Hammer’s Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is an important film in the studios history. Not only is it the last film of noted British director Terence Fisher, but it’s also the final chapter to Hammer’s Frankenstein saga. This started with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 and included The Revenge of Frankenstein (1959), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and The Horror of Frankenstein (1970).
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell opens on another mad doctor named Simon Helder (Shane Briant), a man obsessed with the work of the now dead Baron Frankenstein and determined to continue in his place.
Caught by the local police during a gruesome experiment he is sentenced for sorcery and sent to an insane asylum run by a mad perverted director and staffed by sadists.
Quite by chance also housed within the wicked and weird walls is Frankenstein himself (played for the sixth time by the legendary Peter Cushing) who having faked his own death now lives as Dr. Carl Victor.
Operating as the surgeon for the crazed patients Frankenstein enjoys many privileges and resources for his private research, ruling over the roost due to the information he has on the terrible running of the asylum.
Seeing a kindred spirit in Helder, Dr. Victor takes him on to help not only in his day to day practice but also in the more twisted experiments he continues to perform but finds increasingly difficult due to his hands being horribly burnt.
Together with their makeshift nurse a beautiful mute girl dubbed the Angel (Madeline Smith) they strive to make the perfect man combining the hands of a skilled craftsman with the body and brute strength of a maniac who was more Neanderthal than human.
It seems all they are missing is a brain and it is during this quest Helder witnesses the true dark side of Frankenstein and his immoral drive and evil determination to succeed. Can Helder stop Victor or is he doomed to join him as the pair play god in creating a Monster from Hell.
With its interesting and innovative story Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell offers up a twist on the usual plot line and the asylum setting and constant comparison between the young idealistic Helder and the obsessive Frankenstein are cleaver additions although it has to be said that all the familiar elements of the traditional tale are still very present.
Briant offers up a great turn as Helder, starting out as a cold callous and conceited surgeon and gradually realising the error of his ways – by which point it is far too late to stop what he has put in motion both literally and figuratively.
Darth Vader himself David Prowse stars as the monster, who perhaps isn’t the scariest looking Frankenstein or the best designed. But he does, at least look unusual compared to other monsters and the rest of the supporting cast which contains John Stratton as the disturbed asylum director and Madeline Smith as the innocent object of everyone’s affections, do a good job.
Best of all of course is Cushing who as ever gives a powerhouse performance as Frankenstein, making him as brooding and fanatical as ever. His obvious massive intellect yet seemingly nonexistent moral compass makes for a fascinating character study and although surrounded by much more obvious maniacs his psychotic insanity is the most truly disturbing of all.
Fisher’s direction is excellent as ever and the man behind some of Hammer’s most iconic movies including Dracula, The Mummy and The Devil Rides Out as well as all but two of the Frankenstein films is more than competent in the final part, pushing the plot along and adding in some great gore, savage surgery scenes and mad moments.
A wonderful climax to a great series of horror movies, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is a must have for Hammer enthusiasts and Frankenstein freaks.