Raised by wolves on a steady diet of Friday the 13th sequels, Judge Patrick Naugle can't appreciate the stylish charms of Hammer horror.
Our review of TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Hammer Horror, published October 1st, 2010, is also available.
The most frightening Frankenstein movie ever made!
Old Dr. Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing, Star Wars) is back and hell bent on creating new life in this 1969 Hammer chiller. Doctor Frankenstein has been conducting his experiments in a secret London laboratory, but time and time again his effects have failed at bring the dead back to life. After an assailant attacks his lab, Frankenstein is forced to move to a smaller town to continue his bizarre experiments with the dead. It's here that he blackmails a local doctor, Karl Holst (Simon Ward, best know as Zor-El in Supergirl), and his fiancée into helping him with his morally reprehensible experiments (and to our surprise, Dr. Holst doesn't seem to have reservations about murder and grave robbing). It seems that another doctor, Frederick Brandt (George Pravda), has discovered the code for cryogenics, which Dr. Frankenstein would love to get his hands on. Since Brandt has officially gone insane and is now committed to a local mental institution, Frankenstein devises a scheme to transplant Brandt's brain into a healthy body, thus vanquishing the madness and unlocking the secrets to Brandt's discovery. But when things don't go as planned Dr. Frankenstein discovers that his experiment is none-too-happy about its return from the grave…
Oh, how I long to become a fan of these classic Hammer Horror movies like so many of my esteemed peers. Unfortunately, it just ain't happening. A few months ago, I watched my first Hammer film, the Christopher Lee supposed classic Curse of Dracula. I was none too impressed, which did not pave a smooth road for watching the lackluster Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. I know I'm in trouble when it takes me over nine hours to finish the movie that's actual length is under two hours.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed meanders on to its conclusion, all the while thrilling viewers with wordy dialogue and very little in the way of true horror. The most horrific scene—and also the most laughable—is when Dr. Frankenstein removes the brain of one victim and places it inside a storage container. If this sounds at all enticing to you, by all means go out and pick up your copy of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. For the rest of you, you'll see more horror in the seafood department of a grocery store than in the film.
The plot of the film feels padded, even with a short running time of just over an hour and 45 minutes. It could be I just don't appreciate these old Hammer films like other, more sophisticated viewers—the sight of Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein isn't scary, just mildly weird (Cushing's characters tend to walk around sneering at everyone as if the actor had jabbed a large aluminum pole up his rear end). Aside of Cushing—I'm sorry, he'll always be Grand Moff Tarkin to me—the cast features a bunch of British faces that didn't make a dent in my memory.
Like many of my favorite horror movies, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed may be something you watched as a kid and have grown to love, no matter how mediocre it is; how else can I explain my coddling of such films like The Return of the Living Dead Part II and The Mangler? If this is the case, Warner's first-ever DVD edition of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed will surely make you happy. As for the rest of you, stick with the 1930s Boris Karloff classic over this hum-drum effort.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a film 35 years old, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed looks better than expected. The transfer sports solid colors and dark black levels, a surprise considering the budget and age of the film. However, there are a few problems that plague this disc—there is a considerable amount of dirt in the print at times, and while the colors look nice, there are spots where the greens and blues have faded slightly. Aside of these miner quibbles, Warner's work on Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed should please Hammer fans.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in French and English. Since this is a mono sound mix it isn't very exciting. Although there isn't much going on in this mix, the good news is that it's clear of any major hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Fans of Hammer's chillers won't be happy to hear that the only extra feature Warner was able to patch together is a single theatrical trailer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Theatrical Trailer
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