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  Horror of Frankenstein, The Young Frankenstein
Year: 1970
Director: Jimmy Sangster
Stars: Ralph Bates, Kate O'Mara, Veronica Carlson, Dennis Price, Jon Finch, Bernard Archard, Graham James, James Hayter, Joan Rice, Stephen Turner, Neil Wilson, James Cossins, Glenys O'Brien, Geoffrey Lumsden, Chris Lethbridge-Baker, David Prowse
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Victor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates) was the son of a rich Baron who, while at school, grew bored with his studies when it turned out his knowledge was far in advance of his teachers. What he wanted to study was anatomy, and so when the opportunity arose, he headed off to university, leaving his home behind along with Elizabeth (Veronica Carlson), the girl who was secretly in love with him. While at the university, he excelled in his learning but his career was sabotaged when he got the Dean's daughter pregnant; however, a disreputable air was always going to be part and parcel of this young man...

Especially as he had no qualms about murdering his father in a staged hunting accident to get his hands on the family fortune and also the family maidservant, Alys (Kate O'Mara). You'll notice that although this was a Hammer Frankenstein horror, there was somebody missing: that's right, not a sign of series star Peter Cushing anywhere to be seen, as he had been replaced with a younger model in the shape of Ralph Bates, one of the actors the studio started grooming in the seventies to take over from their ageing stars.

Not that this idea worked out, as before long Hammer was on its way out as the British film industry sank into the doldrums, but it's interesting to see the potential Bates had as a villain in such things, proving he could play it cruel and urbane simultaneously. What he needed was a better film to showcase him, as The Horror of Frankenstein was widely seen as a disappointment as it essentially trod far too familiar ground. Jimmy Sangster had the chance to direct his own script this time around, co-written with Jeremy Burnham, but the only inclusion of an original element was the sense of humour it displayed at odd intervals.

Now, a comedy Frankenstein flick is not a bad idea at all, as seen by the successes of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, and Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, but here the filmmakers didn't appear to be too enthusiastic about amping up the black humour. In fact, although there are a few gags such as a disembodied limb in the title character's experiments giving it the Harvey Smith two-fingered salute, these are too few and far between and could have easily been excised with very little alteration to the overall anaemic tone of the rest of the production. It does not help that we can see precisely where the plot is going from the opening credits onwards.

The whole thing plays it disappointingly safe, particularly when you consider this was made at a time when Hammer was starting to experiment with stronger stuff in its efforts to hang onto a public whose interest in them was waning. If only they had had the courage of their convictions and gone all out for laughs instead of politely indulgent smiles at best then they might have found fresh ground to inhabit, but as it was the comedy in Hammer was left to big screen adaptations of sitcoms. The monster, when he arrives, is played by David Prowse and in spite of a hand proffered in greeting by his creator, he wearily goes through the motions of a murderous (and pigeon-scoffing) rampage, all very half hearted. If you had not seen many of this series from this company then perhaps it would play better, but even the climax is a throwaway bit of business. Music by Malcolm Williamson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Jimmy Sangster  (1924 - 2011)

British screenwriter who scripted many Hammer horrors. In the fifties, he wrote The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy for the legendary studio; in the sixties, he wrote suspense films like Maniac, Taste of Fear and The Nanny for them. In the seventies, he directed Horror of Frankenstein, Lust for a Vampire and Fear in the Night, then moved into many scripts for American television.

 
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