Review: British Cult Cinema – The Hammer Frankenstein / Author: Bruce G. Hallenbeck / Publisher: Hemlock Books / Release Date: Out Now
Following Hallenbeck's previous volumes on Hammer's sci-fi, fantasy and vampire output, this detailed look at the studio's Frankenstein productions is, just like its predecessors, engrossing and enlightening.
The output from the famous British studio has been written about many times, and you could be forgiven for thinking nothing new can be told, and no new perspectives achieved. However, Hallenbeck has managed to produce a work which, by limiting attention to a particular strand of productions, is more focused than the usual studio biographies.
The book begins with a short chapter by Denis Meikle on the history of Mary Shelley's story, in the context of the Gothic period, and is bookended with an overview of the earlier adaptations (including the often forgotten lost Italian silent version) and those after. The format for the main portion is simple and effective; an overview of the making of a particular film (each film in the series is given its own chapter), taking into account other contemporary adaptations and the climate of the industry at the time of production, a very brief synopsis, then a critical summary and behind the scenes information, which of course includes the troubles the films had with the censors. There's even a chapter on the pilot for the abandoned 1958 USTV series, Tales of Frankenstein.
Although the author has an obvious love for the material, it never resorts to fawning. It is well written, using many reputable sources for facts and quotes, and illustrated with hundreds of black and white stills and occasional script pages, as well as a short colour section. There's also a lovely foreword by Veronica Carlson, recounting her time filming Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Horror of Frankenstein with fondness. A worthy addition to any horror fan's library.