” and sent to an asylum, where he draws the attention of the depraved director (John Stratton) and his malevolent staff. But as luck would have it, the asylum has the one and only Baron Frankenstein serving as its medical director. And guess what? He’s still doing experiments. Helder and Frankenstein work together to once again create a monster.
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL comes on the heels of FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, which is the most brutal of the series. It found its Baron in an almost incorrigible place, so it stands to reason that he’s in the margins now. And while this 1974 picture does find Cushing’s character enjoying a modicum of success within the borders of an asylum, there’s sure darkness to the possibilities and blackness to the academic comedy. How seriously his science will be taken in the land of the insane is up for grabs, especially with his hands on the fritz.
Of course, it’s hard to entirely respect the Baron. In this instance, he’s yanking the body parts of the criminally insane patients of the asylum. He’s a moral individual in contrast to the director, who takes sexual advantage of the patients, but that’s not saying much. And when his latest conception is born a shaggy man-beast with generous lips, he’s a little disappointed it doesn’t quite catch on intellectually. But as anyone who’s been following the script so far is aware, a more suitable brain is always right around the corner.