Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster DVD Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
Released by Dark Sky Films
Directed by Robert Gaffney
Written by R.H.W. Dillard, George Garrett and John Rodenbeck
1965, Region 1 (NTSC), 79 Minutes, Not rated
Marilyn Harold as Princess Marcuzan
Lou Cutell as Doctor Nadir
Jim Karen as Adam Steele
Nancy Marshall as Karen Grant
Robert Reilly as Colonel Frank Saunders/Frankenstein
An alien space ship is on its way to earth; its inhabitants have come to kidnap our women to use as breeding stock. Intergalactic war has ravaged the alien race, leaving its women infertile and its homeland rife with radiation sickness. Heading up the crew are Princess Marcuzan – decked out in a cat suit and a silly hat, and Dr Nadir – a slap-head with pointy ears. Other pointy-eared slap-heads make up the rest of the shipmates. In the back of the ship, in a cage, is Mull! The space monster! Unexplained and uncontrollable!
Meanwhile, a NASA shuttle is on its way to Mars, crewed only by Colonel Frank Saunders, android. Shot down by the alien craft, Frank Saunders suffers a severe face-mashing, turning him into “Frankenstein”, the mutilated killing machine - on the rampage through Puerto Rico and destroying almost indiscriminately!
Adam Steele, Frank’s creator, and his lovely assistant Karen Grant, must find Frank before he does any more damage. Then they must discover where all the Puerto Rican babes are disappearing to, before it’s too late!
It’s often said that horror movies reflect the fears of their time, and there’s an argument that this is true for Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. The aliens have destroyed their world in a nuclear war — their leader the Princess Marcuzan is quick to point out that their race has won the war but that this is a pyrrhic victory — in winning the war they’ve lost the ability to carry on independently as a race; they’ve left their homeland and their people barren. The decision to send an android to explore Mars for new life forms could indicate a concern over the dawn of space travel and the possibility of life on other planets. Paranoia concerning an over-reliance on technology (perhaps an early example of the fears embodied by Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey and by Ash in Ridley Scott’s Alien) is also evident in Frank’s transformation — the scientist can no longer control his creation. The cold indifference of the girls kidnapped by the aliens, and Princess Marcuzan’s dubious leadership (and likely infertility) could even prompt a misogynistic reading of the film questioning the consequences of the increased emancipation of women.
However, while I’m sure to an extent these polemics were intended, we mustn’t forget that this is Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Frankenstein meets The Space Monster. Anyone who chooses to watch a film called Frankenstein meets the Space Monster knows what they’re getting and is likely to be an established fan of B-movies. For this reason it seems irrelevant to discuss it as an allegory, and similarly obsolete to criticise FMTSM for not being scary and for having somewhat unconvincing monsters. [On the plus side I’ve actually seen worse B-movie monsters than both Frank and the Space Monster — they both at least have control of their own limbs and the appearance of “action eyes” and that’s not always a given with this sort of film].
The only way I can find to approach this film is to try to look at it in terms of what’s intended.
The scenes on the spaceship are the most enjoyable and fun — Princess Marcuzan and Dr Nadir are far and away the best things about this film. Nadir is camp as hell and I can’t help wondering if he had some influence on Mike Myers’ ‘Dr Evil’. He’s almost as beady as Peter Lorre and he’s constantly sporting an expression that implies he’s done something a bit naughty that you don’t yet know about. Nadir and Marcuzan regularly appear sat behind a desk facing the camera. A talk show is in order!
However, FMTSM is full of slightly annoying stock footage that doesn’t match up (the aeroplane you see taking off isn’t the same one you see landing), the make up effects are patchy (you can quite plainly see the seam between the bald caps the aliens wear and their skin) and the whole thing is full of plot holes. Listing them feels like a futile task but I do want to just question the logic of sending a robot on a space mission to Mars who “might react violently if he has any bad experiences”.
The scenes between Adam Steele and his assistant riding on a moped around the town to a cheesy 60s sound track (by “The Distant Cousins” — I find this name completely hilarious) are the least fun parts of FMTSM and go on forever. From the DVD insert, I understand these shots were added in for the benefit of the Puerto Rican tourist board, which let the crew film on location for free. This raises the question: up to what point is it acceptable to forgive a film its flaws simply because of budgetary constraints? And it’s a tough one. You can’t expect this movie to look like Independence Day, but you probably can expect the make up artist to use a little more concealer to blend the line between “costume” and “swimming cap”. It might be a necessary evil to add in some nice shots of Puerto Rico to make the tourist board happy, but did they have to take so long, and be right in the middle of the action?
It’s a B-movie, and so I have to applaud it for having a Space Monster that isn’t as bad as it could have been. Dr Nadir and Princess Marcuzan are ridiculous but ultimately entertaining and very watchable. All the main cast did a sterling job, in fact, and hats off to Robert Reilly, as Frank, for his malfunction during the press conference, which was the only moment in the film that was actually a little bit uncomfortable and not quite what I was expecting.
I’ll let the awful sound track go and I’ll be understanding about the cringe-making party scene. I can also ignore the fact that the female extras on the spaceship looked frankly indifferent to the whole idea of being kidnapped for use as breeding stock. I’ll even forgive FMTSM for being full of plot holes, because I’m sure no one chooses to watch this sort of film for its intriguing narrative.
However I’m not going to forgive FMTSM for being quite boring. Budgetary constraints or otherwise, this is a fairly short film and certain scenes and the ending are so abrupt as to be a little bit confusing, while other scenes are dragged out unnecessarily — it’s fairly predictable and it’s badly paced so overall there just isn’t all that much entertainment to be had.
If you’re crazy for the “B”, then I guess this is worth a look — you could always skip the boring bits and just watch the Princess and Dr Nadir.
Video and Audio:
Dark Sky has done a good clean-up job, as far as I can tell from my inferior equipment. There were the old bits of flicker on the screen but it doesn’t look at all grainy — the picture is clear and the contrast good.
The audio track is great – every “and now maximum energy!” to even the faintest “grrr! Arrggh!” was perfectly clear.
Not many — theatrical trailer and a photo gallery of stills from the film.
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