Director/Producer – Jimmy Sangster, Screenplay – Jimmy Sangster & Jeremy Burnham, Photography – Moray Grant, Music – Malcolm Williamson, Makeup – Tom Smith, Art Direction – Scott MacGregor. Production Company – Hammer/EMI.
Ralph Bates (Victor Frankenstein), Dave Prowse (The Monster), Kate O’Mara (Alys), Veronica Carlson (Elizabeth Heiss), Graham James (Wilhelm Kastner), Dennis Price (Grave Robber), Bernard Archer (Professor Heiss), Jon Finch (Lieutenant Henry Becker)
Victor Frankenstein, a cold, arrogant and womanising genius, is angry when his father forbids him to continue his anatomical experiments. He sabotages his father’s shotgun, causing him to be killed. Inheriting the family fortune, Victor uses this to enter med school in Vienna but is forced to return home when he gets the dean’s daughter pregnant. There he sets up laboratory, starting a series of experiments into the revivification of the dead. Eventually, he builds up a composite body from human parts, which he brings to life.
The Horror of Frankenstein was the fifth film in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. By 1970, Hammer had regurgitated most of their monster themes several times over. The Horror of Frankenstein came at the point Hammer were starting to inject new blood into their product. The influence of the younger generation was making itself felt and Hammer were casting younger stars, recruiting young directors, not to mention placing an open emphasis on sexuality in films.
With The Horror of Frankenstein, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster was brought back to rewrite his script for The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which started the series and Hammer’s reputation as a horror industry leader off thirteen years before, while he was also allowed to make his debut as director. The role of Frankenstein was given a facelift and Peter Cushing was unceremoniously dumped from the role in favour of Ralph Bates whom Hammer were grooming as a new horror star at the time. Publicity stills were shot on the set with Ralph Bates and Peter Cushing shaking hands to announce the change. The future of the Frankenstein series seemed to be heading in a new direction … only The Horror of Frankenstein was a disaster and the Hammer Frankenstein series failed to go in any new directions.
The Horror of Frankenstein starts in with a promising sense of black humour. However, the opening tapers off and Jimmy Sangster thereafter seems uncertain whether he is delivering parody or straight melodrama. The effort turns out dismally where all that Sangster ends up doing is weakly echoing The Curse of Frankenstein in a plot that seems more interested in Frankenstein’s sexual dalliances than his medical obsessions. The sets seem flatly lit.
Dave Prowse, the bodybuilder who later played Darth Vader in Star Wars (1977) and sequels, turns the monster into a mindless brute. The best thing about the film is Ralph Bates’s cold and arrogant Frankenstein but the rest of the show is dreary and dull.
The saddest thing about The Horror of Frankenstein is that it comes from Jimmy Sangster who did such a fine job in tuning the script for Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein. There is such a gulf between The Curse of Frankenstein and the loose remake here in terms of quality with Sangster seeming to understand so little about what made the original work that the success of Curse can only be placed down to director Terence Fisher.
The other Hammer Frankenstein films are:– The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973).
Jimmy Sangster made two other films for Hammer as director – the lame softcore Karnstein film Lust for a Vampire (1971) and the quite good psycho-thriller Fear in the Night (1972). X the Unknown (1956), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Mummy (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), the psycho-thrillers A Taste of Fear/Scream of Fear (1961), Paranoiac (1962), Maniac (1963), Nightmare (1964), Hysteria (1965), The Nanny (1965) and Crescendo (1970), and Dracula – Prince of Darkness (1966), all for Hammer. Sangster’s non-Hammer scripts are the medical vampire film Blood of the Vampire (1958), the alien invasion film The Trollenberg Terror/The Crawling Eye (1958), Jack the Ripper (1959), the Grand Guignol psycho-thriller Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971), the tv movie psycho-thrillers A Taste of Evil (1971) and Scream, Pretty Peggy (1973), the occult tv movie Good Against Evil (1977), the occult film The Legacy (1979), the spy tv movies Billion Dollar Threat (1979) and Once Upon a Spy (1980), the psycho-thriller Phobia (1980) and the story for Disney’s The Devil and Max Devlin (1981).