Release Date(s)1974 (August 18, 2020)
Studio(s)Hammer Film Productions/Paramount Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, the final film in the Frankenstein series and one of the handful of final films produced by Hammer Film Productions before the company ceased operations in 1979, ultimately proved to be a disappointment during its initial run. Peter Cushing returned one last time (albeit visibly frail after dealing with the death of his beloved wife), as did David Prowse who portrayed a new version of the creature after appearing in the previous Cushing-less entry The Horror of Frankenstein. It was also the goriest sequel in the series, having to be trimmed for US distribution. Unfortunately, it was not what the public was looking for. By 1974, audiences were becoming accustomed to horror films like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, leaving little room for old-fashioned Gothic horror from across the pond. It has grown in popularity since then, treasured for being Terence Fisher’s final directorial effort before his untimely passing.
After Dr. Simon Helder (Shane Briant) is arrested and tried for body snatching and performing experiments on cadavers, he is sent to an asylum for the criminally insane. Initially treated with disregard by the abusive staff and its corrupt director (John Stratton), the asylum’s chief surgeon, Dr. Carl Victor (Peter Cushing), takes pity on the newly-arrived doctor. After surmising that Dr. Victor is in fact the long-thought dead Baron Frankenstein, Simon becomes his new apprentice, working alongside him and their mute nurse Angel (Madeline Smith). Unbeknownst to Simon, Frankenstein is surreptitiously murdering patients in order to harvest body parts for his latest experiment. Despite his efforts, his newest creation (David Prowse) becomes hell-bent on taking its revenge and Simon begins to regret his vocation.
Scream Factory brings Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell to Blu-ray for the first time in the US utilizing an older master of the censored US theatrical version of the film (losing a couple of minutes of extra gore footage). It’s rough around the edges with grain levels that aren’t all that healthy, though mild detail manages to poke through as best as it can. The color palette offers a nice array of reds, blues, and greens with skin tones that go a bit too cool at times. Skin textures are also lacking, even in close-ups. Blacks are sometimes crushed, particularly in much darker environments. It’s also a stable presentation with only mild speckling leftover, but leaves room for improvement.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English SDH. It handles the film’s sound design dutifully, but is a mostly narrow presentation with evident hiss and moderate crackle. Dialogue exchanges are clear and discernible while sound effects have decent impact. James Bernard’s beautiful score is provided mild support.
The following extras have also been included:
- Audio Commentary with Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr
- Audio Commentary with Madeline Smith, David Prowse, and Jonathan Sothcott
- The Men Who Made Hammer: Roy Skeggs (HD – 16:01)
- Theatrical Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:57)
- Radio Spots (HD – 2 in all – 1:28)
In the new audio commentary with film historian and author Steve Haberman and film historian and filmmaker Constantine Nasr, they speak at length about the strengths and weaknesses of the film, as well as their appreciation of it. The two men admire the performances of the four leads, revel in Terence Fisher’s work on the film, highlight the cinematography, and read a section of an interview with Terence Fisher. The audio commentary with actors Madeline Smith, David Prowse, and moderator Jonathan Sothcott was recorded in 2003. They have an enjoyable back-and-forth conversation as they discuss how they got involved with the film, their experiences making it, and their current feelings on it, with Sothcott occasionally throwing out questions to keep them going. In The Men Who Made Hammer: Roy Skeggs, editor and publisher Richard Klemensen returns to speak about the career of the least-celebrated of Hammer’s producers. The rest of extras include the film’s trailer and two radio spots.
There are a number of other extras, as well as the full uncut version of the film, available on the UK Blu-ray and DVD release by Icon Home Entertainment. They include the film in two different aspect ratios; an audio commentary with Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and actors Shane Briant and Madeline Smith; the Taking Over the Asylum: The Making of Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and Charming Evil: Terence Fisher featurettes; a still gallery; and The Final Cut: Frankenstein's Monster from Hell booklet by Marcus Hearn included as a .PDF film via DVD-ROM. Also not included from various Region 2 DVD releases is The World of Hammer: Peter Cushing TV episode.
The Scream Factory Blu-ray release of Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell certainly leaves something to be desired. The great new commentary by Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr alone makes the disc worth picking up. But if you’re looking for the full uncut version of the film, the overseas disc is your best bet.
- Tim Salmons