Released in 1967, Hammer’s Frankenstein Created Woman is arguably the best of the films starring Peter Cushing as the deranged baron. Two years later there followed Frankenstein Must be Destroyed, the next in the series that was a dark and disjointed piece that may qualify as one of Hammer’s strangest horrors.
Frankenstein Must be Destroyed has possibly the strongest cast ever assembled by Hammer. Cushing is supported by Simon Ward, Veronica Carlson and Maxine Audley. Freddie Jones makes the best of the post-Lee monsters, whilst Thorley Walters, Geoffrey Bayldon, George Pravda, Robert Gillespie and Windsor Davies are all excellent in supporting roles. As usual it is Cushing’s film, but here he portrays Baron Frankenstein with the nastiest of edges and resorts to the most unsavoury means to get what he wants. At times it’s uncomfortable viewing, with the image of the urbane Mr Cushing repeatedly crushed as he resorts to blackmail, rape and murder. Indeed, the scene in this film where he attacks a young woman in one of Hammer’s most disturbing, and unnecessary, scenes.
In following Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein Must be Destroyed has a difficult task in standing up to the preceding classic. Where the previous film depicted the Baron pulling off the feat of tranferring a soul from one body to another, this shows him returning to more familiar pastimes of cutting and pasting body parts, in this case brains. This at least gives Hammer the chance to make this instalment the more blood curdling, and although we see much of squidgy brains being plopped into jars, there are still some marvellous moments that are purely suggestive – notably the scenes where Frankenstein asks his assistant to hold things tightly as he embarks on some noisy sawing through skulls.
Frankenstein Must be Destroyed begins by introducing the Baron at his most terrifying, Cushing apprehending an unwise burgler and garbed in a skull mask; a bizarre opening scene not properly explained but nevertheless effective. Frankenstein blackmails a young man (Simon Ward) into assisting him with his latest scheme, springing his former associate Dr Brandt (Pravda) from the local asylum and repairing his damaged brain by transplanting it into Professor Richter (Freddie Jones). Along the way mysterious events are followed by the local hapless police (Thorley Walters and Geoffrey Bayldon). The film doesn’t really kick in properly until the last act, where the new creature (Jones) escapes and attempts to return to his wife (Maxine Audley).
Both Freddie Jones and Maxine Audley are excellent, the former giving one of the most sympathetic portrayals of The Monster. Thorley Walters is also good, although it’s a shame Hammer chose not to pursue the Cushing/Wallters memorable double act from Frankenstein Created Woman. In 1969 Frankenstein Must be Destroyed ended the decade with something still recognisable from their greatest success a decade earlier. However the 70s would prove difficult times for them, with Frankenstein left to skulk in the shadows as they churned out more unmemorable Dracula vehicles, and eventually turned away from the classic monsters altogether.