• Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (Frankensteins Höllenmonster)

    Released by: Anolis Entertainment
    Released on: September 9th, 2016.
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Cast: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, David Prowse, Bernard Lee
    Year: 1974

    The Movie:

    The final film in Hammer Films’ Frankenstein series (and the last film directed by Terence Fisher) introduces us to a promising young surgeon named Doctor Simon Helder (Shane Briant) who has clearly been influenced by work done years back by one Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing). In fact, Helder is trying to pick up where the good Baron left off, assembling parts of different corpses acquired through dubious means to create his own living creation made entirely of the dead!

    When Helder is caught and held accountable for his crimes, the powers that be deem him fit for the asylum. Understandably, he presumes all hope to be lost but once he’s behind those cold walls, he comes face to face with none other than Baron Frankenstein himself. While those in the outside world have thought the Baron to be long dead, it turns out that he’s been coercing the asylum’s director Adolf Klauss (John Stratton) into letting him carry on with some of his experiments – and on top of that, he’s even got an assistant in the form of a beautiful mute woman named Sarah (Madeline Smith). He needs her to assist with their experiments because he hands were burned some time ago. It just so happens that one of their fellow inmates recently tried to commit suicide, but Frankenstein being Frankenstein, he’s kept him alive enough to serve his purpose. This, coupled with a few other recent deaths, give them plenty of parts to work with – but once the monster is put together (and played by David Prowse), they realize that things aren’t going to go nearly as smoothly as they had hoped.

    The film is somewhat infamous for taking advantage of the loosening of British film censorship standards in the seventies and as such, it’s a good bit bloodier than any of the Frankenstein films that the studio released prior to this final entry. Anolis presents the film uncut, as you would expect, but it’s interesting to note that while other films from the studio made in this period had plenty of female nudity, this picture is pretty restrained in that way. Regardless, the movie gives fans of Hammer’s Frankenstein pictures what they want – Cushing in one of his most iconic roles and a good monster. The makeup effects for Prowse’s damned creation are never particularly convincing but he moves well, and he has an unforgettable look, standing out from the more conventional ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ designs we’ve seen countless times over the years. And you can’t help but feel for the poor thing, those sad eyes looking out from under its furrowed brow looking appropriately tortured.

    Cushing is in fine form here indeed. He chews a little bit of scenery in the film but it never feels inappropriate in a picture where other elements are already over the top and madness seems the order of the day. Seeing him strut about the asylum like he owns the place is a lot of fun, and while the film is heavy on dialogue and at times surprisingly talky, when it’s Cushing doing the talking you’ll have no trouble paying attention! He and his partner in crime, played by the much younger Shane Briant, share some great screen time here, their back and forth about the specifics of their operation is well written and at times darkly comedic. Madeline Smith is good as the mute girl, though most of what she’s asked to do is stand around quietly and look beautiful and/or perturbed.

    The film isn’t as atmospheric as some of the earlier entries but here are a lot of scenes that do look very good. The set decoration employed in Frankenstein’s room is quite ornate and some of the rooms of the asylum setting offer some appreciably macabre details to take in. The cinematography is very good and James Bernard’s score is pretty solid.


    Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray disc encoded for Region B playback from Anolis in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. Not only do the compositions look spot on but detail is generally very strong here as well. Colors are beautifully reproduced in both nicely lit and darker scenes. They appear bold and lush without any oversaturation while skin tones look lifelike and natural. Black levels are nice and strong while shadow detail in the film’s frequent darker scenes stays steady, there are no problems with any black crush although occasionally some mild compression artifacts can be spotted if you're so inclined to look for them. There isn’t much in the way of actual print damage to note, the source used for the film was obviously very clean, but there is a natural amount of visible film grain evident throughout the film, as there should be. Texture is good, there’s nice depth to the image and all in all things shape up very nicely indeed in terms of the film’s visual representation on this release.

    Audio options are provided in English and German in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with optional subtitle provided in German only. Both tracks sound clean, clear and properly balanced. Dialogue is crisp and natural sounding, never too tinny or thin, while the score has some moments where the score sounds impressively powerful. No problems here, the balance is good and the track is free of any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with Dr. Rolf Giesen and Uwe Sommerlad that is in German only without any subtitle. However, the menu does give you the option to choose ‘English’ and when you do that, rather than a traditional commentary you get a thirty-nine minute featurettes with Gisen and Sommerlad speaking in English about the history of the film. They cover the details of the set, the involvement of various players including the film’s producers, the state of Hammer in the early seventies, how they’d been grooming Briant in hopes of making more Frankenstein pictures with him and of course, Peter Cushing (describing him as Edwardian rather than Victorian) and the actor’s very specific ideals and old fashioned beliefs.

    Carried over from the Australian and UK discs, however, is and English language commentary with Madeline Smith and Shane Briant moderated by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn. This is quite a good track, with Smith and Briant participants in good spirits and seemingly quite keen on talking up their work on the picture. They both look back on Cushing quite fondly but also talk about their experiences working under Fisher, some of their thoughts on the picture and more. When they aren’t talking, Hearn does a fine job of offering the listener his expertise in terms of who did what, the locations and sets, the costumes, the music, the film’s censorship issues and loads more. This is a pretty interesting track, one definitely worth taking the time to listen to.

    There are a few featurettes found here as well, starting with a making of piece entitled Taking Over The Asylum that runs roughly twenty-five minutes in length. Made up of interviews with authors Denis Meikle of A History Of Horrors, Jonathan Rigby of Studies In Terror and David Miller who penned The Complete Peter Cushing as well as bits with cast members Madeline Smith, Shane Briant, Philip Voss, Janet Hargreaves and Dave Prowse this is quite an interesting look back at the film. Accompanying the interviews are clips from the film as well as a load of archival stills and material as the participants talk about what it was like on set, working alongside both Fisher and Cushing on the production, some of the films more notorious scenes, their thoughts on the picture and quite a bit more.

    Also found on the disc is a thirteen minute long piece on Terence Fisher called Charming Evil. This contains interviews with author Denis Meikle, the late director’s daughter Micky Harding and Hammer Fan Convention organizer Sue Cowie and while it’s a bit short, it’s pretty interesting. There’s a good amount of information about what he was like as a person in here as well as discussion of his working style, some of his career highs and lows, and the impact he had on the history of Hammer Films.

    Anolis also supplies two interview segments, the first of which is with Friedrich Schoenfelder. It runs just over nineteen minutes but is in German without any subtitles. The second interview segment gets David Nathan in front of the camera for roughly twenty minutes, but again, it’s in German without any subtitles.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s US theatrical trailer, a few still galleries, menus and chapter selection

    The Final Word:

    Hammer Films’ final Frankenstein picture may not be the best of the series, but Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell holds up quite well thanks to some great performances, particularly Cushing in the lead. Anolis’ Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and contains a nice selection of extras as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Nice review, and those screen caps look fantastic. Looks like I'm going to have to upgrade my Aussie Blu, which is 1080i. This is one of my favorite Hammer films and their goriest to date.