Director: Terence Fisher
Writers: Bert Batt (Screenplay), Anthony Nelson Keys (Story), Mary Shelley (Characters)
Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Freddie Jones, Simon Ward, Thorley Walters, Maxine Audley, George Pravda, Geoffrey Bayldon, Colette O'Neil
When I first started this Frankenstein blog-a-thon the only Hammer film I had planned to watch was the first in the series, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). However, Joshua from Octupus Cinema recommended that I see Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), the fifth film in the Hammer Frankenstein series. After being assured by Joshua that the film would stand on its own and I would not need to see all the films in between I decided to give it a go.
This film is a pretty different take on the Frankenstein legend. In this version Dr. Frankenstein is no longer attempting to create life but instead is trying to perfect a method for transplanting a brain from one body to another. However, the information he needs to perfect this procedure is trapped in the head of a man that has gone insane. He must cure the man's insanity to get the information that he needs before he can continue with his experiments. However, things never go that easy for Dr. Victor Frankenstein.
It is hard to compare this film to other versions of the story because of how different it is. It is certainly not the story I am used to seeing when I think of Frankenstein. There is no creature created by Dr. Frankenstein in this film, at least not the in same way that there is in the other films. The lack of a creature created by Dr. Frankenstein is something that I missed while watching this film. However, this film does get a lot right with the character of Victor Frankenstein and stands on its own as a pretty decent film. I actually enjoyed this film a bit more than The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).
Peter Cushing does a great job portraying the madness of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. His obsession with his work really shows through in this film. He will do anything to continue his work even if it means kidnapping and killing. However, there is one part where I thought they may have gone to far Victor's madness. At one point in the film Victor rapes the character of Anna (who is the wife of the Doctor that Victor has forced to aid him in his work). I thought this was a bit out of character for Victor and according to the IMDB, Peter Cushing was not particularly happy about the inclusion of this scene either.
While there is no creature created by Dr. Frankenstein in this film there are people that are effected by his experiments and none of them are very happy with the results. This does lead to some of the similar dynamics that we normally see between Victor and his creation in other versions of the story. In my opinion this actually begins to make up for the fact that there is no creature in this film. The animosity that some of these people have towards Victor leads to a very exciting and suspenseful conclusion that over rivals the end of some of the earlier Frankenstein films.
Overall I thought the film was pretty good even though it is not the story I am used to seeing. It is certainly not topping out the list of my favorite Frankenstein movies but it is enjoyable. It does tell a pretty interesting story that has its roots in the legend of Frankenstein. The madness of Dr. Victor Frankenstein is, for the most part, portrayed extremely well and while there is not creature there are still some moments in the film that make up for that fact.