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THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN
DVD Region 2. Showbox.

Hammer's third Frankenstein movie is one of the few films from the illustrious studio to have escaped me until now, and so I was particularly interested in this new release - the first time the film has been available on DVD or, indeed, video in the UK. My expectations for the film were, however, not that high, and by and large it proved my suspicions correct.

Ignoring the previous films in the series, Evil of Frankenstein opens with a spot of body snatching, as the Baron (played as usual by Peter Cushing) continues his experiments with heart transplants. When a fanatical priest wrecks his lab, Frankenstein and assistant Hans head off to his old home town of Karlstaad, where he plans to use the possessions in his old castle to finance a new laboratory. However, on arrival he discovers that his castle has been ransacked by villagers.

What's more, thanks to a Bjork-like peasant girl, he finds the frozen body of his monster (who's continuity-wrecking creation we see in a lengthy flashback). But attempts to revive it fail, and he turns to a carnival hypnotist, Zoltan, to bring the creature back to consciousness. This he does, but Zoltan is a bad egg, and uses his hypnotic control of the monster for his own nefarious purposes.

As the above synopsis suggests, John Elder's screenplay runs the gamut of genre clichés, and it is this that lets the film down, making it probably the weakest entry in the series. There are moments of interest - the fact that Frankenstein is here shown almost as a sympathetic figure is unusual for the series (Cushing's doctor was rarely anything but ruthless) and the corruption of local officials (and blind ignorance of religious figures) is also notable. But on the whole, the story is slight, and simply moves from one predictable moment to another.

On the plus side, the film looks gorgeous, and is generally well acted - Cushing obviously gives it his all, and Peter Woodthorpe is an effective foil. The monster, unfortunately, is a poor effort. The make-up is modelled vaguely on the Universal/Karloff original, but is so crudely executed as to look like little more than a mask - wrestler Kiwi Kingston probably wasn't much of an actor, but even Karloff might have struggled to convey feeling in this get-up.

Still, Evil of Frankenstein is an agreeable enough affair - hardly Hammer's finest, but certainly entertaining. The DVD features trailers for the film and Brides of Dracula and a brief stills gallery but is otherwise devoid of extras.

DAVID FLINT

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