The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) - Movie Review

Monday, October 8, 2018

movie poster for The Evil of Frankenstein

Penniless, Baron Frankenstein, accompanied by his eager assistant Hans, arrives at his family castle near the town of Karlstad, vowing to continue his experiments in the creation of life. (IMDB)

This movie has earned the title of the best Frankenstein movie I have ever watched and is probably my favorite Hammer movie to date. However, this movie is by no means flawless, in fact, it has quite a few of them, including but not limited to the disastrous paper mache costume makeup used on the monster, the cheap sets, and a couple of questionable plot devices.

Sorry, set guys, but you were never going to convince anyone that that is a block of ice instead of a sheet of plastic clumsily draped over a wall...

*Heavy spoilers ahead!*

The movie opens with my favorite intro to a Hammer movie so far, featuring Peter Cushing busying about in a lab as Dr. Frankenstein cutting out the heart of a freshly delivered corpse. Both the visuals and over-the-top score work together perfectly to set the tone I expect from a great vintage horror film.

 The plot begins with Baron Frankenstein and his assistant being forced to leave everything they had worked for behind in a small town upon being discovered doing scientific experiments on the dead. Frankenstein reveals that he is broke and must return to his hometown where he started it all to collect things to sell from his old castle home, riding on the belief that no one will remember him after the 10 years that had passed since he had been exiled.  When they arrive at the home, however, he discovers his castle had been vandalized and looted, resulting in his exclaiming his frustration with all of the people in the world for never simply leaving him be to carry on with his life's work. The movie then goes into a detailed account of the successful animation of Frankenstein's monster, leading into how the monster was destroyed and Frankenstein exiled.  Then, after a few shenanigans, the two scientists are led into a cave by a deaf beggar girl where they discover the monster frozen in a wall of ice. They proceed to re-animate him but discover that his consciousness is "missing." In order to restore his mind, they actually recruit the help of a carnival hypnotist they met earlier in the movie.

Image result for the evil of frankenstein beggar girl
The deaf beggar girl (she has no other name in the film) added
something rewarding to the overall plot.
 Her relationship with the monster is always caring and sweet.

I simply did not expect the film to take this kind of turn and to be honest, it was part of why I loved it so much. The hypnotist ends up using the monster to steal gold and to get revenge on the man who had shut down his carnival booth in town. However, his instructions to the monster backfired and the monster ended up killing the man, returning with blood on his hands and setting off a chain of events that results in the deaths of the hypnotist, Frankenstein, and his monster.

The main thing that bothers me is the title of the film. While this title is "The Evil of Frankenstein," the worst characters in the film can be called corrupt, but not entirely evil. I actually believe that this is the least evil version of the character I have seen to date.  In this film, Baron Frankenstein never displays traits of being truly evil. He simply seems like a devout scientist who sincerely wishes to learn more about life and death as a whole. Throughout the film, he is never truly malicious toward any other person. Even when he finds out that the hypnotist has been using his monster as a weapon and attempts to turn it against him, Frankenstein tells him to leave even though it would mean that he could not continue his research on the monster. This shows that he does value human life over scientific discovery, which is something unique to other Frankenstein characters. Later, he even still tries to prevent the hypnotist's death by yelling at him to get out of the monster's way when he goes on his rampage. During the movie, he treats his assistant well and never objects when the deaf beggar girl comes to live with them. In the finale of the movie, he makes sure his assistant and the beggar girl escape the fire caused by the monster and instead of fleeing with them, stays behind, sacrificing his life attempting to save his creation and life's work.  His only wish in the film is to simply be left alone by those who seek to disrupt his experiments.

 This is why I enjoyed the film so much. It did not follow the typical good vs evil formula commonly seen in monster movies. It is actually debatable whether there was ever actually any true evil at all in the film. Even the hypnotist seems somewhat remorseful when he finds the blood on the monster's hands and realizes what he has done. The characters simply act realistically to their typical human nature, which presents the opportunity for thoughtful discussion about themes regarding the grey area of good and evil and the ethics involved in scientific research and discovery.  This is not typically said about Hummer films and is the reason I would recommend this film to anyone, even those who do not watch classic horror films.