Friday, May 29, 2020
The American TV Version Of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN
My last blog post covered the release of the new Blu-ray of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN from Shout Factory. Among the many extras on the disc is the TV version of the film, prepared by Universal Studios for American network broadcast. (Internet sources claim this TV version was first shown in 1968.)
For this TV version, Universal filmed brand new scenes to lengthen the running time to fit into a two-hour TV time slot with commercials. (The TV version on the Shout Factory Blu-ray runs about 98 minutes.) The new scenes detail a backstory for the character listed in the original movie credits as "Beggar Girl", played by Katy Wild.
In the added scenes, the Beggar Girl is shown as a child, and she's given the name of Rena. Her mother and father are shown, along with a village doctor. The scenes detail how Rena was struck deaf and dumb just by seeing Baron Frankenstein's creation stumbling about in the woods. Later it is revealed that Rena's mother has died, and her father has become a useless drunk. The village doctor suggests that the father take Rena to see a man with new ideas about diseases of the mind--a man called Dr. Freud!!
The added scenes are shot in a rather generic style, and the acting is acceptable, under the circumstances. Needless to say, no one at Hammer Films had anything to do with these added scenes.
The big problem with the TV version's backstory for the Beggar Girl is that it doesn't make a lot of sense. One of the subplots of the original film is that the Beggar Girl has some sort of emotional connection to the Monster, and she treats him with sympathy. If the little girl was so terrified by the Monster that she went deaf and dumb, why would she feel pity for it years later?
Not only did Universal add new scenes to the film, they made a few other changes to it as well. In the original film, the main credits run over a sequence where the Baron is removing a heart from a corpse. This sequence doesn't have gory details--we only see the Baron's face and upper body as he's working. But apparently Universal still thought it was too much, for the TV version has the credits running over a solitary shot of the Baron's laboratory. The heart that the Baron removes is barely shown in the TV version.
The other main changes are the scenes where the Monster attacks the Burgomaster and Zoltan--both of these incidents have been shortened.
As I mentioned in my last post, the TV version of the film that is presented on the Shout Factory Blu-ray looks terrible. The colors have faded considerably, and the sound quality is poor. (I do have to say that the shot compositions are framed rather well for a TV version.) It would be easy to whine and moan about what the TV version looks like here, but at least Shout Factory should get some credit for including it at all.
Watching the poor quality TV version of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN actually brought back some memories for me. You see, when I first starting watching classic horror and science fiction films on TV as a young teenager, they almost always looked as bad, especially the Hammers.
In the 1980s, when I was starting to become a film buff, there wasn't any widescreen TVs, or internet access, or streaming capabilities. Watching any obscure vintage horror film on TV was a treat. Yes, the colors were faded, it was probably edited, and the sound was poor, and it wasn't in widescreen....but back then the important thing was that you were able to see it, period.
There's no doubt in my mind that today's film geeks are spoiled. Every week we get all sorts of super-duper home video releases of films that are not particularly mainstream, and they are filled with all sorts of extras--and inevitably the first thing people do is complain about them. (I'm guilty of this as well). We should be happy that we are able to obtain these films at all--but we obsess over bit rates, aspect ratios, color saturation...yes, these are important, especially with the costs of some of these releases, but when I first saw the majority of Hammer movies on TV back in the day, I wasn't worried about those things.
Watching the TV version of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN took me back to a time when watching the movie was the main thing, not arguing about the minutiae of it on the internet. It was as if I was a teenager again, enjoying the adventures of Peter Cushing, and it was late at night....the only thing that was missing were commercials for local small businesses.