Hammer Film Productions’ fifth entry in their cycle of Frankenstein movies is a major accomplishment. Those Frankenstein films directed by Terence Fisher have a remarkable consistency, and each subsequent instalment sought too extend the moral arguments set up in previous entries. There is a definite sense of thematic progression in Fisher’s Frankenstein films, and a sense of fragmented morality that centres on the twin pillars of these films; The Baron, and ‘The Monster’. In most of the films the creature is a reflection of a certain facet of the Baron’s personality - the best example is the vanity and pride of Karl/The Baron in The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). But in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed this aspect of the characters’ is subsumed into the Baron’s uncompromising sadism. Prior entries had shown The Baron to be an astute reader of social situations, a well mannered aristocrat cleverly using the mask of benevolence to hide his diabolical schemes. There was at least a sense that somewhere amid the dismembered body parts The Baron’s motivations were noble and progressive. This moral tension is totally excised from Bert Batt’s screenplay, and The Baron is free to murder, blackmail, and even rape his way to the achievement of his nefarious goals. Depending on your point of view this is either a major weakness of the screenplay, or a major strength. I personally think it is a great strength, it leaves Peter Cushing free to indulge in some wonderfully cruel behaviour, and gives ‘The Monster’ an opportunity to fully explore the moral wasteland within which he resides.
© Shaun Anderson 2010