The Evil of Frankenstein
In our continuing series of articles 'The bloke down the pub' tells us all about his favourite Hammer Horror films. In his fifteenth review he's finding a that our villainous protagonist, Frankenstein has a somewhat dodgy memory and maybe even an incorrect victim complex in 1964's The Evil of Frankenstein.
Our memories are never all that reliable, I’ve found. I’ve had quite a few rows with people when I swear blind something happened one way and it takes more than just one other person telling me I’m wrong before I’ll admit that I might be (and even then just because I can tell people are bored of me saying ‘But it did!’ over and over). But imagine how bad people remember things, what absolute swine tell themselves at night just so they can close their eyes. Maybe they’re full of justification or maybe, as far as they’re concerned, their story has transformed into a whole other series of events that have been pieced together in a tired and twisted mind to protect itself from the horrors of what it’s done.
This, as far as I can tell, is the only plausible explanation for The Evil of Frankenstein or, as I like to call it - Frankenstein Remembers It Differently.
When we last saw Frankenstein, after The Revenge, he had effectively stolen some poor sod’s body and implanted his mind in it so he could carry on with his experiments that had become a little less about discovering the spark of life and a bit more - now I’ve discovered the spark of life, what mad things can I do with it? But when we rejoin him for The Evil, he’s a sad and misunderstood scientist forced to flee back to his hometown, the setting for his first movie The Curse. He’s now a kindly Cushing, a noble Cushing, a man who only wants to be left alone to chase the dream of giving life. And even though this is pretty weird, he was always a complicated character, so it’s probably OK to walk back his evil a little - bit strange they want to do that in a movie titled ‘The Evil of Frankenstein’ but fair enough. Then he starts moaning about not being allowed to perfect his craft. And we’ve seen his craft pretty damn perfected. Of course that means perfect monsters, but he’s not moaning about the quality of their personalities here; he’s not tearing his hair out crying ‘Why can’t I ever re-animate anyone nice!?’ No, he just wants it to work. This is the third movie remember. If the mad scientist hasn’t got it at least a bit right by the third movie then what the hell have we been watching? It’s all a bit rum frankly. There is a moment where Pete tries to strangle a priest which signals a brief, but sadly unfulfilled, return to form. But soon enough he’s back at his old home, being sad and noble, and although it is the same house from the first film, it appears to be the only thing that has survived from The Curse. Because our Pete starts talking about the people that thwarted his first creation - corrupt and vain civil servants who prefer lining their own pockets than serving the public good, a public good that Pete clearly thinks covers the bringing back to life of sewn together murderers. But I don’t remember any civil servants from The Curse, I just remember Pete sacrificing everyone and everything in pursuit of his ruthless ambition to not just find, but control the secret of life. He was brought low by himself, not anybody else. And so you start to wonder...
Are we in Frankenstein’s dream here? Is that how he remembers it? Is this whole movie the playing out of some story the Baron tells himself at night so that he can sleep without being interrupted by too many ghosts screaming for justice? Because if so he doesn’t even seem happy with how his original monster turned out in The Curse. A zombie-like Christopher Lee clearly brings him nothing but shame, so his monster has become some sort of Boris Karloff rip-off. Nope, there’s no getting around it, as far as Frankenstein is concerned his whole story is totally different. He thinks he’s a brilliant scientist who only wants to be left alone to pursue the secret of life. Which, if you were in fact a murdering sociopath who has destroyed everything he ever loved to follow his insane ambitions, well, that might be how you paint yourself. All I’m saying is - don’t expect us to buy it, Baron.
Because you know what? He doesn’t tell a very good story. When it comes to stitching bits of dead people together and turning it into a unstoppable force of twisted hubris and violence, there is absolutely no-one better. But leave the art to the artists, would be my advice to the Baron. Because, and this is just for starters, his retelling has an evil hypnotist as the bad guy! He has just enough imagination not to give him a top hat, black cloak, and mad staring eyes. But still, the bad man of his tale, ruining his noble scientific experiments is… an evil hypnotist. One whose importance to the story, his power over the monster, begins with his apparently unique ability to raise the creature from its long slumber by shouting ‘Wake up!’ in its face. I think the Baron should do a bit more hypnotism research, that’s what I think. And that mob at the end; should they really be holding actual pitchforks? That’s more of a figure of speech I think. I mean, honestly, how many pitchforks does one town need?
No, I prefer The Curse. That’s what really happened, and this funny little dream of the Baron’s is nothing more than a sad indictment of how far he is from the person he believes himself to be. I can only hope that when Frankenstein returns, we get an actual record of the Baron we know and love, with a burning eyed Cushing trampling across morals, law and decency to reach the purest expression of his twisted genius.
Because I’m not buying this tragic figure who only wants to be left alone, not for one minute. Do me a favour and pull the other one. Speaking of which…