Tag Archive for Anthony Hinds

All Good Things

Peter Cushing in "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" (1974)

“All good things must come to an end.” — Chaucer

Welcome back to Day Seven of the
Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon. This is it, the final chapter in the Hammer Frankenstein saga. After Jimmy Sangster’s attempt at a younger, more comedic Frankenstein in The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), we’re back on track with Cushing in the title role and Terence Fisher in the director’s chair (sadly, for the last time). The script, by Anthony Hinds writing as John Elder, brings back familiar gimmicks and themes from the series to bring things to a satisfying conclusion. I must confess that I do not know how obvious the end was for Hammer and company and whether or not they intended to continue the series past Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974).

Despite being passed over for Horror, Peter Cushing kept quite busy in the intervening years. After an unbilled cameo as Baron Frankenstein in the Rat Pack farce One More Time (1970), he continued to be a linchpin for Hammer. He appeared in two installments of The Karnstein Trilogy, The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Twins of Evil (1971). He also continued his work in the Amicus portmanteau films with The House That Dripped Blood (1971) (with Christopher Lee, though in different segments), his iconic portrayal of the tragic Arthur Edward Grimsdyke in Tales from the Crypt (1972), as well as Asylum (1972). Lee and Cushing also took their chemistry outside of Hammer with the criminally underrated Horror Express (1972), Nothing But the Night (1973), and The Creeping Flesh (1973). In all, it was a golden age for Mr. Cushing’s fans when his final performance as Frankenstein finally made its way to theaters.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

We begin with a body-snatching, not exactly breaking new ground if you’ll pardon the pun, but the recipient is not Baron Victor Frankenstein as one might assume. No, we are introduced instead to Dr. Simon Helder (Shane Briant), a detached scientist pursuing those familiar forbidden avenues of research first trod by the Baron. He is found out by the authorities and committed to an asylum, much to the shock of Asylum Director Adolf Klauss (John Stratton), who at first assumes Helder must be the new staff doctor.

As the fresh fish on the block, Helder gets some rough treatment, not the least of which is a nasty hose-down as if he were some filthy indigent rather than a learned doctor. When the abuse is interrupted, we zoom in on Helder’s savior and find it to be none other than Baron Victor Frankenstein. In subsequent discussion with Director Klauss, we learn that Victor has taken on a new identity once again as Dr. Carl Victor and that Klauss is a willing accomplice in the charade.

Hammer Films and Director Terence Fisher always gave Cushing great freedom with subtle character notes, including his handling of props. Here, he was given a hand in the design of his wig, but the results show Peter to be a more accomplished actor than wefter and he would later describe the result as making him look like Helen Hayes. Victor also sports his black leather gloves again, his hands burned at the end of either The Evil of Frankenstein or Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, take your pick.

Helder is quite the student of Frankenstein’s work, however, and recognizes him immediately. He convinces Victor to take him under his wing in exchange for assistance in his latest experiments. Helder gets the guided tour and meets some of the other inmates including a man who believes he is God. Victor makes the perhaps self-deprecating joke that the patient is not the first to suffer under that delusion. It should be patently obvious that all of these, from sculptor to mathematician, are mere raw materials for Victor, his living Erector Set. To drive the point home, when the dead sculptor’s coffin is accidentally dropped and falls open, we see he has lost his talented hands post-mortem.

Madeline Smith, Shane Briant, David Prowse, and Peter Cushing in "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" (1974)

Madeline Smith, Shane Briant, David Prowse, and Peter Cushing in
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

The surgery scenes are the most graphic and unflinching depictions of Victor’s work in the series. Briant, having previously appeared in Hammer’s Demons of the Mind (1972), doesn’t even try to hold his own against Cushing, and it perhaps works to the film’s advantage. His Helder proves a valuable assistant, able to perform the delicate operations now denied to Frankenstein due to his damaged hands. Frankenstein is giddy as his project begins to take shape, cackling like a madman in juxtaposition to Helder’s cold callousness, and one could envision them as father and son working on a ’57 Chevy instead of building a man. There’s even a nice little nod to Curse as Victor sits down for some chow before the big brain swap.

Assisting them by handling the stitchwork is the asylum director’s daughter, the mute “Angel” Sarah Klauss, played by the stunning Madeline Smith. Smith had already made quite the impact as a model and actress, appearing in Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) with Christopher Lee but not Cushing and alongside Cushing (but not as Van Helsing and without Lee) in The Vampire Lovers (1970). With two mad scientists and the Klauss family secrets, it becomes quite clear that the distinction between patient and staff is purely arbitrary.

Movie Poster for "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" (1974)

Movie Poster for Frankenstein
and the Monster from Hell

The patchwork monster is played by David Prowse, who was the only actor to play such in two separate installments of the Hammer Films Frankenstein series. He would, of course, re-team with Cushing as the diabolical duo of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977). He also trained Christopher Reeve for Superman (1978) after getting over his own disappointment at not landing the title role.

In his single-minded madness, Victor seems to have forgotten that his supply of brains all suffer from a fatal flaw. While his selection, the Professor, may have been a mathematician and violinist, he was also clearly a madman. When the “Monster from Hell” takes his first steps, we shouldn’t be surprised that a murderous rampage ensues.

Once the creature is overwhelmed and destroyed, Frankenstein is undeterred. Victor has them break out the hose to clean up so that he can start again fresh. This may be his swan song, but in his final moments on film, he reminds us that he’ll never, ever stop.

“To Baron Frankenstein, creator of man…”

All good things must come to an end. And so it goes with the Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon, the Hammer Frankenstein films, and sadly, the life of Mr. Cushing, who passed on August 11, 1994. He is fondly remembered by friends and fans alike. His work stands as a testament to his dedication, his talent, and his humility.

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Thanks to everyone who participated, moderated, commented, or lurked during the Blogathon. Heartfelt thanks also go out to my patient wife, who has endured my own Frankenstein-like obsession with these films for the past two months. I’m sure she wouldn’t have been shocked to receive a phone call requesting bail money. “My co-workers all laughed at me when I tried to build a man from paper clips and used coffee cups, but I’ll be the one laughing when Office Maximus and I have our revenge!”

Lastly, but surely not least, thanks to the late, great Peter Cushing for providing us all the inspiration to share our collective artistic gifts with each other and the world as he so generously and graciously did. He has my continued appreciation and admiration.
Rest easy, good sir.

So, let’s do it again in 2113. I intend to be here. As evidenced in these six films, brain transplants are easy to facilitate if you have the right training, equipment, and materials. After all, what could go wrong?

Frankensteins Prefer Blondes

Peter Cushing in a promotional photo for "Frankenstein Created Woman" (1967)

Welcome to Day Six of the
Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon. We’re continuing our exploration of Peter Cushing’s six Hammer Frankenstein films with the fourth installment in the franchise, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967).

As Brittney-Jade points out over at Day of the Woman, Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein is really a peripheral character in this tale of love and loss, seduction and revenge.

Nearly ten years since The Curse of Frankenstein took theaters by storm, Peter Cushing returns to the role that put Hammer Horror on the proverbial map. In that time, “The Gentle Man of Horror” had also made quite a name for himself at Hammer, Amicus, and elsewhere. The title Frankenstein Created Woman predates actual filming by a good bit and was derived from Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman (1956), the film that made his wife Bridgitte Bardot a star and led to the coining of the phrase “sex kitten”.

With a series of provocative promotional photos such as the one below, containing staged scenes not included in the film, Hammer seemed to have set out to create their own sex kitten in Susan Denberg. Denberg was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for August, 1966 and a finalist for Playmate of the Year 1967. Like many models, she expressed her desire to enter the acting field.

Susan Denberg and Peter Cushing in a promotional photo for "Frankenstein Created Woman" (1967)

Susan Denberg and Peter Cushing in a promotional photo for Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Anthony Hinds, again as John Elder, returns to script with Terence Fisher taking the directorial reigns back from Freddie Francis. Fisher returns to his roots with limited sets and a small cast that put the story first and foremost. He would stay in the director’s chair for the remainder of the Hammer Frankenstein films.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

As the film opens, we find ourselves returned to the shadow of the guillotine, a theme Fisher had established through the first two entries in the series. Duncan Lamont, the Police Chief from Evil, returns here in a very different role, albeit brief, as the condemned man. Accused of murder, he is drunkenly defiant and unrepentant until he notices his young son looking on from the distant treeline. He screams for his boy to turn away, begging his captors not to execute him in front of his son, but he has already lost their sympathy. The decapitation is indelibly burned into the boy’s mind and, as we will discover, it haunts him his entire life.

We find the grown Hans (Robert Morris) working alongside Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters) on a timed experiment. At the count of one hour exactly, the two open a refrigerated chamber in their laboratory and pull out a long iron box. When the iron box is opened, its contents are none other than Baron Victor Frankenstein. Once he is resurrected by Hertz, his experiment is declared a success, proving that the soul does not exit the body immediately upon death, but lingers for at least an hour postmortem.

Hans and Hertz are an interesting pair of henchmen. Hans suffers under the social stigma of being a murderer’s son known for his own ill temper. Hertz serves as Victor’s hands. The Baron’s own are twisted and burned, presumably in his escape from fiery doom at the end of The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), and he wears sinister black gloves over them. Hertz appears to steady his hands with judicious slugs of cheap brandy and makes reference to his role as the village’s only physician being the sole reason for even modest success.

Frankenstein Created Woman father and son Duncan Lamont and Robert Morris went on to team up for Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967). While Thorley Walters worked with Cushing previously in the non-Hammer thriller The Risk (1960), there are also a couple of notable near-misses. He played Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), but with Cushing’s pal Christopher Lee as Holmes and not Cushing. His Renfield clone Ludwig serves Lee’s vampire lord in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), but Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor opposes Drac in that outing instead of Cushing’s Van Helsing. We’ll see more of ol’ Thorley when he returns in a different role for Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969).

“You see? A shield of indestructible matter!”

Hans is dispatched to the local pub to secure appropriate beverage for celebration, and this is our first introduction to Denberg’s Christina. The image is a surprising one, especially to those drawn in by the film’s promotional materials. Barmaid Christina is scarred, disfigured, and partially paralyzed, in an even sadder state than poor Karl from The Revenge of Frankenstein. As we gradually discover, she is also Hans’ secret lover, each able to see beyond shallow village judgments to the beauty within the other.

Those village judgments are personified in the form of three young well-born rakes out for a bit of mischief. They taunt Christina and her father, the barman, until it proves too much for short-tempered Hans. A brawl ensues in which Hans gets the better of all three dandies, scarring ringleader Anton (played with wicked relish by Peter Blythe). Hans makes the fatal mistake, however, of threatening Christina’s father when the barman breaks up the fight upon the arrival of the authorities.

The three fops come back for revenge later that night and matters quickly escalate until they beat the barman to death with their walking sticks. Given Hans’ reputation, he makes the perfect patsy. He is summarily arrested the moment he stumbles upon the crime scene.

The subsequent trial is the standout scene in the film for me and features some great work by Cushing. The first is yet another example of his stagecraft as he absent-mindedly thumbs through the Bible he’s been sworn in on. He acts as if it’s the first time he’s seen one and is unimpressed, despite his current obsession with the immortal soul. The second is an exchange with the rakes who try to add witchcraft to Victor’s stated list of credentials. Frankenstein argues that while a doctorate is not offered in that field, if one were, he would surely qualify. Great stuff.

Peter Cushing in "Frankenstein Created Woman" (1967)

Baron Victor Frankenstein testifies in Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Hans refuses to damage the modesty of Christina with his alibi, seeing as he was in bed with Christina at the time of the murder. In spite of the friendly testimony from Baron Frankenstein, Hans is convicted and sentenced to the guillotine just like his father before him. Out of town to visit a doctor during the trial, an excited Christina returns just in time to witness the blade’s fall.

Victor and Hertz have already procured the head and body of Hans to capture his soul when grief proves too much for Christina, and she drowns herself in the river, providing a convenient vessel. The bulletproof force field used to contain the soul, represented here by a ball of light, may be too much for modern sensibilities, but I find it appropriate to the Victorian era. It’s no hokier than the “science” depicted in such period fare as At the Earth’s Core (1976). It reminds me of the 19th century science fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne, such as “The Birth-Mark” or “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, both being concerned with the pursuit of artificial perfection.

Movie Poster for "Frankenstein Created Woman" (1967)

Movie Poster for Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Indeed, Victor and Hertz take the opportunity to “fix” Christina, transforming her into a blonde Bavarian beauty. Frankenstein calls the hair a side effect, but I think the title of this post hews closer to home. There is also a bit of bitter irony that while traveling the countryside and nearly bankrupting her father in search of a doctor who could help her, a capable and willing, if morbidly insane, candidate who is able to accomplish it as an afterthought can be found right in her home village.

This was not the first time Denberg played a character with an artificially enhanced physical appearance. In the Star Trek episode “Mudd’s Women” (1966), she plays Magda Kovacs, a “mail order bride” benefiting from the use of the “Venus pill.” While the rest of “Mudd’s Women” wore make-up to depict their character’s unenhanced appearance, Denberg merely had her hair tousled. It may have been at her request, but I’m not sure that it’s a flattering implication.

Even with Hans’ soul now residing in the bombshell body, Christina is largely a clean slate post-op. Frankenstein isn’t too forthcoming in helping her with her identity crisis, distracted as he is by the metaphysical aspects of his experiment. Hans’ severed head becomes a source of sinister direction, and through her, he begins taking his revenge on the three spoiled dandies.

This is new ground for the Frankenstein films, as Christina’s appearance draws her victims in rather than having them run for pitchforks and torches to assault the abomination. Hans knows just how to use his newly acquired assets to bait his traps while Christina was always uncomfortable in her own skin. The kill scenes are surprisingly lush and lurid, evoking the work of Mario Bava rather than James Whale or even Terence Fisher’s usual style.

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Some are put off by the sequence of the kills, preferring instead if Christina had built up to the murder of ringleader Anton rather than dealing with him first. I believe the order is a conscious choice, and shows that Hans’ thirst for vengeance was not so easily sated until all three were dead. Avenged, he departs Christina’s body and leaves what remains of her own soul to bear the murderous guilt.

Once more it proves too much for Christina, and before Victor can stop her, she throws herself off a cliff back into her watery grave. The closing moments, the look on Victor’s face, can be interpreted either as sympathy for the young lovers or regret at another creation slipping through his fingers into oblivion. Given Cushing’s range, I like to think it’s both.

While clearly upstaged by the brief but memorable appearances of Cushing’s Frankenstein, Denberg surprisingly holds her own. Although her thick Austrian accent forced Hammer to dub her dialogue, she turns in a great performance as both the disfigured Christina and the vessel of vengeance, changing her body language to suit each aspect. Terence Fisher shows great restraint in not overly exploiting her, to the disappointment of many, I’m sure, and she remains sexy and sultry but believable as a murderess.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to click the badge above to check out all of the myriad offerings in the Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon. There are some great articles, amazing art, music videos, interviews, and more. We’ll be back tomorrow to bring our little journey to its conclusion as we look at Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). We hope to see you here!

The Evil That Men Do

Sandor Eles and Peter Cushing in "The Evil of Frankenstein" (1964)

“The evil that men do lives after them.” — William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

This is especially true for Baron Victor Frankenstein, who has a bad habit of bringing bad men back from the great beyond. Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose.

Welcome to Day Five of the
Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon. Today, we’re going to take a look at what many consider to be the first reboot of Hammer Films’ Frankenstein franchise, The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). While there’s a definite change in direction, I’m not entirely sure continuity is cleanly severed, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Along with the supposed break in continuity came a break in creative personnel as Evil would be the first Hammer Frankenstein film not written by Jimmy Sangster. Instead, Anthony Hinds, son of Hammer Films founder William Hinds, would pen the script under the pseudonym John Elder. Hinds had cut his teeth, so to speak, collaborating with Sangster on the script for The Brides of Dracula (1960) with Cushing reprising his Van Helsing role sans Lee’s title vampire. With Captain Clegg (1962) (U.S. title Night Creatures) in between, Evil would be the third time Hinds wrote for Cushing.

The second switch was unplanned, as Terence Fisher was set to direct this third installment in the franchise until a car accident left him unable to do so. Freddie Francis, already an Academy Award-winning cinematographer and longtime Hammer contributor, was brought in to helm the project. Given his background, it isn’t surprising that Francis brings some of James Whale’s influence into his compositions, in contrast to Fisher’s sparse, stagey arrangements.

Because of a distribution deal with Universal, Hammer Films were able to freely reference their series, and it is clear by creature design, laboratory sets, and promotional materials that this film was intended to take advantage of that and perhaps bridge the gap between the two Frankenstein film franchises. Hinds’ script also reinforces these connections with secluded mountain sets and mobs of angry villagers, both absent from the previous films largely because of budgetary constraints.

The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Movie Poster for "The Evil of Frankenstein" (1964)

Movie Poster for The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Our film opens with a body snatching that doesn’t quite work out as planned. The ubiquitous meddling priest succeeds in driving Victor Frankenstein and his assistant Hans (played by Cushing and Sandor Elès, respectively) from his village, destroying much of their laboratory in the process. While Victor’s human assistants traditionally let him down (from Paul in Curse to Karl and Margaret in Revenge), they have also saved him from the icy grip of death (Kleve in Revenge). This dependence on others will become a clear problem in Evil.

With their work demolished, Victor takes Hans back to his home village of Karlstaad, hoping to sell off some of his inheritance to fund further work. They find the chateau in ruins and looted clean. Disappointed and defeated, Victor relates the story of his exile.

This presents the biggest obstacle to including Evil in the continuity begun with Curse and Revenge. The title text of Curse clearly places the setting in Switzerland, a fact subtly reinforced during Victor’s exchange with Kleve in Revenge. Shelley’s Frankenstein is born in Geneva, Switzerland and educated at Germany’s University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria. Karlstadt [sic] is in the appropriately named Unterfranken region of Bavaria, Germany.

There are some interesting details in this flashback sequence. Firstly, Victor sets the events 10 years ago. In Revenge, Kleve indicates that it’s been a little more than 3 years since the death of Professor Bernstein.

While Sandor Elès is nearly 10 years younger than Francis Matthews, I do not take it as gospel that his Hans is not intended to be loyal assistant Hans Kleve. Hans was not present for the events of Curse, and in Revenge, he only helped with a pair of groundbreaking brain transplants, not the creation of life. There is also the suggestion that Kleve knew of Frankenstein’s work by reputation despite the Baron’s insistence on not publishing in Curse. Is it possible that the events relayed in flashback occurred sometime between the opening of Revenge and the later events in Carlsbrück? There’s certainly no other explanation given in Evil as to why Hans does Victor’s bidding.

Except Victor’s story fits neither the events of Curse nor the possibility proposed above. The monster, in flashback, attacks and consumes only livestock, and Victor is merely charged with assaulting police and heresy, sentenced to a brief imprisonment, a fine, and ultimately exile. Consider the source, however. Victor is hardly a reliable narrator and lying would be the least of his sins. There are even some who have looked at Shelley’s original novel as the ravings of the quintessential unreliable narrator, calling into question whether the monster exists at all.

Movie Poster for "The Evil of Frankenstein" (1964)

Movie Poster for The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Hiding behind masks during a village festival, Victor and Hans scope out the scene in Karlstaad. Victor sees one of his signet rings adorning the hand of the local Burgomaster, and it looks like he’ll be doing more revenging here than in The Revenge of Frankenstein. Victor cannot control his outrage, so he and Hans are forced to flee, a reaction a bit more exaggerated than brief imprisonment, fine, and exile would suggest.

They hide amongst the festivities, eventually evading authorities in a hypnotist’s exhibit. The hypnotist, Professor Zoltán (not to be confused with the Hound of Dracula), is as easy to rile as the Baron, and Zoltán ends up being taken into custody in their stead. Peter Woodthorpe is delightful as the puffed up carny and makes an effective foil for Cushing’s Baron. Woodthorpe followed up his role as Professor Zoltán by playing a nudie photographer in the Jimmy Sangster/Freddie Francis thriller Hysteria (1965) with Kiwi Kingston and as an ill-fated landlord in The Skull (1965) for Amicus, directed by Francis and starring Cushing, proving that he was quite adept at handling slimy, sleazy characters.

A second attempt to reclaim his valuables by Victor only serves to show that the constable who shot his creation in the flashback sequence has subsequently been promoted to Chief of Police (veteran actor Duncan Lamont, who returns to the series with a brief but important role in Frankenstein Created Woman). Victor and Hans are forced to continue their flight into the mountains. Here, they find the creature, frozen in ice.

Professional wrestler Ernie “Kiwi” Kingston plays the creature, made up to resemble the Karloff version more than a little. Kingston was an all-around accomplished sportsman, a successful amateur boxer, rugby player, and equestrian. In Germany, he would ride a horse to the ring and dismount onto the ring apron. While it might’ve been cool to see him ride down villagers as the monster, we’ll have to settle for a spearing, but you’ll have to wait for that.

“The evil of a man who created a monster by crude surgery
and harnessed the tempestuous forces of nature to give it life!”

As if there was any doubt, this square-headed monstrosity cannot be the same creature played by Christopher Lee in Curse, since that one was dissolved in a vat of acid. Still, Victor is eager to get the frozen freak back to his ruined chateau laboratory and bring it back to consciousness. Once accomplished, the immobile thing will not obey his verbal commands.
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Victor believes Zoltán to be the solution to his problem. Found to be practicing without a license, the hypnotist has been sentenced to that most popular of Karlstaad punishments, exile. Professor Zoltán has his own plans, however, and what follows might as well be called The Revenge of Zoltán or The Evil of Zoltán. When Victor objects, a power struggle predictably ensues, with Zoltán ordering creation to kill creator.

Frankenstein keeps his monster at bay with an oil lamp, but Zoltán blocks the only path of escape. This is where the spearing comes in. The monster goes on a rampage, destroying the lab equipment and starting a raging inferno. Judicious application of chloroform just serves to make matters worse. Hans and a deaf-mute girl (as easily omitted from the film as from this synopsis) look on as the chateau explodes in a ball of fire, presumably consuming Baron Frankenstein and his monster. Hans pronounces the final verdict, “They beat you after all.”

Except we’ve got two more days and three more films, so it’s far from conclusive.

Despite my musings and suggestions, it is admittedly difficult to fit The Evil of Frankenstein into the Hammer Films Frankenstein chronology. The more interesting intellectual exercise, I think, is to examine the progression of Peter Cushing’s portrayal of the Baron, from murderous man-child to charitable curmudgeon to vengeful outcast. We’ll continue on this path tomorrow, when we discuss that time when Frankenstein Created Woman (1967). You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?