After two excellent and highly successful films (and a six year break), Hammer decided to completely reboot their Frankenstein franchise but, strangely, ‘The Evil Of Frankenstein’ doesn’t go back to the beginning. Instead, it takes place ten years after the Baron (Peter Cushing, of course) created his original monster, with the back story eventually established via a lengthy and slightly unconvincing flashback. It doesn’t really work, but the film is not without merit, just all over the place and hard to love.
The story revolves around Frankenstein returning to his hometown as ‘it’s been ten years – no-one will remember me’. Of course not, Baron, the creation of a living creature from spare parts which then goes on the rampage is a fairly commonplace event in the life of a small village. When he gets back to his castle he finds that the greedy powers that be have snaffled all his stuff - apart from his beloved monster, which is stuck in a glacier in suspended animation.
Being frozen for a decade has affected the creature’s brain, however, so Frankenstein has to employ the services of an odious sideshow mesmerist, Professor Zoltan, to get the creature to do anything, but the nasty Zoltan takes the opportunity to use the reanimated man-beast to settle a few scores (with the same men who Frankenstein has a grudge against) and it all kicks off. There’s violence, chaos, murder, fire, and an explosion that destroys a castle. You know, the sort of thing that absolutely no-one will remember in ten years’ time…
Oddly structured, ‘Evil’ has its moments, but is definitely a lesser effort, being neither one thing nor another. On the plus side, Cushing is great, and we get a proper monster, played by wrestler Kiwi Kingston who sports the familiar and iconic square headed look of the classic universal films (Universal Studios were now in partnership with Hammer, so granted them the copyright). On the negative side, it’s slow and slightly confusing, and the characterisation of the Baron is skewed to fit with ultimately irrelevant plotlines (the proper Frankenstein lives only for his work and is prepared to accept any privation to continue with it – here, he’s upset because some bloke is wearing his old jewellery).
Oh well. I enjoyed it though, flaws and all - but then there is something slightly wrong with me.