Academically gifted but arrogant and amoral, Victor Frankenstein will stop at nothing, not even patricide, to achieve his goal of recreating human life. When his handiwork turns out to have homicidal tendencies he is happy to use this to his own ends rather than realize he has gone too far.
Directed by: Jimmy Sangster
. Starring: Ralph Bates
, Kate O'Mara
, Veronica Carlson
, Dennis Price
, Jon Finch
, Bernard Archard
, Graham James
, James Hayter
, Joan Rice
, Stephen Turner
, Neil Wilson
, James Cossins
, Glenys O'Brien
. Music by: Malcolm Williamson
This was top Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster's first directorial effort for the company (incidentally, I watched the other two - LUST FOR A VAMPIRE  and FEAR IN THE NIGHT  - in quick succession). I hadn't picked this up on DVD earlier because of its much-maligned reputation: however, I was extremely surprised to find it quite effective!
Given that it's basically a remake of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Sangster took a radically different approach - treating the events as black comedy; the resulting film is very funny indeed at times (though it almost feels like "Carry On Frankenstein": witness the disembodied hand coming to life to give the two-finger gesture and Ralph Bates' comments at Kate O'Mara's cleavage!). The film features an abrupt, doubly ironic ending - while, as opposed to STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (1972), there's plenty of gore here but no nudity. Still, despite being made on the cheap, it all looks pretty decent (a virtue common to most Hammer product, in fact).
Bates (who showed real promise but, essentially, came to Hammer too late) and Dennis Price (as a cheerful body snatcher who likes to have his pregnant wife do the dirty work for him!) are very good; from the rest of the cast - which includes Jon Finch as a dogged police lieutenant who happens to be a former colleague of Frankenstein's - O'Mara as Bates' sexy but conniving housekeeperlover comes off best (though Veronica Carlson, who's somewhat underused here, also proves undeniable eye-candy).
There are faults, however: Bates's scientist is, ultimately, too glum in comparison to Cushing's animated characterization; the monster itself is an unfortunate creation (pun intended) - Dave Prowse's physique is certainly ideal for the role (in fact, he returned for FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL  and proved far more successful at it) but, as depicted here, it comes across as a mere killing machine, showing no emotion or curiosity at its surroundings (such as when the monster kills the O'Mara character or when it ventures outside into the countryside).
Essentially, then, the film emerges as an interesting but not entirely successful reinvention of the Frankenstein saga and, actually, a curious attempt on Hammer's part at this particular stage - given that it followed closely on the heels of one of their finest (and bleakest) efforts! That said, having now watched Hammer's entire Frankenstein series, I can safely say that it's superior overall to their Dracula films.
The extras include a 14-minute career overview by Hammer starletbeauty Carlson - she feels lucky and privileged to have worked three times for the studio and in the company of such talented people as Freddie Francis, Christopher Lee, Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Jimmy Sangster and Ralph Bates. Sangster describes in the Audio Commentary how, when he started as a screenwriter, he was careful not to overstep the limitations set by the budget - which he learned from having been a Production Manager for Hammer for the previous several years; as a director, then, he often consulted with his editor to determine whether the latter got all the necessary coverage for any particular scene. He also discusses the rest of his career, going into some detail on the making of such films as TASTE OF FEAR (1961) and THE ANNIVERSARY (1968), and seems baffled - but, at the same time, amused - by the critical about-turn Hammer's output has enjoyed in recent years. With respect to THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN itself, he admits that he was initially averse to the idea of Ralph Bates as Baron Frankenstein - but, eventually, the two became very good friends and, in fact, Bates appeared in all three films Sangster directed! By the way, Travis Crawford's interesting liner notes compare the film's self-mocking attitude to the even more radical 'revisionist' approach to the Mary Shelley tale seen in FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (1973).
Review by MARIO GAUCI from the Internet Movie Database.