Bonus Reviews for Week 142
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) and Begotten (1991)
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a weird pairing. We’ve got the very last Hammer/Cushing Frankenstein film and a strangely haunting modern silent film from a very non-silent age…
News item: We have a new book! The Horror Guys Guide to the Horror Films of Vincent Price is available for pre-order now, find a link in the show notes. It covers every single one of Price’s horror films and several other significant films that weren’t horror. There are more than fifty films covered. Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09KQC59PR
1974 Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Anthony Hinds
Stars: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith
Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
We open on a shot of a grave robber digging in the cemetery. He knocks out a policeman and makes his getaway. He takes the body to Simon Helier, a young doctor who needs the body for his experiments. The robber then goes to the pub for a drink, but then the policeman comes in and catches him. The robber says, “Before you take me in, I’ve got something to tell ya!”
Meanwhile, we see Simon has a big jar full of eyeballs. The policeman comes to the door and breaks in, while Simon hides in the corner. Simon comes out and explains that he wants to stitch all the pieces together to create a good man. The policeman arrests him for sorcery. Simon thinks that’s hilarious. Still, he’s found guilty and committed to an asylum for five years. It’s the very same court that sentence Frankenstein several years ago. Simon says he has all Frankenstein’s books.
He introduces himself to the director of the asylum. The director explains that Frankenstein died several years ago while in his care. When the director finds out Simon is an inmate, he freaks out. The guards hose off Simon in front of all the prisoners. They stop torturing him when “Doctor Karl Victor” comes in, who looks really scary and serious. He demands that Simon is taken to his surgery room. The doctor rips the director a new one, since they are his patients. Clearly, the director is terrified of the doctor.
Doctor Victor examines Simon, and he’s impressed with his brains. Simon knows that Doctor Victor is really Baron Frankenstein. Frankenstein offers Simon a position as his assistant.
Dr. Victor shows Simon around the asylum, introducing him to several of the patients. One man escaped and fell from a high window; Frankenstein explains that he was Neolithic, more animal than man. So, there’s a patient with a monstrously strong body, one with a brain for art and music, and another with the hands of a sculptor.
Simon watches a funeral the next day, and it’s for the sculptor. The man’s hands have been removed. Simon realizes what’s going on and wants to help. He follows the mute girl, Sarah, into Frankenstein’s secret lab. He finds the creature, who looks like a gorilla with a slightly human-looking plastic face mask. The creature has no intelligence or thinking ability; it’s just a mindless creature… with the hands of a sculptor.
Simon asks why the creature is so ugly. Frankenstein takes off his gloves and shows that his hands have been ruined; he has no sensitivity in his hands. Sarah has been doing the operations under Frankenstein’s instructions. Simon does several surgeries to correct her mistakes, and soon, the monster can see and use those hands. Now, all he needs is the brain of a genius. The professor’s would be just fine, but he’s healthy and could live another ten years… Except the very next night, the professor hangs himself with his violin strings.
There’s a long, gory shot of the brain removal and transplant. Both doctors are quite pleased with their work, and everything appears to have succeeded. They expect it’ll take ten days for the monster to wake up.
The monster wakes up that very night, and he’s not tied down or anything. He feels himself all over and then goes to a mirror. He says, “Help me!” (but his lips don’t move). Frankenstein explains to him what happened and what he did. The two doctors go off to have a drink and leave the creature to cry in bed.
The creature picks up his old violin and crushes it with his bare hands. They say he needs to learn to use his hands. Soon, they give him a math book, and starts working them out on the blackboard. The body is trying to reject the brain, and that’s not good. He starts getting violent as well, so they drug him.
He’s not rejecting the brain; the body is taking over from the brain. The strong patient who donated the body’s personality and preferences are coming through. Simon doesn’t like where this is all heading, so he poisons the creature’s food. While the creature is writhing on the floor in pain, Simon goes into the cage. Sarah the mute girl screams and yells “Let him go!” The shock has cured her muteness.
Frankenstein comes back and enters the lab, not realizing the monster has been released from his cage. A while later, the guards see the monster out in the cemetery digging a grave. The director orders the guards to open the armory and kill that thing. It breaks into the director’s office and remembers that the director raped his own daughter, Sarah, and the monster kills him for it.
The guards shoot him twice and the inmates attack him as well. Frankenstein charges in and sends the inmates back to their rooms; the creature, however, is dead. Frankenstein goes back to his lab, already making plans for next time. Simon glares at him, disgusted. The end.
As always, the costumes and sets are amazing. The acting is good, and the story is pretty entertaining as well. The creature is ridiculous and cheap-looking, and definitely detracts from everything else.
This is easily the goriest of the Hammer Frankenstein films, with some very graphic surgery scenes, especially sawing open the professor’s skull and removing the brain. The eyeballs were really well done as well.
I really liked the ending. Frankenstein not only doesn’t die or get run out of town. He’s in the same position as he was in the beginning, but ready to start fresh again. Simon was looking pretty disgusted with the whole thing, but he’s not so far gone that he couldn’t assist once more. Unfortunately, this was the last of Hammer’s Frankenstein films, and Cushing’s as well.
Still, it’s really entertaining. It gets a lot of hate due to the strange monster design, but ignoring that, it was far from the worst Frankenstein film.
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Writer: E. Elias Merhige
Stars: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry
Run Time: 1 Hour, 12 Minutes
We hear crickets chirping. An old man covered in bandages sits in a wrecked building, with blood gushing out of his throat. It seems this is God, and he's slit his own throat with a razor. He writhes and convulses silently, dripping blood everywhere. He stabs himself repeatedly. He cuts open his belly and starts removing organs. He dies, leaving blood smeared all over the walls and floor. He poops himself, and we see it run down his leg and we hear his gas.
From underneath God's robes, Mother Earth rises. She jacks off the dead God, and he shoots his load onto her belly. She smears it in. She's pregnant now, and she wanders off into the bleak landscape outside. The world is dead, something between apocalyptic and a rock quarry, complete with giant tubes and pipes scattered about. Time passes, and she gives birth to a man who convulses on the ground as she walks away.
A group of robed vaguely-humanlike creatures carrying lanterns walk by. They find the convulsing man on the ground. They lead him away, pulling him with long ropes that look like they may be connected to him somehow. The man, still convulsing, vomits up what appear to be his organs. Eventually, they get the man to his feet and lead him to a fire. Night falls.
The next morning, Mother Earth find the man, puts a noose around his neck, and drags him along with her through a burned-out forest. The humans follow them. They bash his head with sticks, and he gushes blood. Mother Earth pulls on the rope to free him from the men, but they turn on her, and knock her down as well. The men beat the crap out of both of them with their staves. They assault them both sexually after they are unconscious. They all have repeated, rough sex with her over and over all through the night.
Two different manlike creatures come and put a cloth over Mother Earth, who appears to be dead. They carry her off, leaving her son behind. They disassemble her, putting the various pieces in a large pot.
They take the pieces to a small pond and stack them next to it. The son drags himself along the ground to find her, and since he can't walk, it takes a long time. The creatures find him again, put him in a sack, and use a huge mallet to kill him. They carry him to the same place as Mother Earth and tear him apart as well. The meat is covered in flies. The creatures dig little holes and bury the organs and meat as if they were seeds in a garden.
Plants start to grow on the graves, and these are the first living plants we've seen in the entire film.
Note that this film came out in 1991.
It's black and white and crackly/static-filled like a movie from the 1920s. The quality of the picture was worse than "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" from 1923, but in this case, it was intentional. It's also not really silent, as there are context-appropriate sound effects when necessary. There are no title cards, so you have to work out the story by yourself. I wouldn't have known the characters were God and Mother Earth if I hadn't read it in the blurb on the package.
I'm going to go out on a limb here as suggest that the whole thing is a mythological "creation story" about the beginnings of life on Earth. The grainy film and dreamlike visuals definitely play into the whole idea that we are watching something very, very ancient.
Everything moves at a snail's pace, and it's often hard to tell what is going on, especially in the beginning. The "horror" aspect comes in from the very unsettling imagery and gore, as well as the dreamlike, almost prehistoric strangeness of the whole situation. The not-quite-human characters have a nightmarish look to them as well, and the lack of words just accentuates their creepiness.
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