DIRECTORS: TERENCE FISHER/HEINZ ARSTREINER. RUNNING TIME: 82 mins. DVD: REDWING. PRICE £14.99 CERT 18
Another British exploitation oddity rediscovered by Red Wing Video, this represents an early attempt by legendary gothic horror specialists Hammer to move their material into a more “adult” area – or does it? Hammer actually started shooting the picture in 1961 as a straightforward addition to their Frankenstein cycle, with Peter Cushing once again headlining as the eponymous anti-hero. However, after problems in early production and the withdrawal of one of the financiers – apparently dissatisfied by what he saw in the early rushes – led to Hammer abandoning the project and selling the unfinished footage to German crime, sex and sadism outfit Felchmeister. The Germans proceeded to fashion a new film around this footage. Now, instead of carrying out brain transplants, Frankenstein finds himself treating a famous male stripper Dick Wheat (Harry Barse – later to play Blojob in softcore Bond-ripoff Deviants are Forever), who has had acid thrown over his privates by a jealous rival. The good doctor proceeds to transplant a penis from a recently deceased sex-offender. The remainder of the film unfolds in a predictable fashion.
Unable to secure the services of Cushing, the new plot sees Frankenstein killed off relatively early on, beaten to death by Wheat’s demonic donger. The poor matching of Hammer sets with Felchmeister’s Frankfurt-based recreation of Victorian London gives Wheat’s subsequent rampage – the penis forces him to expose himself to women, etc. – a surreal feel. Barse is quite effective in these scenes, his whanger wildy leading him around backstreets in search of new victims whilst he cries “No, no, no!”. As the sexual atrocities become worse a Sherlock Holmes-type Scotland Yard Inspector, played by Hans Kling, is put on the case. Barse, cornered by the police, falls victim to his own possessed percy when, ripping free of the stitching, attaching it to his groin, it flies down his throat and chokes him to death. The bizarrely animated knob is run to ground in a butcher’s shop (where it badly frightens the proprietor’s wife: “It came at me – foaming at the mouth!”). The Inspector issues the amazing command, “Don’t shoot until you see the white’s of its eyes”, before the manic member is lured into a mincer.
A truly bizarre collision of the directorial styles of distinguished Hammer veteran Terence Fisher and stolid former director of Nazi propaganda films Heinz Arstreiner makes Privates of Frankenstein a must for devotees of the bizarre. Not surprisingly, Peter Cushing threatened to sue over the use of his image in the film, and his name was removed from the credits.