FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)
Article 2154 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-7-2007
Posting Date: 7-6-2007
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Freddie Jones
Dr. Frankenstein kidnaps an associate who has been committed to an insane asylum in the hopes of curing his madness and discovering a secret he had involving brain transplants.
I first encountered this movie when I was much younger. It popped up on a late night movie show, but I got bored with it quickly because it didn’t appear to have anything in the way of a real monster to it. I held a fairly low opinion of it for many years, and was quite surprised to learn that the movie was considered by many to be one of the best of the Hammer Frankenstein cycle. I looked forward to seeing it again, now that I was older and could appreciate other aspects of a horror movie than the mere existence of a monster.
Having seen it again, I find myself more agreeing with the assessment than not. Dr. Frankenstein has certainly never been more evil than he is here. Unfortunately, I think he’s a bit too evil; his rape of Veronica Carlson’s character seems out of character for him, Frankenstein may be evil, but not in that way. That and the fact that I don’t care much for the comic relief police inspector are my main problems with this one. Nonetheless, Cushing gives an excellent performance, and he’s never more fascinating than when circumstances force him to act quickly, especially in the scene where the wife of the kidnapped scientist visits his dwelling place, and he is forced to allay her suspicions (I find it interesting that Dr. Frankenstein himself, like Cushing, is a consummate actor). Still, my favorite performance in the movie is from Freddie Jones, who is deeply affecting as the man who has his brain replaced with that of the scientist; the scenes where he tries to explain to his wife that he is indeed her husband even though he’s in a different body are especially well done. The movie also has one of the best showdowns between Frankenstein and his creation that I’ve seen. I don’t know if it’s the best of the series, but it’s certainly the best one since REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and well worth a watch.
It’s worth noting that the rape scene was inserted at the insistence of James Carreras, the head of Hammer, who wanted to “spice up” the film for American audiences. Cushing, being the gentleman he was, found the scene repugnant, and Terence Fisher outright refused to direct it, walking off the set.
It must also be stated that the rape was inserted at the very end of production, and Veronica Carlson felt that it altered the perception of her character in the scenes that followed. I don’t think it damaged the film to any great extent but it certainly was not necessary.