Plot: What’s it about?
Dr. Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) has seen his experiments fail time and again, regardless of his intense personal effort. He has put his heart and soul, not to mention people’s organs, into his creations, only to foiled with each one. The latest work has been ruined also, this time by the poor timed invasion of Dr. Frankenstein’s workspace. The incident has convinced the doctor that he needs to bring in some help, as he can’t handle the entire load himself. He turns his attention toward Dr. Karl Holst (Simon Ward), a local doctor who isn’t as on edge as Frankenstein, but isn’t above underhanded deeds. Frankenstein blackmails Holst into his service, to iron some research that could be the solution to Frankenstein’s problems. The solution could rest within the mind of Dr. Frederick Brandt (George Pravda), who has cracked the code on cryogenics. He has been able to freeze a human brain, a process which Frankenstein is dying to put into motion. But Brandt has gone insane and is locked up in a mental institution, which of course means his precious data is locked up as well. Frankenstein believes if he can transplant Brandt’s brain into a normal donor, the madness will vanish. Can Dr. Frankenstein make this experiment work and unlock the cryogenic data, or will this be another failure?
As Hammer rolled out mediocre sequels, the studio’s flame seemed to be close to extinction, but as it turned out, the fire still burned. In Terence Fisher’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, we see that with the right assortment of talent, in front of and behind the camera, Hammer could knock out some terrific horror cinema. In this, Hammer’s fifth Frankenstein picture, you’d think the source would be thin, as it was with the studio’s Dracula movies. But instead, Fisher is able to weave in some great new twists and retain the tone of the series, which results in a well crafted production, perhaps one of the director’s finest projects. I do think the writing, which is superb on the whole, does abandon some subplots in haste, which is a disappointment. If these smaller lines were fleshed out more, who knows how good this film could have been. The cast is excellent as well, with Peter Cushing out in front of the pack. His turn is one of his best in the series, focused and on his game, which adds a lot to the movie. The rest of the cast is solid also, which is good news, since the movie follows a decent number of characters. I wouldn’t rank this with Hammer’s top genre pictures, but Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is one of their better works. Warner’s disc is frills free, but looks solid and as such, warrants a solid recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I’ve never seen a good treatment of this film, but Warner has broken that mold with this release. While the image is a little soft due to age, the visuals look tremendous, much better than anyone would expect this film to look. The colors are vivid and bright, and flesh tones are natural, even the palest ones. Contrast seems right on, with no visible detail loss and well defined shadows. The print shows very little nicks and other wear signs, and the transfer is free from all compression troubles. In other words, another great transfer from Warner.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wasn’t all that impressed with the audio here, but given that the film was released in 1969, I think some slack is deserved. On the good side, the material has little as far as serious problems, as even age related issues are limited to minor instances. I found the music to have minimal distortion and sound effects are well presented, while dialogue stays clean throughout. But then on the bad side, time has taken some toll on the materials, with a little more hiss than I’d like, as well as some harshness in a few scenes. Even so, for a genre movie from 1969, I’d say this sounds good and I think most fans will agree. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.