THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1963)
Most certainly some sort of reboot of the series, as the flashbacks flat out contradict CURSE. And, honestly, this entry has more in common with Universal's series than it does with the previous Hammer films. And I don't think that's a coincidence. Hammer reached some agreement with Universal in the meantime and EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN is filled with a flat headed, green colored monster with electrodes that clomps around, lightning sparking laboratories, and pitchfork wielding mobs. Along with an evil hypnotist and a mute girl. If you had cast someone other than Cushing as Frankenstein, there'd be no question that it was an altogether different franchise.
Of course there's nothing wrong with a takeoff on Universal's movies. They're iconic for a reason. Unfortunately, EVIL is more along the lines of GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN than Whale's classics. The biggest problem being that the script makes no sense. One moment Frankenstein acknowledges the fact that he has to remain in disguise, the next moment he's openly challenging the officials that banished him. One moment they can't go to the chateau for fear of the authorities, the next they're set up in the chateau without worry or precaution. One moment the police are after Frankenstein, the next they're sitting around in disbelief that there's a creature out there. Zoltan, the hypnotist, is evil except when he's not and things just got carried away. There's plenty of incidents, but no logical string to them. REVENGE at least had an interesting philosophical bent to it, which is completely absent here. It's an empty hodge podge.
It also doesn't help that the updated makeup for the creature is just awful. Not much in the performance either. It's a central part of the film that just doesn't work.
OTOH, the film certainly is pleasant to look at. The earlier films are much more claustrophobic. This one really opens up with mountainside escapes, caves, much more expansive laboratories, forest scenes, and a rather big village with a carnival going on. Lots of extras too. The colors, especially the blood, don't pop as much in this version, but it looks like it has an actual budget and is one of the more pleasing looking Hammer entries.
Peter Cushing, ironically, doesn't do anything particularly evil in this movie. O.K. there's a bit at the beginning where he's paying for a fresh corpse and there's still the "affront to god" stuff, but in Shelley's story he commits the additional sin of abandoning his creation. In the Whale and Fisher versions, he's consumed by his monomania and puts a damaged brain in his creation. He does none of that in this version, even being shown staying up and feeding the creature. None of the sadism of Cushing's earlier performance, he seems content to observe and record his findings. That takes away some of the balance of the story as Cushing comes across as much more of the wronged hero than villain in this version as he's upstaged in the evil department by Zoltan.
However, one thing that's unique about this movie is the physicality that Cushing gets to display. He's almost swashbuckling at times. He makes a daring bedroom escape from a high balcony (which the monster just clomps in from later in the movie, again the script doesn't even get basic geography right) to the delight of a bosomy beauty, he's diving over desks to avoid getting speared, driving a pair of horses standing up with his shirt open, and swinging down on a chain to confront his monster in a raging inferno. EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN might be dumb, but it's not boring.
Overall, a pretty mediocre film. Never really scary, pretty dumb, and featuring a monster that doesn't work. Still, a physical Cushing, lots of incidents, and some lush sets and photography make it a decent enough diversion, although hardly a necessary one.