Cinema Sunday: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

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Title: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Distributor: Hammer Films/Warner Bros.

Writer: Bert Batt

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Freddie Jones, Simon Ward

Released: May 1969 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG-13

 

After focusing on a film starring Christopher Lee last week, I couldn’t help but gravitate towards a film starring his Hammer Films counterpart, Peter Cushing! I’ve just about exhausted all Hammer’s Vampire/Frankenstein’s Monster films, but this little gem remains! A controversial film to say the least, this is one that features not only Cushing, but also the gorgeous Veronica Carlson! She’s one of those few starlets that lights up the screen when she appears, and plays a great counterpart to evil Doctor Frankenstein!

Cushing only did one more Frankenstein film after this one (Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell), and I’ll eventually get to it down the road, but for now, let us traverse back in time, to the turn of the century. To a time when a villain like Dr. Frankenstein could get away with his ghastly experiments!

 

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The film begins with a doctor walking down a foggy street, heading for his office. He’s suddenly accosted by a man who’s carrying a basket and some bladed weapon. The man (not seen clearly) slices the doctor’s head clean off! Just then, we see a burglar (Harold Goodwin) trying to break into a home. He hears footsteps, and cannot complete his mission, so he tries the nearest doorknob, and successfully gains access to another house. He wanders around for a few seconds, and then sees a laboratory filled with unusual devices and even a frozen corpse! He gets startled, and crashes into a table. The noise alerts the man whose home he’s broken into (the same man that frightened him into the home in the first place). As the burglar waits, he hears footsteps drawing nearer. He’s then confronted by a horrifically scarred man, and the two then fight. As the two brawl, a basket gets kicked over that the scarred man was carrying. A head comes rolling out, and we now know that it was the head of the doctor who was murdered just minutes before. The burglar eventually gets away, and the other man removes a mask, and it’s revealed that it is Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) himself!

 

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The doctor realizes that the man will go to the police in all likelihood, so he opens a hatch in the floor, and dumps the body (and kicks the head down like a soccer ball), into a stream below. The burglar runs into a policeman, and then is taken to the station. After confessing, the police arrive and surmise that the man who beheaded the doctor earlier is probably the same man who had this secret laboratory. They then begin their investigation, and it’s headed up by Inspector Frisch (Thorley Walters), who’s an odd fellow to say the least. He doesn’t seem to have any ideas as far as who the killer may be, nor does he take advice from his fellow investigators.

 

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As Dr. Frankenstein leaves the house he was occupying, he then finds a room for rent on the other side of London. He knocks on the door and is greeted by Anna (Veronica Carlson), and with her mother currently elderly and ill, she is running the boarding house. We then switch to a local asylum, where a woman is screaming like a banshee. We are introduced to Dr. Karl Holst (Simon Ward), who is a very prominent young doctor employed there. He looks in on another patient, Dr. Frederick Brandt (George Pravda), who has had a traumatic brain injury, and cannot even speak. The other doctors at the asylum believe he cannot be cured. Back at the boarding house, the other four tenants are discussing Dr. Brandt, and then after Dr. Frankenstein enters the room (under an assumed name), and they involve his name in the conversation. He tells them it’s fools like them that have blocked progress for centuries. They get furious with him, but he leaves (like a boss).

 

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Later, Karl comes to take out his bride-to-be, Anna. He drops a box (of medicinal cocaine) on the doorstep, and then heads inside to see Anna. Dr. Frankenstein finds the box, and uses this leverage to blackmail them into service of his dastardly deeds. They’ve been using the stolen drugs to sell them to support Anna’s elderly mother. The next day, Anna tosses the other four tenants out on the street to make room for Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments. He then tells Karl that he means to repair the damaged brain of Dr. Brandt, a man whom he’d been corresponding with about brain surgery. Frankenstein and Holst rob a medical supply store, and Holst murders the night watchman in fear of being caught. Frankenstein then uses Karl’s place at the asylum to kidnap Dr. Brandt from the asylum, so he can remove his brain and put it in another body, and repair it during the process.

 

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Will Dr. Frankenstein succeed in his devilish plot or will Karl and Anna find a way to not only clear their names but also put an end to the devious deeds of Dr. Frankenstein?!?!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

One scene aside, this is one of Hammer’s best films in the “Frankenstein’s Monster” franchise. It’s not the typical monster as was the first couple of films (and the Universal Studios film), in that the story revolves more around the doctor himself, and his machinations. Of course, when you have a lead like Peter Cushing this is possible. The supporting cast is great as well, and you get a wild actor like Thorley Walters, a solid job by a young Simon Ward, and the utter beauty and grace of Veronica Carlson (image below) to cap it all off.

At this point, Hammer was relying on film distribution companies in the U.S. to partially back their films, and of course, distribute them in America. So, in a roundabout way, they had some say in the content of the film itself. Hammer executive, James Carreras, demanded that director Terence Fisher (his first film back at Hammer after a few years break) add a rape scene to the film. This did not settle well with Cushing and Carlson (the two involved in the scene), but the did it, albeit begrudgingly. Quite honestly, the scene does seem a bit out-of-place, and for anyone that’s a Hammer aficionado, you’ll know that this isn’t something Dr. Frankenstein would’ve been interested in.

Definitely set aside some time to watch this one. It’s part of a great four film set by TCM Classics, and is one of my treasured compilations of Hammer Studios material!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Damned (1963)

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Title: The Damned

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Evan Jones (screenplay)

Director: Joseph Losey

Producer: Anthony Hinds, Anthony Nelson Keys, Michael Carreras

Starring: MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Oliver Reed, Viveca Lindfors, Alexander Knox

Released: May 19, 1963 (U.K.)

MPAA: Approved (est.)

To keep rolling with the sci-fi and Hammer Studios theme, I thought I’d pull out one of the not-so-famous films from their library! This wacky movie starts off like a biker film that looks more like something James Dean would’ve starred in back in the day. It is a cool little film, and another reason to love Oliver Reed! They guy is nothing short of phenomenal, and this is just another film that proves it! A beautiful, and vivacious leading lady, and a leading man who did a TON of television work, but held his own nicely in this film. OK, let’s get to the movie!

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The film begins with a rowdy bunch of fellows (a “Teddy Boy Gang“) hanging out by the statue in the middle of town. An older man notices a vibrant young woman walking down the street. He follows her, but she blows him off at first. She then looks in the direction of the leader of the gang. He nods, and she then allows the gentleman to escort her across the street. The gang then heads around a wall to a secluded area, and the girl lures the man to that location, and he gets beaten by the gang, and robbed. One of the gang members asks Joan (Shirley Anne Field), if she’s enjoying her work, and she doesn’t respond verbally, but you can tell she’s sorrowful about the incident.

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Across town, at a restaurant, a man, Bernard (Alexander Knox) is surprised by his lady friend, Freya (Viveca Lindfors). She’s an artist of sorts, and apparently a mistress of his. A couple of Bernard’s men bring Simon Wells (MacDonald Carey) into the restaurant, and ask him about the attack. Freya then questions Bernard about his military friends, and his secret project that he’s been conducting. He’s very mysterious about it and tells her very little. We see a little interaction between Joan and her brother, King (Oliver Reed), and you get the feeling that there’s something not quite right about their relationship.

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The following day, the gang is spending the stolen money on nonsense, but as they go for a motorbike ride, Joan runs into Simon. He’s on a boat, and Joan talks with him as if nothing happened. They get a little testy with each other, but then have a nice moment together. Just as things are looking up, King and his gang show up, and threaten Simon. Joan gets out of the boat, then King threatens her too. The gang taunts Simon, and he sets off. He sees the desperation in Joan’s eyes, so he tells her to jump aboard, and she does. This infuriates King, and he vows to kill Simon.

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At a military base near the cliffs, Bernard and his crew are discussing the project. They then set up a television monitor, and when it turns on, we see a classroom of nine children. The kids ask several questions, and Bernard answers them. The kids then want to know what it is they’re going to do in the coming years, but Bernard evades their questions, and then signs off for the day. Outside the base, there’s a cottage by the cliffs, and Joan and Simon go there (break in) to avoid King. Little do they know that one of the gang spotted them coming to shore, and he quickly tells King. As Simon and Joan are getting cozy, Freya is on her way into the cottage, so Simon and Joan sneak out through a window. As they’re making their way out, Simon and his gang show up and chase them to the cliffs.

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We next see Simon and Joan, as they’ve fallen off of the cliffs and then swim into a nearby cave. The cave has a passageway, and it leads into the domicile that the children are being raised in. They have no clue what is going on of course, but King is hot on their trail. He follows them to the cave, and one of his posse gets caught by the military police that are patrolling the grounds. They question him, but get very little in the form of answers. Back at the cave, King has made his way into the domicile, and one of the kids has befriended him. Simon and Joan have noticed something very disturbing about these children. Their skin is as ice-cold as a corpse, and they have no understanding about why.

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What are these children and why are they kept in this underground enclosure, cut off from mankind? Will King make good on his promise to kill Simon? You must watch to find out!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

I’ll be perfectly honest and tel you that the entire film isn’t as sinister as the movie posters would lead you to believe. That said, the film has many good qualities about it that I’ll share. First off, the acting is top-notch, as McDonald Carey and Shirley Anne Field really carry this film, especially during the scenes that they share, which is most of the movie. Not to be outdone, is Hammer favorite, Oliver Reed! This guy is the perfect actor to play crazy roles like this one, and he really takes it to another level. We’ve all heard the stories about Reed’s partying lifestyle, and you really get the feeling that he was a tortured soul, so maybe that’s why he could pull off these amazing performances.

The music score was by another Hammer stalwart, James Bernard. Although I wouldn’t consider this his best effort, it certainly is lively. The sets are a bright spot as well, and the scenes shot in town (Dorset, England). The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and definitely is a grand addition to the film. The underground domicile is a bit like something from Star Trek the Original Series, but hey, it was 1963, and the budget wasn’t anything to get aroused about either.

Give this one a look-see, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it. It does sort of march to a different beat, especially when you consider it’s a Hammer film. Don’t let that scare you though, it is a winner!

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)

StranglersBombay   Title: The Stranglers of Bombay Distributor: Columbia/Hammer Studios Writer: David Z. Goodman Director: Terence Fisher Producer: Anthony Hinds Starring: Guy Rolfe, Allan Cuthbertson, Andrew Cruickshank, George Pastell, Marie Devereaux, Jan Holden Released: December, 1959 MPAA: PG-13     In attempting to let the masses know that Hammer Studios has a much more wide range of movies other than horror, I’m bringing this classic flick into the light. Not trying to take anything away from the awesome Gothic horror films from Hammer, which I consider to be the best of all, but they definitely offer some great films in different genres as well. For instance, this little movie from 1959. It’s somewhat of an oddity that it doesn’t offer any of the usual recurring Hammer players, but don’t let that scare you away, this film is a good one! Based off of a true story, about a cult and the British East India Trading Company, and of course, murder! It wouldn’t be a Hammer film if there wasn’t a shock value to the film, now would it? Filmed the same year as The Mummy, this one is only in black and white, but it does carry a bit of charm because of that fact, in my humble opinion. Well, rather than continuing with more of my feelings, let’s just get down to the story!   stranglers#1 The film begins with a shot of a statue of Kali, and the cult that worships her. There is one man who leads them, the High Priest of Kali (George Pastell – image above), standing tall, and reciting the mission statement for the cult. He basically says that Kali (image of statue below) has told them to wipe out defilers, by strangulation using a silk cloth. The crowd starts getting ruckus, and then pledges to convert the young among them. The High Priest then carves a symbol into a boy’s arm, and then they seal it with a hot iron. This “marking” is how you know who belongs to the cult (cue opening credits).   stranglers#5 Back in the city, we see a meeting between the British occupancy/soldiers, and the local government officials. As the meeting continues, the locals complain about the disappearances of their people and goods. The man in charge, Colonel Henderson (Andrew Cruickshank), tries to assuage the people but they aren’t haven’t it. They say they will stop paying their taxes if this craziness doesn’t stop. Another man walks into the meeting, Captain Harry Lewis (Guy Rolfe – image below), and makes his opinion known that he agrees with the people, and that something needs to be done. The  Colonel tells the Captain that he is in charge of this investigation, and he’s elated. His wife, however, seems to wish he didn’t take the job, but then after talking, sees it his way.   Stranglers#2 The next day, Captain Lewis and a detachment of men are heading out to protect a caravan heading on a long trip. As they approach the caravan, bandits are ransacking it, and attempting to murder the people. Captain Lewis and his men stop and capture them before they can get away. Both of the men have a silk scarf and a certain branding on their arm. Captain Lewis is wondering what this means, but needs more clues. On his way back into town, Captain Lewis runs into another soldier, Captain Christopher Connaught-Smith (Allan Cuthbertson – image below), who is a bit of a jerk. Once they’re both inside headquarters, Colonel Henderson tells Captain Smith that he will now be lead investigator of this operation, and not Captain Lewis. Lewis is devastated, and then Henderson tells Lewis that he went to school with Smith’s father, and now he understands why he was passed over.   stranglers#6 Back at the temple of Kali, the two men that attacked the caravan are now in the custody of Patel Shari (Marne Maitland), a local government official, who has ties to the cult. He tells them that they’ve violated the laws of Kali, and tried to kill for their own greed, so they must be punished. The men then have their eyes gouged out and their tongues cut out as well. Harry is back at home, and talking to his wife about getting passed over at work. One of his servants comes running in, and tells him that he saw a caravan and that he believes his brother (who was abducted years ago) was inside. Change the scene back to the temple, and we see that the High Priest is “training” one of the younger members on how to gain the trust of a stranger, just before killing them! In the brush nearby, a woman (Marie Devereaux) watches, as a man then rushes in, and tells the High Priest that Captain Lewis is asking a lot of questions, and then decrees that he must be punished.   stranglers#3 The next day, Lewis hands over his documents about his investigation of the missing persons. Captain Smith isn’t impressed and gives him the cold shoulder. Lewis is less than impressed with him, so he leaves. Lewis is almost immediately attacked  and the robbers take the piece of silk he had obtained from the men that attacked the caravan earlier in the week. Lewis spends a day tiger hunting with a friend, but he can’t concentrate on anything except the missing persons. He also gets a severed hand delivered to his dinner table, and this is another warning, one that Lewis doesn’t take lightly. He speaks to the Colonel the next day, but gets little satisfaction. The conversation gets ugly, and Lewis threatens to offer his resignation.   After resigning, Lewis begins his own investigation into the matter, and begins asking around the seedy parts of town about the missing people. One man seems to know something but is hesitant to speak. While out tiger hunting, Lewis and his party make a startling discovery. They find a mass grave of bodies, and they are all of native people, that have had their necks snapped. He reports his findings, but gets the run-around from Captain Smith. Lewis visits Patel, and tries to convince him to help with the investigation. He tells him he can do nothing, and Lewis shows signs of giving up. Back at headquarters, a man was caught trying to rob a house, and is going to be questioned. It’s here, that we see that Lieutenant Silver (Paul Stassino), is part of the cult, and obviously aiding them when he can.   stranglers#4 Will Lewis be able to single-handedly be able to thwart this fanatical cult? Or will he succumb to the stranglers silk?!? OK, here are my thoughts: Make no mistake about it, Guy Rolfe and George Pastell, made this film what it is. These two actors really give grade “A” performances that make you believe that the characters are real. The supporting cast isn’t too bad either, as Cruickshank and Cuthbertson also play solid roles. Cuthbertson is especially nasty, and really makes you dislike him from the first scene. His snotty attitude towards Rolfe is undeniably something that will make want to crawl into the movie and slap the taste out of his mouth! Pastell seems to be born for roles like this, and really shines here, as well as in the two Hammer “Mummy” movies he appeared in. The biggest and most awesome thing about this film aside from the two lad roles, has to be the sets. I’ve never personally been to India, but I feel like I have been after watching this movie. From the jungle scenes to the tiger, or even the temple where the cult practices its insane worshiping, the sets are completely believable. This film is something that probably wasn’t really socially significant when this was released, but in this day and age, it seems fearfully symmetrical in certain situations. Lost in all of this is the beautiful Marie Devereux (image below). Her hotness is undeniable, but she really doesn’t get much screen time, and that is a shame! Look for this one at the usual spots (Amazon, etc.), and give it a watch, because it’s definitely worth your time!   stranglers#7   Click here for the trailer!