Horror Bites - Brain Damage (Part 2)

In what has become a rather sudden themed series of viewings recently, the Hammer series of Frankenstein features has seen an increase in viewings that had not been planned. So taking a look at their second story, The Revenge of Frankenstein and the later spin-off Frankenstein Created Woman, let's see if the fun levels hold up, or whether - much like their Dracula series - the better titles indicate a lower quality of film.

The first sequel to the Curse of Frankenstein takes off where the original ended, the good doctor has been sentenced for the deaths caused by his creation and sent to the guillotine. But in random turn of events, an assistant who did not feature at all in the first story helps him escape. Under the so-clever pseudonym Dr. Stein, he continues his work by opening up a new practice which provides a means to maintain his other hidden laboratory. Despite all of this the 'monster' he created seems to be public knowledge, despite nobody believing him and the evidence being lost. How did the story get out? Who is he taking revenge on? This isn't a film focused on logic but it's not that important.

There's a definite shift in tone here in comparison to the original. It's noticeable as soon as Hammer regular Michael Ripper arrives in a brief opening as a grave robber, but they've decided to give this all a new sense of humour. Which works a lot. It seems as though every other scene has one or more odd character actor or some silly kind of dialogue, from the main helper in Victor's poor house surgery or the eccentric mother visiting his upper class office. In spite of the subject matter there is a sense of levity throughout which is highlighted by the final shot of the film.

This isn't to say the storyline is totally absurd however, and the plot about transplanting one crippled man's mind into a new 'perfect' body is interesting enough and avoids rebuilding a new monster which looks stitched together. His conflict as a new man faced with the idea of being a university side show works well and avoids the monster rampage scenes, at least for a while. The consequent degeneration doesn't have a lot of reason involved besides a brief mention of an ape test subject becoming cannibalistic, but it's all entertaining enough. Peter Cushing is still great as are other familiar faces Michael Gwynne as his creation and fellow doctor Francis Matthews. The locations and set pieces are a step up from the original and the pacing is better, so on the whole it makes a worthwhile companion piece.

Moving on now to a later feature which isn't really a sequel but stands alone, Frankenstein Created Woman sees the titular scientist try his hand at something new, the transfer of a person's soul into a new body. The metaphysical setup is pretty good, and the opening involving Cushing freezing himself to test how long the human body can withstand 'death' is a lot of fun thanks to Dracula Prince of Darkness actor Thorley Walters as his new helper Dr. Herz.

However the issues start to come along once the real plot takes off here, and the early signs this will just be a revenge story. Local youth Hans, Frankenstein's other companion gets involved with a group of rich brats who get their kicks tormenting a local pub landlord and his daughter Christina, a scarred girl Hans is romantically attached to. I have to admit the ridiculous over acting from these villains is entertaining enough and works by itself as a catalyst, but once it becomes clear that Hans will become framed for a murder based almost entirely on his dead father's criminal history things get too predictable.

The laboratory scenes as usual are a highlight and the soul capturing machinery being powered offers lot of great visuals. But once the gag of the 'monster' actually being a beautiful girl this time around is revealed they don't really have much for her to do besides cause of a few deaths. It feels like they came up with the idea just for the poster art. The central idea of transplanting someone else's soul is just a split personality plot and the revenge scenes could have been far more imaginative. It might just be me own twisted sensibilities but I preferred the idea of Frankenstein being a callous, calculating ego maniac rather than the strangely helpful doctor seen here. It has its moments, but this isn't a great entry to the series.