After the massive success of The Curse of Frankenstein it was only natural for Hammer to want to make a sequel. But instead of merely repeating the formula like Universal Studios did with their Frankenstein series, monster runs amok over and over, Hammer decided to do something else.
Starting with the last scene from The Curse of Frankenstein, the movie starts with Frankenstein escaping the guillotine with the help of the hunchbacked Karl (Oscar Quitak). Frankenstein fakes his death and then sets up shop in a new town under the name Dr. Stein.
Dr. Stein is quite popluar. He has a large clientele of wealthy people – much to the chagrin of the town’s other doctors. And he runs a free clinic for the poor. Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) discovers who Dr. Stein really is and blackmails him into letting him become Dr. Frankenstein’s new assistant, which Frankenstein reluctantly agrees.
Frankenstein starts showing Kleve around. He’s been using the poor for body parts to create new, perfect bodies. His first experiment will be transferring Karl out of his deformed body and into a new perfect body (Michael Gwynn). Karl has become enamored with a new volunteer nurse (Eunice Gayson) so he can’t wait to get a new body. The operation is a success and Frankenstein keeps Karl’s old body so that a before and after can be presented to the scientific community when he unveils his results.
Kleve foolishly tells Karl that all the scientific community will want to see him and Karl, because of his previous deformities, runs away, afraid to be displayed. While on the run Karl starts to lose control and soon he’s murdering people and his deformities suddenly start returning. That’s when the town starts to suspect who Dr. Stein really is.
While the first film was a very, very loose adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel, The Revenge of Frankenstein would become it’s own thing and set the tone for the rest of the series along with the overall tone for Hammer horrors in general. The story focused on the more psychological results from Frankenstein’s experiments, not just creating a monster but a man who can’t get past his previous deformities and afflictions. And of course there’s Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein playing God, messing around with people’s lives for his own scientific curiosity. This is an excellent film and probably one of the best of the series – maybe tied with Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and of course the first movie, which started it all.