1970, UK, Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Colour, Running Time: 91 minutes
DVD, Region 2, Optimum, Video: Anamorphic 1.85:1, Audio: Mono
Young Frankenstein (Ralph Bates) is a brilliant but morally lacking scientist who is concerned only with his studies in creating life from dead body parts. Setting up laboratory in his deceased father’s castle with an assistant (not hunchbacked or deformed for a change) he begins putting together a corpse utilising bits and pieces from various sources (including a damaged brain), a monster which he’d like to control but is clearly inclined towards chaotic behaviour (established by an enticingly brutal axe attack on some poor passer-by). Providing ways of taking Frankenstein’s mind off his work is the resident housekeeper Alys (Kate O’Mara), and later Veronica Carlson also shows up (after having been kicked out of her own property) hoping to take his hand in marriage. Lucky guy!
A fairly maligned entry in the Hammer Frankenstein series, it was missing Peter Cushing in the title role and possibly suffered as a result. I quite liked the articulate Bates but he does emphasise the scientist’s lack of emotion here a little too much maybe, coming across as someone who is impossible to empathise with. The monumentally sexy Carlson was an incredible beauty who added charm to several Hammers, no less here. O’Mara can barely fit her breasts in the outfits she was given. Unusual for the series there are also touches of humour here and there: the two-fingered salute of a severed hand reflecting the Carry On sensibility of the time and possibly predating the black humour of certain eighties horrors, plus some of the dialogue is quite funny. David Prowse’s monster is ugly and odd (his later appearance in …Monster From Hell was probably more effective), and the conclusion is strangely abrupt. It’s not a brilliant film but it’s probably not as bad as some sources would indicate either. It could be considered a less shocking 60s alternative to Flesh For Frankenstein, though not as good.
Optimum’s package is nice, featuring a good looking, correctly framed image and coupled with a commentary featuring Sangster plus a nice 14 minute interview with Veronica Carlson from 2001, where she appears to be quite appreciative of Hammer and what they did for her career rather than complaining about how these kind of films might have restricted potential as some stars seem all too happy to do on occasions. This has been released twice in the UK now as a separate disc (basically the same as the US Anchor Bay DVD), plus it’s also in the 21 disc Ultimate Collection box.