Horror of Frankenstein was Hammer Films unsuccesful attempt at revamping their long-running Frankenstein franchise for a more contemporary audience. Essentially a black comedy, Ralph Bates stars as a young Victor Frankenstein in a pointless remake of Hammer’s original Curse of Frankenstein (1957) only this time the emphasis is much more on the sex rather than the gore. With its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, this is a strange mixture of boobs and sexual one-liners with a meagre amount of blood and not much in the way of horror, despite its title.
The film paints a picture of a young Victor who will use anyone and do anything to get what he wants. He sets up an accident to kill his obstinate father thus inheriting his wealth and title as well as electrocuting his best friend when he threatens to put a halt to his experiments. Unfortunately the subtle nuances that Peter Cushing used to portray an equally cold Victor Frankenstein in Hammer’s earlier films are replaced by the bold brush strokes of caricature. This is not so much the fault of Bates, as he is a capable actor but more lies in the unsubtle simplicity of the script. Indeed, most of the performances themselves are more than adequate, particularly Kate O’Mara as the sexy young housekeeper who likes to warm Victor’s bed in more ways than one.
I think I can see what Hammer were trying to do by appealing to a younger audience and rebooting the franchise. Cheap sex comedies were particularly popular in British cinemas at the time and the amount of actual horror movies being produced was reaching saturation point, with each subsequent release achieving diminishing returns at the box office. But Horror of Frankenstein was hampered by an exceptionally low budget, a monster (Dave Prowse) who resembled an oversized mutant baby wandering around the countryside in a giant nappy and a severe case of split personality. Was it a comedy, a horror or a sex film? In the end it failed to succeed in any of those genres and can now be viewed as a failed experiment.
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