Saturday, 31 October 2015



In some ways it's sad, but it's perhaps unsurprising that the vintage Hammer horrors of the 60s and 70s have lost some of their shock value in the intervening decades. It's not that they've dated, just that the envelope has been pushed so far since then that what was once full-on horror is now pretty inoffensive. In a world of Saw and Insidious they now come across as safe, comfortable and indeed borderline family entertainment, agreeably creepy rather than outright shocking. Many have been downgraded from their original X to a wimpy 12 certificate (principally the earlier ones without the nudity) and could play quite happily on TV without upsetting anyone.

Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is the seventh and last of Hammer's Frankenstein series (running from 1957 to 1973), and the sixth film to feature the great Peter Cushing as the mad Baron. This time, despite being killed off at the end of at least one earlier entry in the saga, he's back again and working incognito as a doctor in an insane asylum: by a happy coincidence it's the same institution to which mad doctor Shane Briant has been sentenced after his conviction for attempting to replicate Dr Frankenstein's experiments (or, in legal terms, sorcery). Here there's a plentiful supply of fresh bodies that won't be missed. And he has even more nightmarish plans for his creation, involving his mute and traumatised assistant Angel (Madeline Smith, the sole note of glamour in an otherwise pretty grim film)...

With the presence of numerous familiar faces (Patrick Troughton, Bernard Lee, Charles Lloyd Pack all turning up for a few scenes each), Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is generally good, pleasantly nasty fun. David Prowse returns as the Monster (perhaps confusingly not the same one he played in The Horror Of Frankenstein three years earlier), an intelligent mind locked inside a more grotesque than usual patchwork of body parts. And, of course, you get the always wonderful Peter Cushing. It also ups the ante on the gleefully tasteless gore somewhat, with a graphic brain operation and some loving shots of eyeballs in a glass jar, but even with all its previously censored sequences restored it's still only deemed worthy of a 15 rating. A package well worth picking up: even if the film isn't quite the shocker it once was, it's still enjoyably entertaining, and far better than many more recent horrors I've plodded through.


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