Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (Terence Fisher, 1974)

The Baron’s sanity is hidden within the confines of an asylum, his insidious collection assembled into a caricature of humanity. Hammer’s fifth installment of the patchwork franchise finds the Baron as a more affable protagonist, attempting to pacify the criminally insane and ease their maladies, though never hesitating to utilize disposable body parts for his experiment.

Peter Cushing once again brings an elegant and redeemable quality to the secretive baron; an impulsive man whose morality is eclipsed by his quest for knowledge. In one scene, the baron is introducing the new doctor to the "special” patients and he claims that one suffers from a God complex: this patient is not the only one to be afflicted as such. Cushing’s delivery is pitch-perfect as the comment is sarcastically directed at those who sent him to his death (Judges, Politicians) though it is darkly self-reflective, unconsciously passing judgment upon himself. The baron is not quite as evil as depicted in the previous film, but he does instigate a suicide and segregate the patients (though seemingly incurable) who have qualities he would like to dissect. Cushing looks gaunt and tired which lends a cruel realism to the role of a scientist maddened by a dark age of Puritanical values, pushing his own ethics towards the lunatic fringe.

The assembled creature is pitiful and truly the victim, sewed together and born into a world of lunacy, surrounded by the mentally injured and handicapped. In a surreal narrative twist, the baron decides to breed the monster with his mute female assistant for reasons that make little sense, but it leads to beauty saving the soul of the savage beast…while the monster is torn to shreds by the brood.

Final Grade: (B-)

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