Monday, March 15, 2010

Cushing is Frankenstein at his most evil

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1970)
Starring Peter Cushing, Simon Ward and Veronica Carlson
Director: Terence Fisher
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

This could have been an Eight or Nine Star entry into Hammer's Frankenstein series, but, unfortunately, the portrayal of the central character, Baron Frankenstein, is off when compared to other entries, particularly high-points like "Revenge of Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein Created Woman."

In those films, there was something twistedly heroic about Frankenstein... one almost finds oneself hoping he'll succeed. But here, he is just a vicious killer and a brutal rapist--a creature with no redeeming qualities save for the inherent charm of the actor who portrays him, Peter Cushing.

The plot has Frankenstein blackmail a crooked doctor at a local asylum into giving him access to a mad scientist so Frankenstein can cure the madness through brain surgery. The corruption of Frankenstein and the crooked doctor spread to engulf the doctor's otherwise innocent fiance. On the very night of Frankenstein's seeming triumph, everyone ends up paying for their crimes, including Frankenstein himself. The "morality play" aspect of this film works extremely well. What doesn't work is Frankenstein's completely monstrous nature. And it's made worse by the brutal rape he visits upon Veronica Carlson (who gives what is probably her best performance in this film).

The rape scene is disruptive to the movie not only because of what it does to the character of Victor Frankenstein, but also because it doesn't really fit with the overall flow of the story--it comes out of left field and it doesn't seem to have any impact on the events that follow, as the characters carry on as if it never happened. In fact, according to interviews with the principles, it was added late in the production on the insistence of the producers, and over the objections of the actors and the director; Cushing in particular, being a gentleman among gentlemen was reportedly more upset about the scene than anyone else, despising both what he had to subject Ms. Carlson to, as well as what it did to his on-screen character. The odd disconnect is there, because the later scenes with Carlson and Cushing had already been filmed, and there was neither the time nor the interest to reshoot any of them.

It's a shame, really, that this otherwise fine film should be marred to such a great extent because a studio executive wanted to "sex it up."

1 comment:

  1. Carlson was a truly stunning woman, and she eventually retired to my home state to raise her family & paint. Unforgettable babe!