Swan Song – Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

The final installment of Hammer’s Frankenstein series of films finds VIctor alive and well, having survived the fire of the last picture, and taking up residence in a mental institution which is only fitting.  If the films were to end any other way it might have been disappointing, but as it is, the madman resides in the madhouse, exactly where he should be.  The movie sees Frankenstein essentially in charge of the place, having blackmailed his way to the top, even though he was a patient at the time.  Faking his death with the help of the asylum officials, he is now simply known as Dr. Victor and the film goes on to show that he is still continuing on with his experiments, not being deterred by his surroundings, as it provides a place for one-stop shopping.  He is still determined to prove himself, to get it right, even after numerous attempts at doing so.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell10Whatever drives Baron Frankenstein must be a powerful force, for it may have been just simple curiosity that started him down this path, but the continuing of his journey and the consequences that have arisen because of it are a madness and a making of his own doing.  That is the one aspect that has never really been dealt with in the films, specifically the why of it.  Is it for the benefit of mankind, science for science’s sake, to explore the unknown, or possibly all of the above?  That unknown drive is well represented by Cushing who, right until the very end, has no thought or feeling for anyone but himself.  His role as a doctor in the asylum sees him caring for everyone within its walls, but we soon learn that it is just a facade.  Beneath that cold and steely gaze, Cushing gives the Baron, is a mind at work, calculating just what parts of the body he can harvest from any he sets his sights upon.  When the film began, Victor looks and acts as sane as the average person you might pass by, but as the movie makes its way towards the end, that mania, that madness, makes its way to the surface for all to see.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell11The voice of reason in this film comes from Cushing’s co-star, Shane Briant who plays Dr. Simon Helder, a man who gets thrown in the asylum for trying to duplicate the Baron’s experiments.  Briant nails that look of reverence he has for the man for the bulk of the picture, until he finally realizes that what Frankenstein is doing is wrong, cruel and should never be attempted.  IT is a cold, hard realization as the being they create together does nothing but suffer and somewhere in Helder’s heart, he knows that they should not continue.  At first, Helder is a little off-putting, not being a hero you could root for as he is almost like a younger version of the Baron himself, but by the picture’s end, he warms up to the viewer.  Also starring is Madeline Smith as Dr. Victor`s assistant and a woman who the people of the ward refer to as Angel, and David Prowse as the creature.  Neither actor would get many lines, very few in fact, and in the creature’s case it was warranted, in Smith’s; she could have had some more lines instead of just being the token eye candy.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell4This would not be a Hammer film or a Frankenstein film without some sort of creature and while it would be nice to say that it went out on a high note, sadly the monster of this film simply looked like a guy in a muscle suit covered in hair.  Hammer may have been winding down towards the mid to late seventies, but this was Roger Corman 1950’s budget effects.  It did not necessarily ruin the film, but it was quite poor and ridiculous to look at.  The only thing the presence of this creature succeeded in proving was how far the Baron’s skills had deteriorated over time, as he had almost reached perfection with his creatures #horror #classichorror #31DaysOfHorror #31daysofHalloweenmmany moons and a few pictures ago.  As the swan song to the series, Hammer should have either spent a little more money or gone in a different direction.

Being the final film from Hammer to feature the Baron, it ended up being quite entertaining and one of the best Frankenstein pictures to come from the studio.  Everyone was in top form with a good script from John Elder/Anthony Hinds and some great direction from the man who started off the series, Terence Fisher.  The movie was an appropriate send-off that saw Victor still clinging to his quest, playing at God, trying to create life from death and more than any picture, mad as a hatter.

4 out of 5

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell1

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