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Hammer Horror at its Finest: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

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The Curse of Frankenstein was Hammer film productions’ first foray into Gothic horror in 1957. With its huge success came a revival of this brand of horror that was first made commercially successful from the 1930s to the 1950s, by Hollywood studio Universal. British production company Hammer based much of their output on the iconic screen monsters made famous by the American studio, but they would make gorier affairs for shock value. They resurrected Dracula a year later in 1958’s The Horror of Dracula, continued with 1959’s The Mummy, and 1962’s The Phantom of the Opera. The Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy franchises would spawn many sequels.

The very same year Christopher Lee donned Dracula’s cape for the first time under the helm of Terence Fisher, the director would shoot back-to-back with it The Revenge of Frankenstein – the sequel to his first ghastly adventure starring Peter Cushing as the evil doctor Baron Victor Frankenstein, who brilliantly reprises his role here.

What sets apart Hammer’s Frankenstein series to the earlier Universal franchise is that the real recurring antagonist is the doctor and not the monster; Universal’s take was to have the original creature constantly come back with new doctors, but here the doctor returns creating new creatures. Because of Hammer’s approach, Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein would go on to become one of the most memorable villains in cinematic horror history, and the majority of the entries in the series were uniquely inventive. The original film’s writer Jimmy Sangster creates a very different story for The Revenge of Frankenstein to his first, and it is a splendid companion piece ranking high up there with the franchise’s other best additions – its predecessor, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). It is also the best sequel in respect of continuity, as it picks up right from where the previous film left off.

In the prologue, Frankenstein has been sentenced to death for his crimes in the last installment, but he escapes the guillotine with the help of the deformed hunchback Karl (Oscar Quitak). They have the priest overseeing the execution beheaded instead, and have his body buried in Frankenstein’s place. Three years later, Frankenstein has relocated to Carlsbruck, assuming the identity of Dr. Stein, and has become a successful physician attending to not just the wealthy, but also to the poor at the paupers’ hospital.  He attracts the attention of the medical council, as they are jealous of him for taking their patients, and are infuriated that he has shunned them.

A young council member, Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews), recognizes Frankenstein, and blackmails him so he can become his apprentice to gain his valuable knowledge. Along with Karl, Hans helps with Frankenstein’s experiment in pursuing the creation of an artificial brain. When concluding that this procedure is futile, Frankenstein decides instead to transplant a living brain into a new body assembled from the body parts of his deceased patients. The luckless deformed hunchback Karl willingly volunteers his brain, in the hope of having a new healthy body in peak physical condition, and a chance at happiness with a better quality of life.

Peter Cushing shows off his superior acting skills with his portrayal of the evil Frankenstein at its most complex, as Sangster’s screenplay is lavished with strong characterization. With a cunningly contradictive personality, Frankenstein uses his communication skills to best suit his needs, as he strives to fulfil his obsession of perfecting the creation of a human being; he shows a subtle unassuming nature. He hides his disdain for his elite medical peers of the council by being very polite to them, as so not to attract any more unwanted attention from them other than their jealousy, which might interfere with his experiments and expose his identity. On the surface, he appears to want to take care of his poverty-stricken patients. However, his practice is just a front, as he uses it as a way of getting a continuing supply of body parts. He does show though a great genuine concern for his two partners, especially towards Karl, as he wants to repay him for saving his life. Compared to his mean spirited performance in The Curse of Frankenstein, Cushing is more sympathetic here.

The other two standout performances are Quitak as the deformed dwarf Karl, and Michael Gwynn playing the same character in Karl’s new body. When the transplantation of Karl’s brain into his handsome new body proves an initial success, we are saddened by his panic-stricken reaction to the news that he will become a medical marvel, and that people from all over the world will want to come and see him. Frightened by this, as he has had people stare at him his whole life and he only wants to live a normal life, he escapes the hospital. He goes to Frankenstein’s laboratory, and destroys the evidence by burning his old body in a furnace. A drunken caretaker discovers Karl, and attacks him thinking he is a burglar. After many severe blows, Karl develops brain damage that results in him turning homicidal, and he kills the caretaker.

He also develops a hunger for cannibalism, a side effect of his brain transplant that also happened to the caged chimpanzee in Frankenstein’s laboratory, of which Karl was a witness. Another side effect the primate had was that his brain could not forget how the previous body functioned; Karl himself starts to experience problems with his arm and leg, which was the same great difficulties he had with his previous body, and his deformities start to return. He also commits another murder. None of Frankenstein’s creatures in Hammer’s series has drawn as much sympathy from us as his creation here; Karl is a truly tragic figure, and the performances of Quitak and Gwynn really tug on our heartstrings.

There are some truly memorable scenes of drama. There is the unforgettable moment when Gwynn’s Kyle comes bursting through a ballroom window, crying out “Frankenstein, help me!” that exposes Dr. Stein for who he really is. Fisher also employs the stylistic traits of color schemes transcended from The Curse of Frankenstein. The cinematography, set designs, and score are of the usual high standards of a Hammer production. As the film was shot back-to-back with The Horror of Dracula, the same sets were used; Dracula’s crypt is Frankenstein’s surgery, and the exterior of Dracula’s castle became Frankenstein’s laboratory on the outside.

The Revenge of Frankenstein is one of the very finest entries into Hammer’s Gothic horror dynasty, and is one of four great films in their Frankenstein franchise. How many modern horror franchises can you say contain four great pieces of filmmaking? I bet you cannot name one.

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Buy Stuff From Eibon Press, Get More Stuff For Free

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Eibon Press have announced that they’re starting Black Friday a day early and will be running their specials for almost a week, through November 28th. This year, they’re doing something a little different, a little more interesting. Rather than reduce prices on their inventory, they’re doing a deal where depending on how much you buy from their store, you’ll get a certain amount of free swag in addition to your order.

The first tier sees anyone who makes a purchase getting two double-sided mini-posters featuring art from their upcoming Bottomfeeder and Maniac and The New York Ripper series. The second tier sees anyone who spends at least $30 getting a free copy of their VHS Comics titles Laserblast plus the mini-posters. The final tier is for those who spend $50 and more and that will net the mini-posters, the #1 issue of Laserblast, and a free copy of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell #2.

Lastly, five random people will receive an extra bonus gift, which they won’t reveal but promise that, “…you’ll love it!

All order cans be placed via Eibon Press.

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KISS Meets Army of Darkness in New Comic Miniseries!

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Dynamite Entertainment just announced that they are planning to bring two of their bestselling brands together in “KISS/Army of Darkness #1”. The new comic book series will unite the rock band with none other than Ash for some Deadite ass kicking.

The series will be written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims and illustrated by Ruairi Coleman. And the debut issue of “KISS/Army of Darkness” features three art covers from Kyle Strahm, Goni Montes, and Ken Haeser.

You can find all three covers below along with quotes from the creative team. After looking through all of that make sure to hit us up and let us know how excited you are about this new hybrid comic series in the comments below or on social media!

With Ash vs. The Army of Darkness, Chris and I were given kind of carte blanche to do whatever we wanted to the world of AOD, and we went for broke,” Co-writer Chad Bowers says. “We introduced some new characters and concepts, and built a legacy for Ash’s comics adventures that I’m immensely proud of, but not in a million years could I have guessed we’d get to continue that momentum with the added bonus of tossing the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band into the mix! I’ve been in the tank for KISS since I was in middle school. I remember buying the KISS tribute album, KISS My Ass for the Lemonheads (they covered Plaster Caster), which lead to me picking up Greatest Hits, and so on. But when I found out there was a KISS comic with blood in it, I signed up for life! Of course, I adore the songs (literally listening to Do You Love Me right now), but I’m just as obsessed with the way KISS transcends the music to become something of a genre themselves. It’s something I think about a lot, honestly, so no surprise, it’s a big part of our story too!”

“When it comes to Army of Darkness, I guess you could say that Ash is a bit of a gambler, but he’s nobody’s fool,” Co-writer Chris Sims says. “And since our first story was set back at Alan Shepard High, we’re looking forward to showing him some things that you can’t learn in school. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the deep-cut lyrics now, but for real — if you thought Deadites at Homecoming and the Supernatural Military-Adjacent Response Team were taking Ash in a new direction, just wait until you see how we team him up with the Starchild, Space Ace, the Demon, and the Catman. In the grand tradition of the film, we’re tearing up the entire space-time continuum and if you think you know how weird this is gonna get… well, you sure know somethin’!”

“Having done some work for Dynamite in the past, I’ve really been wanting to get my foot in the door here for a long time so I can play in the sandbox of the amazing licenses they have,” Artist Ruairi Coleman says. “Chief among those, and high up on my bucket list, is Army of Darkness: Hail to the king, baby! So, when I was offered the job of drawing the KISS/Army of Darkness crossover, I couldn’t believe my luck! The concept is totally bonkers, but in a way, that would make complete sense in the world of Army of Darkness. Thinking about it, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already and I’m honored (and more than a little intimidated) to be the guy who draws it.”

“After a more than 40-year career, KISS continues to be one of rock’s most celebrated bands, while Army of Darkness continues to be a staple in the comic book industry. We’re both honored to have the opportunity to work so closely with Gene and Paul to bring their world-renowned alter-egos to comics alongside our very own Ashy Slashy,” says Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment. “The raging guitar chords and pyrotechnic spectacle of their stage shows could have come straight from the pages of the Necronomicon, and this epic battle between The Demon and Deadites will appeal to the hellions in all of us!”

Issue #1 will be available on digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, Madefire, and Dark Horse Digital.

The KISS/Army of Darkness miniseries event hits February 2018.

Synopsis:

KISS is on top of the world and rocking faces until the night disciples of The Destroyer show up and the band disappears. With the tour canceled, a young Ash misses one of the most important events of his life that will change his destiny. Now the Chosen One has to get back on the right path and join the KISS ARMY OF DARKNESS!

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Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong

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One of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th series is director ‘s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The mixture of old-school gothic horror and comedy is always a welcome treat around these parts.

But why wasn’t McLoughlin asked to write and direct the follow-up?

Actually, it turns out he was asked to follow up Jason Lives, McLoughlin recently told Mick Garris on the Post Mortem podcast.

But his pitch – Jason vs Cheech and Chong – didn’t go over so well…

“[Frank Mancuso Jr.] wanted me to do another film after we did Jason,” McLoughlin says. “And I said, ‘What are you thinking? I don’t know what it could be now.’ And he said, ‘Well, what do you think about Freddy (Krueger) and Jason?’ And I go, ‘But Freddy’s at New Line and the guys at Paramount have [Jason].’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to try and see if we can work something out.’ So, I started thinking about that, going, It doesn’t make sense. I mean he lives in one realm and — you know, I take this stuff very seriously, what realm a monster’s supposed to stay in. And he came back, he goes, ‘Eh, forget it, it’s not going to work anyway.’ And I said, ‘You know what? You guys own Cheech and Chong. What if we do Cheech and Chong-meets-Jason? They’re like camp counselors or something. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, I saw Jason out there.’ ‘No, man, that’s a myth.’ But he said, ‘You know what? No.’”

Too bad. While I don’t know how well a Cheech and Chong/Friday the 13th flick would go, with McLoughlin at the helm, the film would have at least been funny as hell.

Plus we already got these two knuckleheads in Part III.

Are you upset we never got Tom McLoughlin’s Jason vs Cheech and Chong? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

You can buy Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives on Blu-ray HERE.

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