Friday, October 10, 2008


I believe I first saw this movie when I was 13 or 14, when weekend movies were occasionally shown at my junior high. I was a monster movie fan, so I was serious about wanting to see it, but everyone else was there just to be away from their families for an afternoon, so mostly I remember lots of chatting and paper airplanes and running out of the auditorium to get snacks. The film has a "bad movie" rep, but I think that is mostly due to its outrageous title; it was definitely done on the cheap and its look and acting are about on a TV-movie level, but if you know what you’re getting into, it's sort of fun. Dr. Maria Frankenstein (Narda Onyx--fabulous name!) and her brother Rudolph (busy character actor Steven Geray) have left Vienna to continue their grandfather's experiments in an abandoned monastery in the American old West (lots of lightning storms, you know). Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez), a local who has worked for the family in the past, is understandably upset that these experiments have been claiming the lives of many of the nearby village's young men (including her own brother) and she's ready to leave the area for good. From what I could figure out, Maria is killing the boys, then trying to reanimate them by means of artificial brains from her grandfather’s original inventory and a gaudily colored helmet. Obviously, it's not working (and unknown to her, Rudolph is subverting her plans when he surreptitiously puts the victims out of their misery when it's clear the day-glo device isn’t working), but Maria has one more brain, though she's run out of local boys. Lucky for her, the outlaw Jesse James (John Lupton) and his beefy sidekick Hank (Cal Bolder) show up on the run, with Hank seriously wounded from a recent shootout. Juanita takes pity on them and takes them over to the Frankenstein place for doctoring. Juanita is sweet on Hank, and Maria gets a bit of a thing for Jesse, but that doesn't stop her from deciding that Hank is the perfect specimen for her final experiment. In fact, the pretty bicycle helmet does its job and Hank (complete with stitched-up shaved head) becomes Igor, a servant completely under Maria's power. Throw in a lawman (Jim Davis, probably not the creator of Garfield) on the trail of the bandits and you've got the makings for a good ol' western/monster movie climax. Onyx is appropriately dastardly, Bolder is hunky enough, and Lupton, though bland, bears a resemblance to William H. Macy, and when things bog down, it's fun to imagine what Macy might have done with the role. Maybe the Coen Brothers will remake this some day? [TCM]

No comments: