FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED
Terence Fisher is a director around whom a cult has grown, championed in particular by the likes of Anglo-horror critic David Pirie. Fisher had a distinctively florid style that used the full richness of Hammers cinematographic and production values and there are times, particularly the climaxes of his Dracula films, where he could bring everything together with dazzling effect. Upon other occasions, Fisher could be a pedestrian director. Fishers two finest moments are generally regarded as being Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Devil Rides Out (1968). (See below for Terence Fishers other films). Contrarily, one might go out on a limb and suggest that Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is the best of Terence Fishers films and certainly the finest of Hammers Frankenstein films. It is Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Fishers penultimate film, rather than Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973), that Anglo-horror-philes should consider Terence Fishers swan song. It is the one moment where everything he did knitted together superbly.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is a brilliantly directed film, one that propels Terence Fisher from being an efficient manipulator of the Gothic into a master of mise en scene. The scene where the water main bursts, expelling Brandts buried body out of the garden just as the neighbour is visiting, is a sequence that would not go amiss in a Hitchcock film. The opening is a superbly edited piece one that opens up like a Chinese box of shocks one after the other from the point-of-view of a burglar who breaks into Frankensteins laboratory. At first, we see just the feet of the figure coming down the cellar steps, the figure then joltingly revealed to have a bald, hideously scarred face, before this is revealed to be a mask worn by Peter Cushing, and with the burglar then accidentally tripping and knocking over a container that holds a recently severed human head. Of course, the climax with Freddie Jones taunting Peter Cushing and smashing oil lamps to set fire and block every exit from the house is superlative stuff too.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is also a point where the new gore trends were making in-roads into Anglo-horror. Terence Fisher handles that too with an ease that leaves the film in a class way above the random splatter of todays gore films. There is something that turns the stomach to the shot where Peter Cushing puts the brace-and-bit up against Freddie Joness head and starts drilling. Or the scene where he uses a fretsaw to cut open the skull. There is no blood shown in either scene the effect is all conveyed from off-screen actions and some unnervingly convincing snapping and crunching effects.
Ben Batts screenplay is more complex than usual for the Hammer Frankenstein series. For Hammers Frankenstein series, unlike Universals Frankenstein series, the monster is a relatively anonymous creation that is far less interesting than Peter Cushings ruthless Baron. However, Freddie Joness creature is the most interestingly complex and well played of all the Hammers Frankenstein monsters it is the only one to come anywhere near Mary Shelleys novel and her conception of an intelligent and literate creation come to taunt its creator for the condition inflicted on it.
Surprisingly, Terence Fisher also indulges a sense of droll humour throughout the film like the cut from Veronica Carlson telling Peter Cushing how he will enjoy the peace and quiet at the boarding house to a madwoman screaming at the asylum, or the boarders who sit around discussing Frankensteins infamous exploits unaware he is sitting in their midst. There are odd anachronisms, like having cocaine a regularly prescribed drug and the establishment of an international narcotics bureau in the midst of the 19th Century, although these hardly stand in the way of such an exceptional effort.
The other Hammer Frankenstein films are: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973).
Terence Fishers other genre films are: the sf films The Four-Sided Triangle (1953) and Spaceways (1953), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Mummy (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Gorgon (1964), Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), The Devil Rides Out/The Devils Bride (1968) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973), all for Hammer. Outside of Hammer, Fisher has made the Old Dark House comedy The Horror of It All (1964) and the alien invasion films The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Island of Terror (1966) and Night of the Big Heat (1967).