Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Holding out the key: Peter Cushing in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (dir. Terence Fisher, 1969).

Destroyed? Isn't that a bit harsh? Maybe not. Frankenstein takes his sociopathic malevolence to new levels in this, the fifth installment in the Hammer series. Among his crimes this time around: murder, robbery, blackmail, and rape. A strange tableau of relentless cruelty. It's hard to say what, if any, identification or sympathy Frankenstein is capable of inspiring, and yet, there's something fascinating about his continually botched pursuit of scientific enlightenment via mutilation and mayhem. The first time we see Frankenstein in the film, he is wearing a grotesque rubber mask. The immediate assumption that springs to mind is that we are seeing one of his experiment/victims, and when the mask comes off, it's a neat sleight of hand--Frankenstein is the monster, which, as I've said before, is Fisher's conceit throughout the series. But Fisher doesn't seem entirely sure how to pitch this idea. Cushing's charisma and urbanity seems somewhat at odds not only with the brutality of his character, but with his comically debased picaresque aspects. Or maybe this dissonance is the thing that makes these otherwise fairly stilted sado-dramas come close at times to brilliance.

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