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Director: Freddie Francis
Cast: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Sandor Elès, Katy Wild, Kiwi Kingston
Length: 86 min
Rating: FSK: 16
Label: Anolis Entertainment
Release Date: May 29th, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English, German: DTS HD-MA 2.0 Mono
- Audio commentary with Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Kronz (in German)
- Making Of “The Evil of Frankenstein” (28 min.)
- Uwe Sommerlad interviews Caron Gardner (38 min.)
- Caron Gardner talks about her acting career (3 min.)
- US Trailer
- Deleted Scenes from the American TV version (16 min.)
- German press book traversal
- US press book traversal
- Film program
- Image gallery
- Incl.28-page booklet written by Dr. Rolf Giesen and Uwe Sommerlad (exclusive to Mediabook included)
Hot on the heels of their Plague of the Zombies BD release, Anolis Entertainment is about to take a plunge into Hammer’s endlessly fascinating Frankenstein series with a new BD release of The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). Though not one of Hammer’s better Frankenstein efforts, it’s still loads of fun, and Anolis gives us a little something extra in the technical and Extra Features departments.
Almost no monster movie trope is left unturned as we are swept up in the medical adventures of Baron Frankenstein who returns to his homeland after many years in exile only to discover that his original monster has been carefully preserved in an ice glacier, waiting for his creator to give him life again. This the Baron does and the results are predictably cataclysmic, as the monster rampages through the local village, controlled by a mad hypnotist who is out for revenge. What more can one ask from a monster movie?!
Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein sees a shift in characterization in this film. Gone is Terence Fisher’s cool, dandified sociopath of the first two films (Curse of Frankenstein  and Revenge of Frankenstein ). This earlier version is replaced by a Baron who is rough and ready, and rather more embittered, periodically repeating his favorite phrase, “Why can’t they leave me alone?!” Cushing’s assumption of the role is as charismatic as ever, but neither Tony Hinds’s script nor Freddie Francis’s direction give the character any emotional depth beyond the Baron’s obvious anger at the ignorant villagers who are endlessly ruining his work and driving him out of his lodgings.As a director, Freddie Francis, the great British cinematographer, did not have Terence Fisher’s feel for Gothic horror. He was efficient but not necessarily an inspired guide in this terrain. From what I understand, he also didn’t care much for most horror fans and always tried to distance himself from his Hammer oeuvre. I once met Frances when he was in Boston soon after he finished shooting David Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999). I was introduced to him by my film professor specifically as a fan of his Hammer Horror work. Freddie stood up, smiled at me warmly and said, shaking my hand, “Well, it’s nice to meet you anyway.” Priceless!
The first thing most collectors will want to know is how this new Anolis release compares to UK release from Final Cut Entertainment on technical grounds. In short, the two look identical with the exception of one small difference: Final Cut’s image is presented in a 1.84:1 aspect ratio, while Anolis’s image is at a full 1.78:1, giving us slightly more picture at the top and bottom. Otherwise, they look the same. The 35mm print is mostly in excellent shape, with only a few white specs and other debris flashing by here and there. These debris won’t bother anyone who appreciates the look of vintage film. More importantly, the image itself looks beautifully organic, with impressive sharpness and depth. Natural film grain is present, but not obtrusive. Colors are very natural, if a tiny bit anemic, and the contrast also looks pleasantly natural. This is probably the way the film would look projected at a theater from a 35mm film print.
The German and English LPCM 2.0 mono tracks sound excellent in every respect. Like the video, they have not been restored or scrubbed within an inch of their lives, but are true to the source material. Dialogue is perfectly clear and Don Banks’ contentious music score is full and vivid.
As always, Anolis Entertainment doesn’t skimp on extra features. To start with, Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Kronz give us an audio commentary, in German. This may be inaccessible for viewers, like myself, who do not speak German.
Following that, Don Fearney’s original 30-minute featurette, The Making of ‘The Evil of Frankenstein,’ which appeared on the Final Cut BD, is also included. It’s a high-caliber production which features interviews with Caron Gardner, Wayne Kinsey, Don Mingaye, Hugh Harlow, Pauline Harlow, and Peter Cushing, as well as rare footage and many behind-the-scenes stills.
Next, we are given 13 minutes of the original 16mm filler footage shot for the American television release of The Evil of Frankenstein. Clearly not part of the original film production, it is nonetheless fascinating to see the beggar girl given such an extended back story, which, frankly, gives her a much more interesting and tragic character arc. This additional footage also gives more emotional weight to the question of why the villagers hate the Baron so much, and why he can never return to his home. If only these ideas had been part of Tony Hinds’ original script!
Next is Uwe Sommerlad’s 38-minute video interview with Caron Gardner, in which the actress discusses her career, her relationship with Hammer films, and the making of The Evil of Frankenstein. The interview is exclusive to this release.
Next we have a 2:30-minute featurette of Caron Gardner again discussing her varied career. This was also an extra on the Final But BD.
Also included is the original theatrical trailer, two detailed traversals though the German and American press books, and two image galleries.
Fans of Hammer Horror will have a great time with this release, particularly in light of the excellent video/audio transfer and the few extra features that are exclusive to this release. The Evil of Frankenstein may not have the emotional depth of Hammer’s other Frankenstein films, directed by Terence Fisher, but it’s still a fun adventure/monster movie and lies well at the center of Hammer’s Gothic horror tradition. Highly recommended.