'The Revenge Of Frankenstein' is a direct sequel to 'The Curse Of Frankenstein', the mega successful macabre masterpiece that changed the direction of the Hammer studio forever. 'Revenge...' starts with Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) about to be guillotined for the various crimes he has commited in the name of science. Needless to say, Frankenstein escapes the chop in quite shockingly ruthless way, before moving to another city and setting up under the inspired pseudonym of Doctor Stein.
Herein lies the marvellous ambiguity of Hammer's Frankenstein character: he is a good physician and has set up a hospital where the poor can be treated free of charge, which is marvellous - but every now and again he will perform an unnecessary amputation or organ removal in order to continue with his pet project: the creation of a healthy body, cobbled together from spare parts, into which he will transplant the brain of his (quite willing) crippled and hunchbacked henchman, Karl. Which, again, is sort of nice when you think about it, or sort of horrible when you think about it bit longer.
The operation goes well, and Karl is given a fully functional body. Easy peasy, really, as (Franken)Stein has already transplanted the brain of an orangutan into the body of a chimp. Hybrid ape Otto is perfectly healthy, except that he now has a voracious appetite for meat, prompting this fantastically deadpan exchange between 'Stein' and his medical assistant, Dr. Kleve (Francis Matthews) --
Kleve: Did Otto eat flesh before you operated?
Stein: No, I discovered it soon after the operation. He ate his wife.
Kleve: Ate another monkey?
Stein: What else would he be married to?
Kleve: You mean he turned into a cannibal?
Stein: Yes. I didn't attempt to correct it. He's perfectly happy and in good health.
Of course, this couldn't happen again, especially not to a human subject, well, not unless the patient received a bang on the head or something silly like that.
After having received a bang on the head, Karl becomes a hungry homicidal maniac and, to add insult to brain injury, his new body turns against him, becoming twisted and deformed. In the end, Frankenstein's true identity comes out and he is beaten to death by his own patients, who aren't exactly happy about having unknowingly donated bits of themselves to Stein's science project. That said, Frankenstein is a hard man to put down, so I expect he'll turn up again in another city under another name, Dr. Frank, or something cunning and unexpected like that.
'The Revenge Of Frankenstein' is superb: shocking, unexpected, compelling, ridiculous, and all conducted at top speed. This is Hammer at its best, and Hammer at its best is absolutely brilliant.