Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Film #73: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Desperate men do desperate things.
Facing eternal loneliness, Danny DeVito cut his losses and married fellow half troll Rhea Perlman.
With starvation on the horizon, the Donner party chowed down on some baby back ribs.
Locked out of his house and running late for a Cubs game, Chris threw caution and safety to the wind and jumped over his backyard privacy fence – shattering his ankle in the process. And then still went to the game.

But even these fantastical follies don’t compare to the desperate acts performed by the infamous Baron Von Frankenstein, the antagonist (or is he the protagonist?) in this week’s stop in horror history, “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.”

After being run out of his native land for creating murderous monsters, Frankenstein travels to London to meet up with a like-minded doctor he’d been corresponding with – Dr. Brandt – who has also been experimenting with reanimating dead tissue.

But when he arrives, Frankenstein finds Dr. Brandt has gone insane from the stress and horror of his work, trapping vital scientific knowledge in his now prison of the mind. Frankenstein needs those secrets to continue his work… but how to retrieve them?

Luck seems to be on old Dr. Frank’s side, as the boarding house he sets up in belongs to the lovely Anna, fiancĂ©e to young doctor Karl who happens to work in Dr. Brandt’s mental hospital.
When Dr. Frankenstein learns Karl has been stealing drugs from the hospital in order to sell them to pay for the treatment of Anna’s ailing mother, he seizes on the chance for blackmail.

Under threat of turning in the drug-pedaling love birds, Frankenstein forces Anna and Karl to help him restart his experiments and kidnap Dr. Brandt from the mental hospital. Why?
So Frankenstein can use the loony tunes to attempt the first ever brain transplant and eventually cure his mental mind. But why help the nutjob? Frank plans to retrieve the final secrets to successfully storing the brain indefinitely thereby preserving history's greatest minds for all time (his included no doubt!) and conquering death once and for all!

Will Dr. Frankenstein and his evil ever stop?
Can Karl and Anna ever escape Frankenstein’s grasp?
Do all British detectives talk like "yes yes yes, very well very well very well"?
Find out, in the 1969 Hammer horror classic, “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 3.4
Chris Dimick franken-groans:
“Ignorance should never stop science. Nor should superstition. Throughout the decades that Dr. Frankenstein and his sci-fi experiments have been portrayed, a running theme has permeated through these films. Dr. Frankenstein is a genius with good intentions, but things go awry and soon pure science is blamed for fallible man’s mistakes.

A conflicting message is presented in many Frankenstein films: the pursuit of science and medical advancement should not be held back, but when left unrestricted, grave monstrosities are a major risk. Of course, in order for this message to play out we need the Frankenstein Monster present in the film. He is the definition of monster and medical miracle. And he is fascinating to watch.

But old electro-bolt head Frankenstein's Monster is nowhere to be found in “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.” His absence is highly noticeable, since the audience is now forced to examine Dr. Frankenstein more closely. This film had an entirely different take on the character.

Instead of a brilliant yet unlucky scientist, in this film Dr. Frankenstein is depicted as a demoralized, raping, blackmailing criminal who will stop at nothing to fulfill his life’s work of reanimating the dead.

In the past you could root for Dr. Frankenstein, at least a little bit. But in this film, you despise him (unless you are Nick, who admitted to rooting for Dr. Frank! Shame, Nick! For shame...). Dr. Frankenstein is murdering innocent victims for body parts, raping his assistant's finance, and scheming a widow to allow him to experiment on her husband's brain. There is nothing noble or even likable about Dr. Frankenstein in this movie… but contrary to intuition, the take is refreshing.

Hammer Films, the production company that produced this movie, was known in the 1960s for reinvigorating the horror genre with spicy and controversial flicks. They didn’t disappoint here, taking a very 1969 approach to the olde-timey Frankenstein legacy. It is less spooky and more adult horrific. A man’s insane drive to succeed where he has failed time and time again is examined. Dr. Frankenstein, foiled over and over in his work, has finally snapped and will stop at nothing to finally be successful. Peter Cushing as Frankenstein is perfect stuffy and insane casting. He is so cold.

By 1969, the Frankenstein Monster had fallen a victim of his own popularity. A 30-year-old monster isn’t scary anymore after it has been satirized and placed on too many Halloween masks. The writers of this movie made the correct choice to leave the green skinned, misunderstood monster out of this movie.

While it was hard for me to watch Dr. Frankenstein turn so evil, after I had admired him so much in earlier movies, it was a natural progression of the character.

He had been through too much, and finally snapped. Understandable. The pursuit was no longer for science, but for pride. And nothing would stand in his way. It is an equally powerful message, and lesson about the dangers and wonders of science -- it can consume a man."

N-Rating: 3.6
Nick Rich franken-groans:
"I think this was my second experience with a Hammer film, but dang-nabbit if I didn't plum enjoy it! Go on... take Frankenstein's hand... what bad could come of it?

After all, there were no crazy sets (although the sets seemed authentic), no crazy special effects (although the effects seemed realistic enough) and no crazy acting (well, maybe a little bit of craziness from the tenants at the institution and Peter Cushing)... and yet still this film left quite an impression on me. Maybe it's because the back 9 of the project has yielded more low caliber films than the front, but recently I seem to react to decently interesting films like a man in the desert who stumbles upon a hidden oasis - I drink them in with abandon!

Perhaps it was the subdued British acting or the old-school, yet modern feel of a film shot in the late 60's, whatever it was, something about Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed really hit home on my enjoy-o-meter. It was a simple story, but so different from any other Frankenstein take I'd seen that it had my attention throughout the film. I also appreciated the excellent use of tension in as Frank and his unwilling associates were constantly on the verge of being discovered. Sometimes this kind of tension can seem forced or overdone, but in this instance it was handled quite nicely. Also of note was the lighting, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the interesting efforts displayed in this flick. Most of the scenes were meat and potatoes in the lighting department, but occasionally there would be a pocket of seasoning and BAM! you'd be slapped in the face with shock of illuminated goodness.

Now, as Chris mentioned, yes I somehow found myself rooting for the mega-evil Frankenstein in this film. Even though he murdered freely, blackmailed frequently and even raped the sweet woman he was blackmailing... I still couldn't help but cheer for his quest a bit. I think this reaction had something to do with Peter Cushing, whom I had previously only seen as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. The intensity Cushing brought to the role and the fervor with which he pursued his 'lofty' goals of advancing science (and how much the entire world was against him) naturally made me gravitate towards siding with him in the struggle of the film. Did I agree with all the horrible stuff he was doing? No! But I sure wanted it all to be worth it in some fashion (as if it could be) by giving him success in his experiments.

Of course you're reading a review written by a man who defends the other side of an argument when there is no one present to do so (even if I don't agree with what I'm defending)... Hopefully Dr. Frankenstein will be as gentle with you as he was with me.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you want a no-frills but solid good time with an interesting story or if you've ever wondered what would happen if the only man who could make Darth Vader blush was unleashed upon 19th century London."

Things We Learned From Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed:
-When conducting a RDHP viewing, make sure you are both watching the same film.
-If you break into a house, you have no right to be horrified by what you find inside.
-British people fight wussily.
-M. Night Shyamalan was a victim of his own early success.
-Fancy name for a killer doctor: medical adventurer.
-Red shots make the spiders go away.
-The word “claptrap” needs to come back in style.
-Sometimes you really don’t recognize your face in the mirror.
-A good woman stands by her murder.
-A kiss and a drink cures a bad day.
-Nick sleeps in a low cut sheer top. And it breathes very well.
-Forest green looks great on redheads.
-You can’t buy fresh bread at the Fresno Jimmy Johns.
So don’t even ask.

Quote of the Viewing:
[In the mental hospital, a woman patient starts to have a freakout, imaging spiders crawling all over her body. Dr. Karl rushes in with a needle full of red sedative.]

Karl [to fellow staff]: "She hates injections, but it is the only way to calm her."
Nick: "Who does like injections?"
Chris: "Heroin addicts."

RDHP Presents:
1969 -- The Most Boring Year in History
Years come and go with at least some excitement, but never has there been a more boring year on the planet than 1969. Thankfully the RDHP were not yet born in this mundane year, but if we were I'm sure we would have killed ourselves from boredom. Below, we examine 1969, and the reasons why it is officially The Most Boring Year in History!

People went on boring summer trips.

None of the concerts really rocked.

Foreign affairs were peaceful and lame.

Everyone was getting along at home too.

Fashion was very stuffy and subdued.

No one cool was born that year:

Trey Parker

Edward Norton

Christian Slater

Jennifer Aniston

Dave Grohl

Jason Bateman

Tracey Gold

Yep. Most. Boring. Year. Ever.

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