The Revenge of Frankenstein by Shaun Hutson
|The Revenge of Frankenstein by Shaun Hutson|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Showing that not all Hammer sequels devolved into trashy retreads, this revisit many years on of the Peter Cushing vehicle firmly succeeds in taking a place in Frankenstein lore.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: February 2013|
Imprisoned and sentenced to death for the crimes he feels were caused by his creation and not his drive to bend the reach and morals of medical science, Doctor Frankenstein is given a way out of the guillotine's grasp, and gains a loyal adherent in the misshapen form of Carl. They move on to work together at a charitable hospital, which serves merely as a front for the Doctor's usual experiments, transplanting body organs, reviving corpses or bits thereof, and bringing new forms of life to the world. Cue yet another problematic creation, with an unfortunate way of leaving a trail of violence and vehemence, but with another innocent female to tender him, in this respectful and intelligent sequel.
Sequel might not be the most accurate word, of course, for this is a novelisation of a film that was a sequel to a film of a book. If there is a vestige of Shelley here it is probably just the appendix, or some other body part. But in Hutson's hands this book is quite gripping, with a dynamism and depth that belies its origins. It seems an accurate representation of the film, without merely being a dusty archive piece.
As his introduction conveys, Hutson has tried to be honest to the original Hammer product, and he has succeeded in that. He hasn't lathered on sex, or fakery to make this something with merely loose connections to the original, however dated that might feel on screen or in summary. He certainly does bring some of his usual gritty violence to the piece – it's not long before he's defining arcs of grey matter being removed from a head by a shovel. He doesn't go the full stomach-churning length he seems to prefer in his own titles, but does bring some of the Grand Guignol to proceedings.
He also is able to show how well-crafted the original was. There is obviously a fine spin being put on what was from Universal's film onwards a growing stereotype – that of the blundering monster and the manic scientist. We have elements of the latter, but Carl is not allowed to be a patchwork depository of base emotions. He might look a little like an Igor, but he has a sympathy from us with his frustrating disabilities and physical deformities. It's a full step-up for Victor and for Hammer that this is a living man given a brain transplant, and not some earthy throwback generated by lightning.
It is of course pure bunkum, in a world where spinal cords don’t feature, and brains just slip out and slot into different skulls at will. If it were badly written, that would matter. Nor does it really have a handle on any particular subject or moral, whether it be against the extremities of madcap science, or for the acceptance of those visually different to the norm. It just serves – and works – as a look at what happens when you move brains from body to body, through the lens of faux-19th century science. However many brains this story has passed through since the birth of the Hammer film franchise way back when, here it has lit upon somebody to keep it fresh, compelling and both tribute to and accurate revival of its source.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Compare and contrast with Countess Dracula by Guy Adams who revisits his celluloid creation with a welter of more modern effects and ideas. He makes the story his own – but at what cost?
You can read more book reviews or buy The Revenge of Frankenstein by Shaun Hutson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Revenge of Frankenstein by Shaun Hutson at Amazon.com.
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