Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) marks the final installment of the Hammer Studios Frankenstein films and also the last film by perennial Hammer director Terrance Fisher.
The film stars Peter Cushing as Baron Von Frankenstein, aka Dr. Carl Victor. Confined to an asylum for the charge of sorcery due to his last foray into the creation of man, Frankenstein, along with the director of the asylum, orchestrated the death of Dr. Frankenstein and his new identity to allow for the Baron to assume the duties of staff doctor within the asylum. Frankenstein, now Dr. Victor, has a fairly free hand to do as he pleases due an intimate knowledge of some of the asylum director's peccadilloes and past indiscretions, and has once again begun his quest to create life where there was none before, from body parts culled from recently deceased inmates.
Dr. Simon Helder (Shane Briant) has just recently been committed to the asylum for trying to follow in Frankenstein's footsteps, and learns that Frankenstein is alive and well, working under his current pseudonym. I remember Briant from other Hammer films like Demons of the Mind (1972) and Kronos (1973). Dr. Carl allows for the younger doctor to assume his routine duties within the asylum, caring for patients, freeing up the elder to pursue his experimentations. The good doctor seems to have created quite the hairy behemoth, using various bits and pieces of some of the recently deceased, more interesting inmates. The monster, played by David Prowse (Darth Vader in the early Star Wars films), has the best features of these poor, departed souls, but lacks an adequate brain. Did I mention he is also very hairy? I probably did, but it's worth mentioning again as the dude is almost ape-like. But what's this? We are soon introduced to an inmate whose intellect far surpasses even his keepers? I am sure that will come into play later...
Also starring is the comely Madeline Smith as Sarah, a mute resident, also known to the inmates as Angel. She acquired the moniker while being in the service of Dr. Karl as his assistant, and having the ability to deal with the crazy people with a quiet, gentle bedside manor.
With the aid of his young assistants, Sarah and Dr. Helder, Dr. Karl completes the hideous creature, and all seems a success. But is it? What happens when you play mix and match with body parts from various individuals, not to mention various mentally disturbed individuals? The success is soon overshadowed by problems as the creature begins to understand his own being, from whence he came.
I thought this was a great 'last hurrah' for Hammer and Fisher, despite some of the concessions made due to a smaller budget, i.e. the obvious use of miniatures when showing exteriors of the asylum and the stiff and unresponsive suit worn by Prowse. Most of the film takes place in the confined quarters of the asylum, giving the viewer a sense of being trapped in a nightmarish world within. I really enjoyed the camaraderie between Dr. Helder and Dr. Karl, and I can't help but wonder if the characterization was carried over into real life between the Briant and Cushing. There were also a few neat surprises that help to flesh out the story, adding depth to the characters, allowing for a real interest to develop for the viewer. The gore is present, but another reviewer has stated that some of the more gory aspects have not been included in the film. I couldn't help laughing at the scene when Dr. Karl and Dr. Helder are removing the 'old' brain from the creature and Dr. Karl unceremoniously drops it into a dish on the floor (just throw that anywhere) and then proceeds to trip on the dish, spilling the contents over the floor, his reaction being that of someone who just knocked over a bowl of milk for kitty. A nice, little touch.
The print here looks really good and sharp, and special features include a commentary by actress Madeline Smith, actor David Prowse, and horror historian Jonathan Sothcott, one which I haven't had an opportunity to listen to, but sounds to be interesting.