PICTURE OF THE DAY: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED! (1969)
Here’s a still from one of my favorite Hammer Frankenstein movies, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), the fifth film in the Hammer Frankenstein series, most famous today because it features Peter Cushing’s most villainous screen performance as Baron Frankenstein. Heck, in this movie, the Baron is both a murderer and a rapist, so yeah, things get pretty dark this time around.
Anyway, believe it or not, and I know you are going to find this next statement hard to believe coming from me, but the subject of today’s column on FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is not Peter Cushing!
You see, one of the other neat things about FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is the performance by Freddie Jones— in his film debut, no less— as the “monster.” I have to put “monster” in quotes because Frankenstein’s creation in this movie isn’t really a monster, and that’s because he’s probably Baron Frankenstein’s most successful creation in the series. That being said, it’s also the most likely reason this well-made Frankenstein movie underperformed at the box office in 1969— in spite of an above average story, some decent scares and scenes of suspense, and the presence of Peter Cushing, this one really didn’t have a monster, and fans go to Frankenstein movies to see a monster.
In FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, the fanatical Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is experimenting with brain transplants. He can transplant brains from one body to another, but another scientist, Dr. Brandt (George Pravda) perfected the method of freezing brains so they could be stored for future use. Before Brandt could tell Frankenstein the secret of freezing brains, he went mad.
Years later, Baron Frankenstein learns that Brandt is housed in an insane asylum. To get Brandt out, he blackmails a young doctor Karl (Simon Ward, also in his film debut) and his girlfriend Anna (Veronica Carlson) into helping him, but in the process of breaking Brandt out of the institution, Brandt has a heart attack.
Undeterred, Frankenstein transplants Brandt’s brain into the body of another surgeon, Professor Richter (Freddie Jones.). When Brandt awakes and realizes what Frankenstein has done to him, he flees, returning to his home where he plans an elaborate scheme of revenge against Frankenstein.
In today’s picture of the day, we see Brandt (Freddie Jones)— in Richter’s body— returning to his wife Ella (Maxine Audley) but she of course doesn’t recognize him, since his brain is in the body of another man. She even tries to kill him, because she believes her husband is dead, since the police had discovered his mutilated body, hidden underneath the floorboards of the house where Frankenstein had performed the brain transplant.
And so we have actor Freddie Jones begin the movie playing Professor Richter and end it as Dr. Brandt inside Richter’s body. It really is an extraordinary performance!
This scene pictured here, where Brandt tells his wife that she won’t recognize him or his voice because it’s the voice of a different person, is one of the best in the movie. Rarely has a Frankenstein film been this thought-provoking, or given this deep a look into what it feels like to be Frankenstein’s creation, and Freddie Jones performs these scenes wonderfully. He’s as good as Peter Cushing in this movie, and dare I say it, perhaps even better!
If you’ve never seen FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, add it to your queue. It’s one of the more unique Frankenstein movies ever filmed, directed in full “Hammer style” by their best director Terence Fisher, with a thought-provoking script by Bert Batt, based on an original story by Batt and Anthony Nelson Keys, and it features not only Peter Cushing as the most ruthless Baron Frankenstein ever, but Freddie Jones— pictured here with Maxine Audley— as one of the more cognizant of Frankenstein’s creations. Better yet, he evokes sympathy without being wimpy. After all, we feel bad for him even as he plans a brutal scheme of revenge against Baron Frankenstein, a plan which involves burning his house to the ground.
“You’d kill me?” He asks his wife in this scene.
“Of course I’d kill you! You’re a monster!” She screams.
How right you are, Mrs. Brandt!
Thanks for reading!