Of the six Frankenstein films that starred Peter Cushing as The Baron under the Hammer Films banner, Evil is the one title that most Hammer fans seem to agree on. The film takes on a decidedly different feel from the other five and the two major reasons are most likely that this was the only one not to be directed by Terence Fisher and that Universal Studios had put some money into the proceedings.
‘Who could have done this evil thing?”
In a chilling opening to the film, a corpse is stolen from it’s own wake. It’s destination? The lab of Baron Frankenstein who makes quick work of the still warm corpse removing it’s heart. The latest experiments and donor is all for naught when the local priest pieces together the crime that his been committed in his parish. It results in the priest storming in to Cushing’s lab and destroying the bubbling containers and beakers holding various colored liquids. With the police on it’s way, Peter and his young assistant, Sandor Eles flee from the town and slowly work their way back to Karlstaad where we will learn of the Baron’s early years in flashback and what lies ahead.
Under Freddie Francis’ direction the flashback unfolds where we see Cushing achieving his goal in creating a zombie like creature that is as close to the Karloff/Pierce design as Hammer would come. It’s because of the Universal money that this has always been attributed. Even the plot that lies ahead seems in part borrowed from Son of Frankenstein. While this film is not exactly a sequel to the earlier two Cushing films, the flashback is somewhat of a coles notes edition of the first film. He created a murderous being, the townsfolk chased it down and it was shot off a peak, falling into a glacier. Wouldn’t you just know it. When the flashback ends and the present plot defines itself, Peter will find his monster encased in ice. Just like Bela in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. I know, I know. It looks like he’s found him encased in a plastic wrap. When I saw this as a kid it didn’t bother me then so I won’t let it bother me now.
Back to the lab at what was once Peter’s estate that is now in ruins. Hammer film fans will quickly recognize the set from films like Dracula, Prince of Darkness and The Gorgon among other features the studio blessed us with. The major problem for Cushing at this point is in bringing his monster out of an apparent coma after reviving the body.
This is where we have a Lugosi like character (Igor) controlling the monster to do his bidding. Peter brings in a hypnotist. His job is to bring the monster back from his comatose state. This leads to a great exchange between Peter and the hypnotist played by Peter Woodthorpe.
Woodthorpe, “There isn’t a man born of woman that I can’t put under.”
Cushing, “Then this experiment should prove very interesting.”
Woodthorpe does indeed take control of the monster and uses the power of suggestion to have the creature kill those in the town of Karlstaad who have done him wrong as well as robbing the local church of it’s gold pieces. Things will of course unravel from here moving forward for the local burgomaster, his police force and of course the overly busty Hammer Glamour girl played by Caron Gardner.
The monster is played by someone named Kiwi Kingston. I’ve heard it said that he was a pro wrestler but know nothing more than that about the actor. The most noticeable thing about this film versus the other five Cushing efforts is that his Baron isn’t as Evil as the title suggests. He seems more the victim this time out almost eliciting sympathy when he loses control of his creature to Woodthorpe. He’s not nearly as cold in this film or seemingly capable of murder as he’s been in the other films. Thankfully he does give us that welcome arrogant streak. The pompous, self righteous Baron that Cushing made his most memorable character in a long career.
Is this the weakest of the Cushing/Frankenstein films? One could easily argue that but while this might not be the most popular opinion, I’ve always found Frankenstein Created Woman overrated whereas this one I think might be unfairly put down.