Saturday, June 30, 2018


On the weekend of June 22-24 of this year, I attended the annual Monster Bash Conference in Mars, PA. One of the major highlights of this event for me is attending one of author Greg Mank's informative and entertaining presentations. Greg has made an immeasurable contribution to the field of classic cinema history due to his research on the lives of so many people involved in the making of the most famous Hollywood horror and science fiction films. Greg's talk at Monster Bash this year centered around the life of English actor Colin Clive, who will be remembered by most for playing Dr. Frankenstein in Universal's FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. During his talk Greg discussed the actor's tragic and short life, in which alcoholism played a part.

At the end of his presentation, Mank noted that June 25 would mark the anniversary of Colin Clive's death in 1937. Greg suggested that we stop and think about Clive in some way on that date. I decided on that night to watch JOURNEY'S END, the film version of the British play that gave Clive his first major success as an actor.

The 1930 film version of JOURNEY'S END was backed by British producers, but it was filmed at Tiffany Studios in Hollywood to take advantage of American sound equipment. James Whale, who had originally directed the play to great acclaim in England, would direct the film version. Whale was already in America--he had come across the Atlantic to help stage new productions of JOURNEY'S END on stage, and he went to California to direct dialogue scenes for two films: THE LOVE DOCTOR and Howard Hughes' HELL'S ANGELS. Whale was adamant that the movie version stick as closely as possible to the text of the play by R.C. Sherriff, and he was equally adamant that only one man could fill the leading role of Captain Stanhope--the man who had played him so movingly on the British stage, Colin Clive.

Clive was given leave from the English stage production of JOURNEY'S END to travel to Hollywood and star in the film version. (The agreement to do this stipulated that Clive had to return to England and the play at a certain date, leaving very little time for actual filming.)

I viewed the 1930 film version of JOURNEY'S END on YouTube. It is nowhere near as cinematic as James Whale's later work, and the quirky English eccentricity his movies are known for is mostly absent here. Whale keeps to the situation at hand--almost the entire story is set in the dugout quarters of Captain Stanhope and his men. (There was talk during the production of "opening up" the play with added scenes, but thankfully this was avoided.) Today the movie may seem rather quaint and very stagy to most audiences, especially those who are not familiar with early sound films.

The story is set in 1918 on the Western Front. Captain Stanhope (Colin Clive) is a respected British Army officer, but nearly three years of combat have taken its toll. Stanhope has to drink constantly in order to function. The only person who really understands the brooding, self-loathing Stanhope is the older, mild-mannered Lt. Osborne (Ian MacLaren), who the other men refer to as "Uncle". As if Stanhope didn't have enough troubles, there's a new arrival to the unit--the young and naive Lt. Raleigh (David Manners). Raleigh knew Stanhope before the war--the young man is in fact the brother of the girl Stanhope left behind. Stanhope fears that his present condition will meet with disapproval from Raleigh, and that the young man will inform his sister about it. Adding to the tension is an expected German attack. Stanhope's commanding officer orders a reconnaissance mission into German lines to bring back a captive in order to find out exactly when the attack will take place. The kindly Osborne is killed during the mission, driving Stanhope further into despair. In the end the Captain comes to the end of his own personal journey.

This film version of JOURNEY'S END makes very little concessions to a mainstream audience. There is no escape from the drudgery of life on the Western Front, and what little humor the film has is provided by Charles Gerrard as an orderly. (Gerrard had a similar role in the 1931 DRACULA.) Colin Clive dominates the entire proceedings as Stanhope--he's nearly in every scene. On the surface Clive's Stanhope appears sarcastic, edgy, and extremely touchy--but the actor also shows the pain and sensitivity that is tearing the man apart inside. Clive's performance is immensely helped by the many close-ups provided him by James Whale's direction--they tell us what Stanhope is really thinking and feeling. Clive was on the verge of turning 30 when this film was made, but he appears about a decade older--it's as if the entire emotional weight of the Great War is etched on his gaunt face. It's not easy for a viewer to spend so much time watching a character like Stanhope, but Clive gives an outstanding portrayal, and one has to wonder if JOURNEY'S END had been made at one of the major Hollywood studios whether Clive might have copped a Best Actor Academy Award nomination.

Thankfully the rest of the cast was not "Americanizied". Ian McLaren is good as Osborne, but I would have loved to have seen George Zucco, who played the role to great acclaim on the stage, repeat his part in the film. David Manners is just right as the callow Raleigh, and silent film comedian Billy Bevan is here as well, although he's unrecognizable without his mustache.

JOURNEY'S END is readily available on YouTube and public domain home video, but it deserves a high-class proper restoration and release...and if does happen, hopefully there will also be an audio commentary by Greg Mank and/or James Curtis. The importance of the 1930 version of JOURNEY'S END to cinema history cannot be underestimated. If James Whale had not been able to direct it, and if Colin Clive had not been brought over to star in it....we certainly wouldn't have gotten the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, (at least not the version we know now) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN wouldn't have existed.

Because of his superb Captain Stanhope, Colin Clive spent the rest of his too-short acting career playing edgy, emotionally fragile characters...and many of these roles sadly reflected the troubles Clive experienced in his own life. Whatever you may think of Colin Clive's acting style, you cannot deny that the man was a truly singular performer. There has never been anyone else quite like him, nor will there be.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monster Bash June 2018

Another year, another Monster Bash Conference. The annual celebration of all things concerning classic horror and science-fiction movies was held in Mars, PA on the weekend of June 22-24. As usual, Ron Adams and all the people at Creepy Classics put on a magnificent show.

When I went to my first Monster Bash in 2013, I was by myself, and I didn't really personally know any of the attendees. My main interest then was getting autographs and buying merchandise. Now the major reason I go to Monster Bash is to meet up with friends and make new ones. This year I drove to the Bash with my great buddy Tim Durbin (check out his blog). This was Tim's very first Bash and he was suitably impressed.

I once again shared a room with the Phenom himself, independent filmmaker Joshua Kennedy. Josh gave a special sneak teaser preview of his upcoming HOUSE OF THE GORGON, and it appears that it will turn out even better than what I thought it would when I was involved in its making. Hanging out with Josh at a Monster Bash is like hanging out with a rock star. He literally couldn't go two feet without someone wanting to converse with him or asking him to participate in something. I told him he'd better get used to it in the future. How much of an impact has Josh already made on the classic horror/sci-fi film community? He was awarded a Monster Bash Lifetime Achievement Award--at the tender age of 23. I have to say that the best time I had at the Bash was just sitting in the hotel room with Josh and having one of our elongated and convoluted geek fests, where we have a wide-ranging discussion on movies, TV shows, life, etc.

Josh Kennedy and his Monster Bash Lifetime Achievement Award

A couple of other great friends of mine received some hardware--Derek Koch also got a Lifetime Achievement Award for his stellar work on the Monster Kid Radio podcast, and David Hardy received his Rondo Award for Best Fan Artist. It's nice to see good things happen to good people.

Derek Koch and his Monster Bash Lifetime Achievement Award

Author Frank Dello Stritto gave another of his wonderful talks on a particular classic horror film. This time the subject was THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, a Universal entry that I would consider about average. I've seen it a number of times--but Frank's genius is that he can talk about such a film in a way that makes you feel that you've never really paid attention to it properly. Greg Mank made a welcome return to Monster Bash with a presentation on the tragic life of Colin Clive--Greg could talk on how paint is made and I bet he could make it entertaining and interesting.

It's Alive!!! Colin Clive!!!

What would a Monster Bash be without me meeting another actress associated with Hammer Films? This time it was the adorable Janina Faye, who appeared in HORROR OF DRACULA, THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL, and NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER.

Your humble blogger with Janina Faye

There's so many other fine and talented people I met at the Bash--people like author Troy Howarth, artists like Mark Maddox and Neil Vokes--I really shouldn't even start a list, because I know I'll wind up forgetting someone. Needless to say, if you have any interest in classic fantastic films, you definitely need to attend a Monster Bash Conference. And I highly recommend you attend the one scheduled for Summer 2019--because that one will feature a screening of HOUSE OF THE GORGON!!

Dan Day Jr., Tim Durbin, Mark Holmes, and Joshua Kennedy in a vain attempt to channel Rathbone, Karloff, Lorre, and Price

Saturday, June 16, 2018


It's a great time to be alive if you are a Spaghetti Western fan. Nearly all of the outstanding examples of the genre have recently been released on special edition Blu-ray, and more of them are on the way. A company known as Film Movement is responsible for a full restoration of Sergio Corbucci's THE GREAT SILENCE, which is now also available on Blu-ray.

THE GREAT SILENCE doesn't have the popularity of more famous Euro Westerns, mainly due to its limited availability. But I believe that even if it had been shown on TV as often as the Sergio Leone Westerns, it wouldn't have as many fans as those films do. THE GREAT SILENCE is a bleak, haunting tale that resembles an art-house movie more than a action-packed revenge melodrama. Instead of the usual arid Spanish Spaghetti Western locations, director Sergio Corbucci chose the snow covered Italian Dolomite Mountains for the setting. The result is that everything is covered in white--the town the story is set in, the coaches, etc. This isn't a festive-looking winter, however--the atmosphere is harsh and mournful. The dead-of-winter ambiance, combined with Ennio Morricone's melancholy score and several outstanding shot compositions, gives THE GREAT SILENCE a haunting lyricism that makes it stand out from not only any other Euro Western, but all other Westerns put together.

Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Silence, a mysterious gunfighter whose moniker is more than just a nickname--his vocal cords were cut when he was a young boy. Silence takes it upon himself to protect a band of outlaws who are holed up near the appropriately-named town of Snow Hill in the Utah Territory during the 1890s. The outlaws (the movie never really explains what the group is wanted for) are in hiding from a vicious band of bounty hunters led by the cruel Loco (Klaus Kinski). To Loco, "Wanted Dead or Alive" means "Dead", and he proceeds to eliminate as many fugitives as possible to collect the rewards. The quick-on-the-trigger Silence is hired by a young widow named Pauline (Vonetta McGee) to kill Loco--it was Loco who killed the woman's husband. Snow Hill's new sheriff (Frank Wolff) tries to stop all the various killings, but he's no match for the venal Loco--and in the end, neither is Silence.

The character of Silence may seem to be just another in a long line of quiet, expressionless, Spaghetti Western leading men who are proficient at gunplay. What makes Silence different is that his affliction gives him a more human quality--he's not an indestructible killing machine. Silence is so fast with his Mauser semi-automatic pistol, he always lets his opponents draw first, that way he can claim self-defense. Silence could easily be the best bounty hunter of them all, but he doesn't seem all that interested in money. He even develops a relationship with Pauline, but he does not take advantage when she offers herself to him in lieu of payment for her wanting Loco dead. Unlike most Euro Western main characters, Silence actually has real human feelings, and they wind up being a disadvantage to him.

Jean-Louis Trintignant is fine as Silence, considering he's hampered by the fact that his character does not speak and barely shows any emotion. But it's Klaus Kinski who makes the biggest impression. Due to his unique features all Kinski has to do to properly portray a villain is to show up--but his Loco is particularly loathsome. Riding across the snow-covered locations and bundled up in a shawl, the snake-like Kinski appears nothing less than a true horseman of the apocalypse. His Loco takes fiendish delight in the fact that his murderous activities are all covered under the law. When Silence first confronts Loco and tries to get him to draw first, Loco outmaneuvers him by taking off his gun belt and punching Silence, an act which leaves the mute gunman stunned. Loco's biggest advantage over everyone else in the story is that he is willing to do anything and everything to accomplish his goals. THE GREAT SILENCE contains one of Klaus Kinski's best (and most devious) performances. (One thing I must mention--the Film Movement Blu-ray of THE GREAT SILENCE features an English dubbed dialogue track, and while most film buffs tend to look down on those, I have to point out that the weaselly, sarcastic voice used for Loco matches the character perfectly.)

The supporting cast contains many Spaghetti Western veterans, such as Luigi Pistilli, Mario Brega, and Frank Wolff, who plays one of the few honest & decent sheriffs in Euro Western history (not that those attributes help his character very much). Vonetta McGee's role is very unusual--and that's not just because she was an African-American. Her Pauline is not a helpless victim--she's a determined woman who is not afraid to stand up against Loco and his fellow bounty hunters. McGee's appearance in THE GREAT SILENCE makes the film seem years ahead of its time.

While THE GREAT SILENCE has a lot in common with other Sergio Corbucci films such as DJANGO and NAVAJO JOE, it is even more bleak and unremitting than those two. The ending of THE GREAT SILENCE has to be one of the most downbeat for any film. The new Film Movement Blu-ray includes two alternate endings, one of them a "happy" version that is so out of tune with the rest of the film that it comes off as comic. The depressing climax is brutally violent, as to be expected from Sergio Corbucci--but it is the dark, bitterly cold atmosphere and the magnificent cinematography from Silvano Ippoliti that one remembers the most after viewing this film. I think that by far this is Sergio Corbucci's best overall directorial effort. 

The Film Movement Blu-ray of THE GREAT SILENCE is a stupendous-looking restoration, and it appears to be the uncut version of the film. It has a choice between the Italian or English dialogue track, and English subtitles are available. There's also a number of extras, including an illustrated booklet which has an essay on the film by Simon Abrams.

If you are the type of person who thinks CHISUM is a great Western, then THE GREAT SILENCE probably isn't for you. Despite its bleakness and its refusal to make concessions for a mainstream audience, THE GREAT SILENCE is well worth seeking out.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN On Blu-ray From Shout Factory

I've often said that the best thing about the 1960 English horror entry DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN is seeing Hazel Court in a nurse's outfit. The movie had been available for many years on several public domain home video releases, and now Shout Factory has put it out on Blu-ray.

What makes DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN stand out more than anything else is the fact that it is set during the time in which it was made, instead of the usual English Gothic 19th Century neverland. Dr. Peter Blood (Kieron Moore) returns to his Cornish home village of Porthcarron from Vienna, and begins to secretly use the locals as guinea pigs for his experiments in organ transplants. At first, no one suspects Peter, mostly because his father (Ian Hunter) is the town's beloved GP. While undertaking his nefarious activities, Peter still finds time to romance his father's pretty widowed nurse, Linda Parker (Hazel Court). Linda discovers what Peter is up to, leading to a head-scratching decision by the doctor to revive the woman's late husband. This act winds up giving Peter his just desserts.

The biggest weakness this movie has is the lead role. There's nothing wrong with having a bad guy as the main character in a film, if handled properly. It's just that here the character of Doctor Blood as played by Kieron Moore comes off as uninteresting. The actor is very miscast as a mad scientist--he lacks the dynamic intensity of a Peter Cushing, and he doesn't have the bravado of a Lionel Atwill or a George Zucco. I believe this movie would have worked better with someone else more suited to play Doctor Blood--could you imagine if Michael Gough had been cast in the part?

Even at only 92 minutes, the story has a tendency to drag. Dr. Blood's base of operations for his secret experiments is part of a long-abandoned tin mine, and he's constantly traveling back & forth from it. A large amount of screen time is taken up by Blood's attempts at romance with Linda. One can understand why Blood would be attracted to Hazel Court, but it's hard to fathom what she would see in him, since he seems such a dud. (Maybe it's due to the fact that Blood appears to be the only male in the local village under the age of 45.) There's no male good guy-John Agar-Kenneth Tobey type to act as a counterpoint to Blood--the closest equivalent is a police sergeant (Kenneth J. Warren) who spends most of his time wiping sweat off of his brow.

The big climax--in which Blood resurrects Linda's late husband in his tin mine laboratory, and then drags her to the location so she can witness the results--doesn't have the impact that it should. The makeup on the revived moldering corpse is highly effective, but the viewer doesn't get a lot of good looks at it. This is disappointing, since the resurrected fellow was a huge part of the movie's advertising campaign. Director Sidney J. Furie would go on to bigger and more mainstream films, but here he lets things meander along. He does make decent use out of the Cornish locations. The supporting cast is filled with character actors familiar to Hammer fans--Gerald Lawson, Fred Johnson, and Paul Hardtmuth.

It's a welcome surprise to see a veteran performer such as Ian Hunter in this type of film--he had spent a lot of time during the Golden Age of Hollywood in such classics as THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. And of course it's always a pleasure to see Hazel Court, one of the all-time great scream queens. Court makes Linda out to be an appealing and fully-dimensional person who is also still affected by her husband's death.

Shout Factory has released DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN on Blu-ray through its Scream Factory label. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the print is above-average. The movie was shot in Eastmancolor and it looks very vivid here--for example, it brings out the shade of Hazel Court's lipstick. The major extra is an extensive image gallery, which features several stills of the resurrected corpse. These stills allow one to get a better view of the being than in the actual film, making it far easier to appreciate the makeup artistry used for it. The reverse side of the disc cover sleeve features advertising art that makes the film seem far more exciting than it really is.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


I did a full review on the 1959 Italian Gothic horror tale THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA in November 2016. Shout Factory, under its Scream Factory label, has recently released the movie on Blu-ray. and it is a fine upgrade from the many grey-market and YouTube presentations of the film. 

The picture quality on this disc is generally excellent. There's a few instances of wear & tear (which is to be expected from a foreign title of this age), but overall the visuals are rather sharp, and they bring out the best of Angelo Baistrocchi's atmospheric black & white cinematography. The sharpness of the visuals also shows the inadequacies of the vampire makeup worn by Walter Brandi. 

This Blu-ray, which is Region A, shows the movie in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Italian title credits (which names it as L'AMANTE DEL VAMPIRO). An Italian audio track is included, with English subtitles, along with an English dub track. The only extra is an extensive image gallery, which shows stills from the film and the various advertising campaigns for it. The gallery also reveals that at one time in the U.S. the movie was screened as part of a kiddie matinee! The inside of the Blu-ray case sleeve has a picture of some of the ballerinas performing one of their burlesque-like routines. Unfortunately there is no audio commentary, because a movie like this really needs one. 

THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA isn't among the best of the Euro Gothics, but it is an entertaining tale that would make a great introduction to classic Italian horror cinema. Shout Factory deserves major credit for giving this film a proper home video release, and I hope they have plans to bring out similar films of this type in the future. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED

This is my contribution to The Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon.

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969) was the fifth film in the Hammer Frankenstein series. In the groundbreaking THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1956), Peter Cushing first portrayed the Baron as a Byronic anti-hero who was willing to do everything including murder to further his scientific experiments. THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a direct sequel to CURSE, with the same director (Terence Fisher), same writer (Jimmy Sangster), and the same leading man, as Cushing's Baron became the main focus of the series, instead of any monsters he might have created. THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1963) was something of a reboot, as the Baron's more vicious tendencies were tamped down a bit, and Freddie Francis took over as director. FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) saw the very welcome return of Terence Fisher, while the Baron was still more misanthropic than murderous.

The series took a very dark turn with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED. It's as if after years of failed experiments, bungling assistants, misunderstanding villagers, and just plain bad luck, the Baron decided to go totally rogue. The movie begins with the Baron (in what may be Peter Cushing's best performance in a Hammer film) literally chopping a poor doctor's head off in the street. The Baron is trying to perfect a "brain-freezing" process this time around, but he has to go on the run again after his secret laboratory location is broken into by a prowler. The Baron, under an alias, rents a room at a boarding house run by the young and beautiful Anna Spengler (Veronica Carlson). Anna's fiancée Karl (Simon Ward) just so happens to work as a doctor at the same asylum where a Dr. Brandt is incarcerated as a patient--the same Brandt who found the secret to the brain-freezing process that the Baron is desperately seeking.

The Baron finds out that Karl has been smuggling cocaine out of the asylum, in order to sell on the black market so to raise funds to take care of Anna's mother. Frankenstein uses this information to blackmail Karl and Anna to help him kidnap Dr. Brandt. The Baron wants to operate on Brandt to cure his insanity so he can gain access to the man's medical secrets. Brandt suffers a heart attack during the kidnapping, so the Baron transplants his brain into the body of another esteemed doctor named Richter. The "new" Brandt wakes up in his new body and immediately plots revenge against Frankenstein, leading to a fiery climax.

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is nowhere near being a cheesy monster flick. It's a grippingly effective adult Gothic thriller, expertly directed by Terence Fisher. The Baron truly is the monster this time around. His statements about how his experiments are meant to benefit humanity ring rather hollow here. In this entry the Baron comes off as the ultimate elitist. He uses everyone he comes into contact with (that is, when he's not killing them or cutting them open). Nattily attired, and icily correct in manner and speech, the Baron acts as if he's better than everyone else, because he thinks he really is. Despite his excuses that he's trying to help humanity, the Baron cares nothing about the individuals that make up that humanity. It's Cushing at his most coldly calculating, and the actor's magnetic vitality prevents the character from being unwatchable.

One of the many famous scenes in the film has the Baron (still using his alias) engaging in a debate about progress with the other boarders in Anna's house. The scene provides an all-time Cushing moment ("Your lapels are rather greasy") but it also shows how arrogant the Baron is--why would he go out of his way to attract suspicion from these noisy men? Frankenstein is so obsessed with his experiments it's as if the outside world doesn't even exist for him. His lack of humanity does him in at the end, just like it does in all of his Hammer adventures.

How the Baron treats Karl and Anna is very telling. In all of the Hammer Frankenstein films the Baron has a high-handed way about him, but here he seems to particularly relish having the young couple under his thumb. (Is it because the Baron is jealous over the fact that Karl and Anna truly love one another, and he himself has never known this?) Karl falls even further under the Baron's thrall after he kills a night watchman. The young doctor tries to get the Baron to let Anna go, but Frankenstein's dismissive reply to that is, "I need her to make coffee". (He apparently also needs her for other things as well--I'll get to that in a moment.)

Usually if there is a young romantic couple in a Hammer horror film, they suffer from very little character development. Here Simon Ward and Veronica Carlson, despite having very little movie acting experience, make Karl and Anna engaging and sympathetic. Veronica in particular is not just a typical decorative Hammer girl--her naturally appealing manner makes the viewer care and worry about her plight. I think this is by far Veronica Carlson's best performance in a too-brief film career that gave her very little opportunities to show her talent. Anna Spengler goes through the ringer here, most memorably in a scene where, after Dr. Brandt's body has been buried in her garden, the water pipes burst and the unfortunate young woman has to pull the body out and hide it while getting drenched. Anna then emotionally breaks down in front of a neighbor, and it is one of the most harrowing things in the film because it is all too real. Even more chilling is a supposedly simple scene of Anna sitting in her once cheerful parlor while the Baron and Karl are performing the brain transplant below. One can't help but be moved as this beautiful, kindly young woman realizes that her life is now in ruins.

And now it is time to discuss the rape scene.

I'm sure even the most casual Hammer fans know about the legend of the FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED rape scene. The story goes that near the very end of shooting, Hammer executives demanded a rape scene be inserted involving the Baron and Anna, in order to supposedly sex up the film. The scene was shot against the wishes of Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Veronica Carlson.

For several years, the scene was not included when the movie was shown on American TV. I first saw FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED on "Son of Svengoolie" back in the 1980s, and it wasn't until sometime in the 1990s that I saw the movie with the rape scene intact. Was the scene all that vitally important? In my opinion, no. The scene crops up about halfway through the story, and it is never referred to again during the rest of the film. Veronica Carlson, to this day, believes the scene hurt her performance, because the scenes involving Anna after the rape sequence had already been filmed. Veronica was also distressed by the fact that it was Peter Cushing who was supposed to be attacking her, since she had so much respect and admiration for the man. I must admit that even though I am not a fan of the sequence, Terence Fisher did not use it for titillation, and he didn't go through the motions while directing it--he staged it in a suspenseful and brutally impactful manner.

I have to digress here a moment and go into a bit of personal history. I have met Veronica Carlson a number of times, and I got to know her even better a few months ago during the filming of Joshua Kennedy's HOUSE OF THE GORGON, in which she plays a leading role. I reveal this not to brag, but to explain that due to my association with Veronica, it is very hard for me to see the things that she goes through in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED--especially the rape sequence. The sequence does have its defenders--there are those that feel the sequence merely reinforces how evil the Baron has truly become. It is my belief that the movie didn't really need it, and yes, I have a personal bias toward that opinion.

One of the most famous Hammer publicity stills of all time was taken for FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED--and my copy is autographed

With or without the rape sequence, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is one of the best Hammer films ever made. Terence Fisher was a master of tightly edited notable sequences, and there's plenty of them to be found here, such as the opening fight between the Baron and the prowler, the scene where the Baron and Karl kidnap Dr. Brandt from the asylum (enlivened by a patient who starts to scream when she thinks she sees spiders), the already-mentioned water pipe break sequence, and the climax, where Brandt-in-Richter's body uses his former home to set a fiery trap for Frankenstein. 

Freddie Jones as the "new" Brandt deserves considerable mention, since he gives one of the best supporting performances in any Hammer film. Jones' reactions as Brandt begins to realize his situation, and starts to understand what has happened to him, are superb. He's not a raging monster-he's a pathetic creature who has undergone the full "benefits" of Frankenstein's treatment. Brandt's attempts at trying to communicate with his wife (Maxine Audley)--a woman who cannot understand why a bizarre-looking man she does not recognize insists on calling himself her husband--are infinitely touching. (Maxine Audley deserves plenty of kudos as well.)

There are many other things that make FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED a classic--the doom-laden music score by James Bernard, the fine production design by Bernard Robinson, and the wonderful costumes. These above-average elements were usually a given in a Hammer film, but that wouldn't be the case as the company moved into the Seventies.

Some have even gone so far to say that FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED was the last truly great Hammer horror film. It is one of the company's best overall productions--but it is also one of the company's most bleakest films. The Baron's attempts to serve humanity only result in pain, agony, death, and destruction. Nothing is gained, nothing is accomplished--a sense of waste and sadness pervades throughout. It is one of the most truly horrifying English Gothics.

My original 1969 U.S. poster for FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED