Right from its stylish and violently kinetic opening, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed establishes itself as one of the finest of the seven entries in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle. The Frankenstein films always had a starkness and savagery to them that in a way surpassed the Christopher Lee Dracula productions, thanks in no small part to Peter Cushing’s chilling turns as the eponymous, gorily obsessive and brutally clinical mad doctor. Cushing, a first rate actor who was capable of redeeming the most errant piece of nonsense with his consummate professionalism and skill, only shined that much brighter when he was part of a production that supported and matched his own level of commitment. That the film displays exactly this kind of dedication to quality may not be surprising given that Terence Fisher, Hammer’s resident master craftsman, is on hand to direct. Cushing’s coldly articulate and seemingly alien Baron Frankenstein is matched perfectly with the film’s minimalist (for Hammer) set design, depicting as it does an England struggling under the environmental weight of lunatic asylums and abandoned estates. This sense of a crumbling landscape is perversely reflected in Frankenstein’s drive to experiment and lacerate bodies in the name of a modernist religion of progress. Adding to the film’s appeal is a compellingly exhausted and desperate performance by Freddie Jones as Frankenstein’s all too human monster. There is a swift yet sophisticated precision to Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, a concentrated ferocity and subtle unification of narrative, image and theme that is indicative of the very height of Cushing and Fisher’s working relationship.
As one of the finest Hammer films productions, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is a must for any fan of the studio and of the genre. The best thing about the DVD is that it allows the viewer to see the film in its original widescreen format, and considering Terence Fisher's sometimes exquisite compositions and spatial mastery, that may very well be reason enough to give it a look. The film looks quite good, wide-screened and featuring sharpened colors and the usual impressive James Bernard score. Unlike other Hammer titles released by Warner, there are no telltale signs of the ridiculous use of weathered prints.
Unfortunately limited to an original theatrical trailer.
The lack of extras may be something to write to Warner Bros. about but not something that should dissuade a fan from picking this one up.