The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) starring Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn, Eunice Gayson
In Hammer Studios’ Frankenstein films, the focus of the films was not on the monster, but rather on Dr. Frankenstein — an excellent choice. The Revenge of Frankenstein continues where The Curse of Frankenstein left off. The amoral, murderous Dr. Frankenstein (played excellently by Peter Cushing) is about to be executed by guillotine, for his crimes. He is accompanied by a priest and taken to his execution, where the camera focuses on the guillotine — except for a knowing smile between the executioner and a prison worker …
That evening, Fritz the grave robber (Lionel Jeffries) and his helper make the mistake of digging up Baron Frankenstein’s grave. They find a decapitated priest’s body, in the place of the Baron — who then greets them. Fritz passes out; the other is one of the Baron’s servants. And the bodies will serve the Baron’s purposes, after all …
Baron Frankenstein relocates to Carlsbruck, using the alias of Dr. Victor Stein, where he soon becomes a favorite doctor to the wealthy and uses the money from his practice to subsidize a hospital for the poor. Frankenstein is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart — they make a fine source of parts for his experiments. After three years, he’s recognized by Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) who blackmails Dr. Stein into letting him become his assistant and learn his skills and forbidden knowledge. Another assistant is Karl (Michael Gwynn), a hunchback suffering from partial paralysis — the man who helped Frankenstein escape the gallows. Frankenstein has agreed to transplant his brain into a new, healthy body — that Frankenstein is building.
One unexpected problem is the beautiful Margaret (Eunice Gayson), daughter of wealthy and influential people who has come to work in the pauper’s hospital — and whom Frankenstein was unable to discourage. Karl is infatuated with the lovely Margaret and is even more eager to have his brain transplanted into the healthy new body — which Drs. Frankenstein and Kleve proceed to do.
In his new body, Karl (Michael Gwynn) is recovering from the operation, strapped down so that he won’t hurt himself — until Margaret finds him, and releases him — “those straps are far too tight” — and Karl escapes, not wanting to be put on display, used in lectures by the doctors. He goes to Frankenstein’s laboratory, and burns his original body, only to be found and beaten by the drunken janitor, whom Karl murders.
Karl flees to the only place of safety that he can think of — Margaret. He is terrified of Dr. Stein, and so Margaret goes off to fetch Dr. Kleve. In the meantime, Karl is terrified to discover that his old ailments are beginning to recur in his new body … and there are foreshadows of brain damage as well. This comes to pass as Karl murders a young lady that evening.
Dr. Stein and Dr. Kleve are trying to find Karl, in hope of helping him, and go to Margaret’s, where a society function is being held. Karl breaks in, looking more deformed, and limps toward Dr. Stein, asking “Frankenstein … help me …” before collapsing and dying. The cat is now out of the bag, and Frankenstein’s identity is revealed. But the brilliant Frankenstein refuses to flee, and has a backup plan …
Soon, Dr. Stein is called before the local medical board, where he admits that his last name is “Frankenstein” — a very common name — but denies being the infamous monster maker. The members of the board dig up Frankenstein’s grave, and have their proof — while the paupers in Frankenstein’s own hospital turn on him and beat him to death.
Dr. Kleve takes the dying Dr. Frankenstein to their laboratory in an effort to save his life. By the time the medical board arrives, he explains that the injuries were too severe, and Frankenstein’s body is dead. The film ends in a new location, with Dr. Kleve assisting … Dr. Franck, a duplicate body of Frankenstein’s that Kleve successfully transplanted Frankenstein’s brain into.
In all, The Revenge of Frankenstein is an excellent entry into Hammer’s Frankenstein series — a worthy successor to The Curse of Frankenstein, and possibly even better. I recommend it wholeheartedly.