It would not be inappropriate to start this out with Al Pacino in Godfather Part III: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”
I was asked to come out of my retirement from the world of online B-Movie reviews to participate in the return of the B-Masters Secret Santa roundtable. Although I knew my Decembers were always murderous schedule hogs, I accepted because… well, after all, why not? I do rather miss the thrill of these things (until the grinding gears of actually writing the dang thing engage), and besides, there was always the chance that I would get Ken Begg as my recipient, and the lure of sweet, sweet revenge is always a potent one.
Apparently all of us were waiting by our computers with something horrible in our hands, hoping against hope that we would get Ken. There is also the probability that there was a muttered chant of “Oh please oh please oh please” as we rocked back and forth, like preschoolers awaiting word from their parents that they may charge downstairs on Christmas morning.
As we now know, such yearning hopes were made only to be dashed to death under the concrete-soled boots of reality, as the new Secret Santa roster was almost a carbon copy of the last time we did this, although we are assured that a totally innocent and unconnected bystander did the drawing of the names out of a hat. It would be churlish of me to mention that this all took place in Australia, where it would be extremely difficult for any of us to monitor the purity of said process.
Suffice to say that once more Ken was given the opportunity to break me, and he pounced on it like Nicolas Cage offered a bad role. The last time this happened, the movie he chose was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I think he was always a bit dismayed that it didn’t crush my spirit as totally as he’d hoped, so this time he went directly for the nuclear option: Jerry Warren.
If you frequent websites like this, you are likely already familiar with the name Jerry Warren. If this name does not mean anything to you yet… I have two things to say to you: 1) I envy you; and 2) RUN. RUN AND DO NOT LOOK BACK. SAVE YOURSELF.
Jerry Warren was born in Los Angeles, and took this as a sign that he needed to be in the movie business. After an undistinguished career as a bit player, he was apparently told by a producer that the only guy with any power in Hollywood was the producer, so Warren decided to become a producer. And Director. And Writer. And Cinematographer. And Music Supervisor. And editor. And…
Damn that nameless producer. Damn him to hell.
In one of those coincidences that makes rational people shake their heads in sad dismay, Warren decided to make movies at a time when a hungry drive-in venue was crying out for material, any material. He spent the last half of the 50s turning out movies like Man Beast, The Incredible Petrified World and Teenage Zombies. In the 60s he discovered he could get more bang for his very small bucks by buying Mexican movies and shooting a few sequences to (hopefully) localize them, which gave us such things as a down-on-his-luck Lon Chaney in Face of the Screaming Werewolf and something with the extremely generic title Creature of the Walking Dead.
On one of Something Weird’s many trailer compilations, there is a preview for Creature of the Walking Dead that I’m going to assume Warren himself edited. It’s basically the last four minutes of the movie. Only Jerry Warren would show the end of a movie in an effort to get you to buy a ticket to see the rest.
In 1966 came what might have been Warren’s swan song, and possibly his best-known movie: The Wild World of Batwoman. Best known, that is, for its inclusion on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a bit of infamy, as a too-obvious attempt to capitalize on the success of the 1966 Batman TV series. Subsequent lawsuits forced Warren to film the odd blood-drinking ritual you see at the beginning of the MST3K version and a re-titling to She Was A Hippy Vampire. This makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie.
And that was apparently it for Mr. Warren until, in 1981, Frankenstein Island surfaced.
I’d read Ken’s review some years ago, and remember marveling at his descriptions of the incredible cheapness and paucity of talent therein. Then when I was commanded to review it, I hied myself to Amazon Marketplaces where I bought a DVD for something less than two bucks. That’s right, it cost me more to ship the damned thing than to actually buy it. I was telling a member of my bad movie group about this, and I was told. “Oooh! Save that! Bring it to the next Crapfest!” Bizarrely, it was the hit of the evening. Then, it was up against Jonah Hex and Ron Ormond’s Please Don’t Touch Me!, so the deck may have been a wee bit stacked, there.
They even turned to me to defiantly say, “See what else your friend has to offer,” which means these turncoat bastards are due for some other Begg specials, like Doomsday Machine and Sextette.
I am informed I have written nearly 1000 words at this point, and I should start talking about the movie itself. This is very hard when I consider that, when I placed the used DVD into a player to check it, the first few seconds caused me utter aloud, “Oh, f*ck you, movie!” And skip to the next chapter.
See: here’s our set-up: four guys in a balloon were attempting to set some sort of record, but got caught in a storm and are lost. So we start with the search parties, out looking for them.
Or no, no we don’t. What we start with is footage someone took at a hot air balloon festival, which is then overdubbed with supposed radio conversations between the balloon crews as they search for the missing men. Because the best way to look for people lost at sea is in a vehicle that moves at the whim of the wind.
Let’s just roll the credits and go to our four guys dragging a rubber raft onto a beach. They haven’t been lost at sea so long that the two younger men don’t have the energy to race each other away from the surf, then the one wearing flared jeans (1981 my butt) to start improvising an unfunny TV preacher telling the other young guy (who wears a neckerchief, prompting us to call him Freddy) to fall to his knees as an unworthy sinner. While you’re wondering what the hell is going on, the dog will pee on some seaweed, which is about the first sensible thing we’ve seen a character do.
Let me introduce these guys, which is something the movie won’t bother to do for a while. The first one you’re going to figure out is “Doc” (Robert Clarke, who did a lot of TV work but is remembered as The Hideous Sun Demon) who is, guess what, a doctor, and therefore the leader of the group. The other older man is eventually identified as Mark Eden (Robert Christopher, another TV regular, doing his second Warren flick). Of the two younger guys, the one in disco gear (flared jeans, shirt open to navel) and given to faux Bible-thumping is Curtis (Tain Bodkin – again, some TV roles and, significantly, the Preacher in Giant Spider Invasion) and Mr. Neckerchief is Dino (Patrick O’Neill, Absolutely Nothing Else). The dog is Melvin.
Immediately our castaways begin babbling about finding logs to build a raft, which is a bit surprising, considering they’re standing next to the perfectly serviceable rubber raft that got them there. No, not food or water – none of which is in evidence in the aforementioned raft – but logs, dammit, logs! Of course, first they have to find away over the colossal bluffs that separate the beach from the rest of the island. Bluffs so large they cannot even be shown on camera.
Luckily for the our four orphans of the storm, Melvin the dog is on the job, and finds a cave that is not only eerily well-lit, but possesses remarkably level floors. It also has a Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine, but Mark only sees it briefly, probably decides he should reconsider this not-looking-for-water thing, and goes on.
Even more luckily for our heroes, the cave leads them to Southern California. As if things weren’t incoherent enough, Curtis has a seizure when she starts talking about home. Then they find a woman hanging, hammock-style, between two trees (“When you visit Frankenstein Island, be sure to visit Frankenstein’s Hammock!”). Then they are discovered by the local race of cavewomen, all wearing identical leopard-print string bikinis.
“You are pretty!” says one to Curtis. Given the examples of masculinity that will soon be brought before us, she can be forgiven this misapprehension.
SO. The men are taken to the women’s camp (an ill-defined chunk of darkness obscuring all otherwise costly details) for a feast and some supposedly salacious dancing to leopard-print drums being beaten not quite in time to the library music score. The women are also passing around what is obviously a roadside gift shop moonshine jug. I’m kind of surprised no one thought to wrap a piece of that leopard skin fabric around it, because it is, you know, a cavegirl jug.
Cut to the next day, as Frankenstein’s Hammock is cut down, and Curtis is informed she has passed The Inititiation. This prompts Curtis to talk about the time he was initiated, back in – AUGH ANOTHER SEIZURE. This doesn’t worry the cavewomen too much, as they continue their apparently aimless wandering. Everyone stops to watch one of the women apparently controlling unconnected footage of spiders. Then, at another location, one of the girls is abducted by a henchman from the nearby Batman TV show set.
Yes, we’re going to be seeing a lot of these guys in the subjective hours to come. Black turtleneck, black ski cap, dark glasses and jeans. If they were ever given any lines, it would run to the likes of “Yo ho, Joker!” But this guy is going to silently carry the screaming cavegirl away, the others in tepid pursuit, until he suddenly falters, drops her, and crawls off. My guess would be heat exhaustion, with that sweater and ski cap and all, but as the cavegirl explains to Dino, “They are programmed to weaken.” Further explanation: “They are part of a ship’s crew – normal until they’re experimented on.”
My head is developing a raw spot where I keep scratching it in puzzlement, but then I am given a focal point, a lightning rod for my hatred, when Jocko (Steve Brodie, also lots of TV work, also Giant Spider Invasion, also on his second Warren flick) enters. Yes, Jocko, who wears an eyepatch and laughs boisterously, constantly. He begins his lines with a laugh, and ends them with a laugh. Not various shades of laugh, either. It’s the same damned laugh, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. He has laughter Tourettes.
Jocko is accompanied by a ragged fellow whom one of my fellow viewers claimed was addressed at least once as Ygor - IMDb is not forthcoming – and tells the girls AH HA HAHA HAHA that they should all be friends AH HA HAHA HAHA since, after all, didn’t they give them mirrors? AH HA HAHA HAHA.
There may have been more, but I was distracted by my hands unconsciously flexing as if they were around some invisible throat. Anyway, we cut back to the girl’s camp to find the girls smoking out of a festive skull bong (DUDE!) Curtis figures out the seizures – they seem to happen whenever he mentions any place other than the island. To prove his thesis, he interrupts Dino (who is trying to make time with a particularly winsome cavegirl) to talk about his football career. Dino, being an idiot, complies, and has a seizure. Curtis has a theory that this is some power like telepathy. “Telepathy?” asks Mark. “No, LIKE telepathy!” barks Curtis.
This turgid exposition is interrupted by Jocko, who arrives to tell them that AH HA HAHA HAHA they’ve got an invitation to “the Big House.” AH HA HAHA HAHA. Proving Dino isn’t the only idiot, they accept and follow him. AH HA HAHA HAHA.
Then, they are forced to cool their heels until, I guess, their host has picked up all the dirty socks at the Big House or some damned thing. One of the Batman zombies brings them a tray of food, and in an astounding burst of observation – for these guys, anyway – they realize the zombie shambled off with a second tray of food. Following him, they find a jail cell in another building, and it’s sole occupant, Jaysen (Cameron Mitchell).
Jaysen reveals he’s a ship’s captain, and has been imprisoned there for 17 years, and that his wardens keep taking his blood, and that his wife, Lenore perished in the crash, which leads him to recite Poe over and over again, until Ygor enters his cell to sedate him (can I have some, too, please, Ygor?). Then our guys can finally come up to “The Big House”.
Which is where we meet Frankenstein’s great-great granddaughter, Sheila Frankenstein Von Helsing (Katherine Victor, Wild World of Batwoman, on her third Warren flick). She does not, incidentally, prefer her married name. It must also be added that she is certainly wearing a Frankenwig, as the front part is some sort of page boy cut grafted to the back, which is from some curly thing. Strangest. Mullet. Ever.
And thus begins one of our great swaths of exposition. Any one who’s suffered through Batwoman knows that Victor’s delivery isn’t, shall we say, exactly dynamic,. Yet she’s going to be handling most of the movie’s backstory. Let’s see if I can boil this down: she’s married to Von Helsing, who we will come to know was Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant. Dr. Frankenstein… represented here by an 8x10 glossy of John Carradine… may be dead, but as Ygor puts it, “Being dead’s no problem… in fact, it’s an advantage!” Von Helsing channels his spirit and Frankenstein “sends power from the other side.” Frankenstein was also responsible for the storm that brought the guys here, so they could reproduce with the cavewomen. Curtis and Dino seem to think this is a fine idea. Doc and Mark though, being older, are total spoilsports, and insists that they have a raft to work on.
In an effort to impress Doc, Sheila takes them to her laboratory, on the way delivering the primer on the zombies. A) they are mindless because of certain… experiments. B) they have no bloodstream, and would have to be cut in half with a machine gun to be stopped. What an odd thing to say. Wonder if it will have any bearing later? C) Their eyes are sensitive to light because they have been “using a local narcotic.” D) The zombie at the door? Totally not a woman wearing a fake moustache.
In the lab, everyone conveniently ignores the two tables that have no function other than to have people strapped down on them, but Doc is impressed by a radio, saying he’s never seen such power levels. Curtis is bemused by a brain kept under a transparent dome (I sort of am, too, as it looks real. Cow? Or sheep?). Nobody seems to take notice of the enormous poster with a graph on the wall., which I’m hoping is “Days Without an Accident”.
Sheila lets fall the bombshell that the cavewomen are descendents of aliens who crashed on the island (“Of course!” I think, “Nothing human could come up with string bikinis like those!”), which otherwise doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything. Also in the lab: the bedridden Dr. Von Helsing, an old, bearded man. To wake him up to talk to the guests, Sheila slams a few thousand volts through him, prompting him to jerk up with a cry of “I have the power! The power of the Golden Thread!”
Speaking of which, the cavegirls are having another of their wanton drumbeat parties, (this time with 20% more fire-eating) which culminates in the appearance of the Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine, delivering the classic lines, "O Disciples of the Twelve Lines! Ye shall have the power! The power shall be yours! THE POWER! THE POWER! THE POWER!"
Hope you liked that speech. You’re going to be hearing it a lot. I assume the "twelve lines" is all Carradine was paid to say.
Oooh, the zombies are having a ritual party, too! Theirs involves one of those 8x10 glossies of John Carradine leaning against a Buddha statue. They wave a toy pitchfork over it – mind you, this is the pitchfork you pick up at Walgreens for $1.98 around Halloween time – and Carradine’s face turns into a skull while a movie of a gas burner is superimposed over it.
Oh, yes, we are definitely entering the “filler” portion of our movie.
The next morning, Sheila is showing the guys her garden, where her experiments are producing enormous squashes, which Jocko finds hilarious. Then, Jocko finds everything hilarious. Sheila asks Doc to come by the lab and check some things out, and Doc promises to drop by later. This prompts Sheila to say, “If you’re more interested in sports, they’re over there.” “Over there” being the Zombie Shantytown, where the zombies are milling about in what I guess is a sluggish game of Zombie Football. The shantytown is also the place where a zombie is marinating in a tub, being embalmed while Jocko AH HA HAHA HAHA puts some powder into the water every hour. AH HA HAHA HAHA. Jocko also briefly gains a Cockney accent AH HA HAHA HAHA..
Curtis decides for some reason to wrestle with some of the zombies, which takes a Curtis-bruising turn when one of his opponents turns out to be the Asian Karate Zombie, you know, the one who doesn’t wear a ski cap or sunglasses. And who knows karate. AH HA HAHA HAHA
Doc and Mark, meantime, have sneaked off to hear Cameron Mitchell recite more Poe. When they tire of that. Mark recruits the cavegirls to gather logs for his dream raft and carry them to the beach, and Doc makes good his promise to drop into Sheila’s lab. There, Von Helsing explains to him that the guards run on psychic energy, sent from “the other side” by Frankenstein via the brain in the dome. Oh, and also that he’s 200 years old.
This calls for a totally unrelated shot of the Asian Karate Zombie attacking a JC Penney mannequin’s eye with a hypo.
Back at the lab, we find Doc going more and more to the dark side, doing mad science stuff with Sheila and Von Helsing, like making s cute pink foam rubber toolbox rotate on its corner. Von Helsing is beginning to weaken, and reveals that Frankenstein Monster you remember? We got it chained up underwater, in the grotto.
Funny you should mention that, as Curtis in the cave, fancying he sees a figure underwater in said grotto, while he lets the cavegirls do all the log-lugging. At least until the Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine appears to deliver his traditional sermonette, which freezes the girls in their tracks, until Dino and Dino Girl come to shake them out of it.
Dino Girl? Oh, didn’t I mention that? Dino’s in loooooooove. The movie doesn’t get around to mentioning it until later, but I wanted to mention it now, in case I forget.
Time for a little balancing ritual in the zombie room. The zombies have one of their number chained up, and are shooting electricity through him. They wave the toy pitchfork over his head and he suddenly has plastic vampire teeth! So the Walgreens budget has now skyrocketed to $2.98!
The boys come to the lab and are somewhat surprised to find Doc collaborating with their hosts, especially since he now wants to put off launching the raft for another day while they do their experiment. Huffily, the boys leave, and the subject of the experiment is brought from behind a screen: one of the cavegirls, wearing what must be the most effective gag in the Universe. Sheila mentions that she has one of the purest strains of alien blood, so she’s a prime donor for the ailing Von Helsing. Which they are going to supplement with animal blood. Because it’s science!
Meanwhile, at Cavegirl Central, the women are sad because Leona is missing. Wait, the girls have names? Since when? The women seem very fatalisitic about this sort of thing, even when Dino tells Dino Girl that they take precautions against this sort of thing, like “deep pits… covered in grass!” Being stooped wimmen, the girls only shake their heads. Mark decides they’ll go in and get everybody out under cover of darkness.
As there is something dangerously close to happening, it is time to go back to the lab, where Doc and Sheila have apparently drained Leona and several goats dry. Sheila shows her freak side by wanting to slam more voltage through the old man, but Doc nixes it. There follows thereafter a sequence with a lot of technobabble as they shoot more and more voltage through the old man, that pink toolbox rotates, and a zombie played by TV’s Larry “Bud” Melman looks on in open-mouthed concern.
Von Helsing awakes, feeling chipper and strong, until he finds out he’s been given animal blood, and starts raving at Sheila for not reading the 200 year old notes that reveal they this has been tried before, and it almost killed him. He must have blood! More blood! Bring Jaysen! And tell him no Poe, dammit!
Meantime. The Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine gives the girls the Golden Thread pep talk. Not sure why, it doesn’t seem to be in his best interests.
Jocko is still pouring magic embalming power into the tub every 30 minutes, until he gets so drunk he forgets to laugh and falls asleep.
The intrepid band of balloon jockeys and bikini girls sneaks through the darkness, until they are interrupted by the Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine, informing them the power is nigh and freezing them in their tracks. Until the guys shake some sense into them. Stoopid cavegirls.
In the zombie shantytown, one of the girls pauses to take the cover from the embalming tub, and since Jocko hasn’t been applying the powder regularly, the corpse sits up. Anyway, I suppose this is why it sits up, causing the girl to scream. It’s science. Jocko is drunk, zombies are stupid, it doesn’t really matter.
Mark also noticed that Sheila’s earlier mention of a machine gun was pretty damned odd, and deduces she must have one or two lying around her mansion. After a search, they find one in a closet – tellingly, we don’t get to see it – and Curtis says it looks like something out of the Civil War. Dino Girl is apparently bored by all this technical talk and starts wandering around, stumbling upon the dead body of Leona. She screams, and runs directly into the arms of Ygor.
Once Ygor brings her to the lab, Sheila realizes that she needed a second donor for Von Helsing anyway, since Jaysen is almost dry. As she’s strapped down on the table next to him, Jaysen realizes that she is his daughter, separated from him 17 years ago, and which he has not decided to tell us about until now. O the bathos! O the poor writing!
Luckily there are some canned machine gun sound effects outside the lab door, and our heroes and bikini babes run in, locking the door behind them. There are all sorts of threats and counter-threats and arguments, and Sheila sneaks off to an adjacent room with all the rest of Kenneth Strickfaden’s spark machinery. Turning it all on, she engages in some truly magnificent scenery chewing until the Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine appears, assuring her, “I hear thee. So as I hear, be thee assured my response is forthcoming!” I should add that Sheila is now wearing the white contact lenses last seen in a zombie’s eyes, so she must have been hitting the ol’ skull bong, too.
The Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine’s response takes the form of appearing in the cavern, entoning stuff about power and self-determination and other motivational standards. Planets appear! Hands appear! That gas burner appears again! And the Frankenstein Monster rises from the grotto!
Well, that was too exciting. We should go back to the lab, where people are still talking. Hey, it turns out Doc was brainwashed by Sheila all along. She turns off some machines in the Spark Room, causing Doc to develop all sorts of facial tics and announce he feels like he’s been dreaming.
Meanwhile, in my favorite part of the movie, Jocko wakes up, goes outside to laugh, and gets strangled by the Monster in mid- AH HA HAHA HAHA. This movie needed more moments like this. In fact, I would have watched a 90 minute loop of the Monster strangling Jocko in mid- AH HA HAHA HAHA instead of this. (There’s also the one effective moment in Jonah Hex where Hex kills one of the men who murdered his family, brings him back to life and kills his ass again. Frankenstein Island could have used a bit of that right here)
Back at the lab, Sheila demands they start harvesting blood from the cavegirls. “I didn’t promise anything about that,” says Mark. “You certainly implied it!” snaps Sheila. My notes at this point have a scrawled JESUS CHRIST HOW LONG HAVE THESE TWO BEEN MARRIED? When the Monster knocks down the door and stuff starts happening again.
First of all, the machine gun jams. You might think this is because of poor maintenance, or the inexperience of the operator or the cavegirl feeding the belt (Incidentally, the “Civil War” relic is actually a WWII model). I suspect the truth of the matter is that blanks cost money. In any case, battle is joined.
I have seen worse fight scenes. No, I really have. The choreography is weak and the stunts less than effective, but there’s always something going on here. Probably the weakest part is the Monster himself, who merely stands in the center of the room waving his arms around and going “Rar! Rar!” which is probably Monster for “I’m helping! I’m helping!” Ygor struts up to his old friend to say hi and gets strangled for his trouble. The monster knocks over a couple of tables and breaks a bottle. That’s about all we’re going to get from the Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine’s Final Solution.
The lab, however, is full of people who are doing things. One of the cavegirls, watching Curtis’s weak-ass unextended kung fu kicks, masters it instantly and starts unloading weak-ass unextended kung-fu kicks of her own. The magic plastic pitchfork comes back out and is waved over a cavegirl’s head, making her sprout plastic vampire teeth. No reason why the zombies think this is a good idea is ever given, as another zombie immediately shoots some sort of flash-pot powered gun that disintegrates her.
Sheila suddenly hisses that the brain is about to be destroyed, but Von Helsing tells her that it’s okay, a backup brain was hidden elsewhere long ago. When the brain does indeed go up in a smoky foof, all the zombies, the Monster, Von Helsing, even (I guess) Sheila wind down like toys with dead batteries. A cavegirl who overheard Von Helsing tells the men to run while they can, but none of the girls are willing to go with the men, with that head-slamming fatalism that reeks of story convenience. At least Dino Girl’s refusal to leave her weakened father’s side has some sort of reasoning behind it. The guys leave the lab, promising to return with help…
…aaaaand MAGIC RESCUE! We’re suddenly back in civilization! Or at least the office of The Colonel (Andrew Duggan, a literal TON of TV work), whom the boys are trying to convince to lead a military strike force to the Island, if only to free an American hostage (Jaysen). The Colonel is finally swayed by the logs used in their raft. I’m not going to question that logic, as the end of the movie is too near.
The Colonel leads his crack troup of paramilitary hobbyists (no way those guys are soldiers) onto the island and through the cave, only to discover everything is gone. No buildings, no people, nothing. With the Andrew Duggan version of a hearty “BAH!” he and his mismatched troops march off, seemingly marooning our boys again. This leaves them appropriately dismayed, until Melvin the dog trots up, carrying Dino Girl’s necklace. This is remarkably buoyant of our group’s mood, though I can’t figure out why. It proves nothing, and still leaves the mystery of what the bloody bleeding hell as we mercifully fade to black.
I suppose I should say at this point that this is assuredly Jerry Warren’s best movie. Yes, this is like pointing at a scrawled mass of crayon and proclaiming it your child’s best portrait, but there it is. The construction is haphazard, the delivery pedestrian but generally competent. Robert Christopher as Mark Eden is particularly good, with a nice natural delivery that actually makes it believable that he takes over command when Doc goes to the dark side. I've always felt rather sorry for Cameron Mitchell. He's always quite serious about his work, quite intense. And the library music - like the script, supervised by Warren under a nom de crap - is overblown but appropriate and generally well-chosen.
There. I’ve been nice.
The movie’s flaws are obviously legion, but the worst by far is that there are a lot of great ideas absolutely buried in the script, without pity or eulogy. Alien cavegirls? Bloodless near-indestructible zombies who are apparently aware enough of their own plight to resort to drugs? Doctor Frankenstein, who was driven to conquer death, has discovered infinite power through death? How can a movie with these things be so tedious?
Our little group made our way through this movie spinning out better stories with the existing themes. A major one was that since Dino never seems to have any lines unless Melvin the dog is present,so the dog must be a skilled ventriliquist. Another was that the ramblings of the Disembodied Floating Head of John Carradine were actually recordings played over and over again by a malfunctioning surveillance system, and the cavegirls had mistakenly built a religion around them.
That one probably doesn’t stray too far from the truth, as the Carradine scenes were quite obviously filmed much earlier, possibly in his garage, long before the rest of the movie script was finalized. I began to wonder how much 15 minutes of Carradine’s time cost. And make no mistake, Warren uses every single freaking frame of Carradine he shot. There’s one segment when the actor is obviously waiting for Warren to say “Cut,” and is, in fact, on the verge of asking him when he’s going to do so.
That’s pretty much a motif for Carradine’s later career, anyway. Wheel the old man in, have him say a soliloquy in that incredible voice, then wheel him out. I think he found out this was a much easier way to make money beginning with The Wizard of Mars, but that’s strictly guesswork on my part.
If I had the wherewithal to slap my head in frustration anymore, Frankenstein Island would have given me a brain concussion. There is a lot of story potential wasted, especially with the cavegirls, whose characterizations are still stuck back in the 50s, with Warren’s early movies. They seem to live a life straight out of Men’s Life magazine, lazing about, smoking dope, dancing and tying each other up. One would expect a bit more pluck from a band of women living off the land and exerting power over spiders and snakes, but no, they need some menfolk to come in and explain how to defend their village and even to how to rescue their friends.
Like the archetypal thin man inside a fat man, there is an entertaining movie struggling to get out of Frankenstein Island. It just had the grave misfortune to be made by Jerry Warren. Then, I have to admit that I would not have written nearly 5500 words on a less flawed movie, so...
AAAAAH HA HAHA HAHA! on me, I guess.
Oh, and in case you don't believe me about any of this:
"Jerry Warren's best movie" is still not much of a recommendation.
- December 22, 2010