Dark Sky Films // 1965 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // April 24th, 2006
Warning! Beware their stare!
The first thing you have to know about Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is that there's no actual Frankenstein's monster in the film. Instead of an honest-to-goodness, green-skinned, bolt-necked, corpse jigsaw puzzle, all we get is a malfunctioning robot who -- according to one line of dialogue at least -- is "like a Frankenstein." However, if you can forgive this one small cheat, you'll find that Dark Sky has got their grubby hooks on an absolute B-film masterpiece. Like Dark Sky's The Horror of Party Beach disc released earlier this year, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is a teenage schlock 'n' roll monster show par excellence. It is a mind-blowing montage of stock footage, dime store effects, and extreme sci-fi goofiness that has -- until now -- been almost forgotten in the overflowing sewers of B-filmdom.
Mars needs, uh...girls! A space-gun brandishing crew of Nosferatu-like aliens, under the command of Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell, Pee Wee's Big Adventure) and his icy ruler Princess Marcuzan (Marilyn Hanold, In Like Flint), are on their way to Earth. They want to kidnap a bevy of bikini-clad beauties and repopulate their dying planet. As they enter our atmosphere, however, they detect an object heading straight at them. It's a NASA spacecraft piloted by Frank (Robert Reilly, Lilith), an experimental robot making his first trip to the cosmos. Mistaking the rocket ship for a missile, Dr. Nadir shoots down the misidentified flying object. It crashes in the Puerto Rican desert, seriously scrambling Frank's delicate circuits and melting half of his face into a transistorized soup. By the time NASA scientist Dr. Adam Steele (James Karen, Congo) and his assistant Karen Grant (Nancy Marshall, Asylum of Satan) arrive down South to survey the damage, the Martians have landed nearby. They've set their sinister plan in motion, raiding pool-front go-go parties for Earthen breeding stock. Dr. Steele manages to locate and repair Frank (though not before he slaughters a few local residents) and reprograms him to rescue the girls. Only when Frank gets aboard the Martian ship, the deformed robot discovers he must face Dr. Nadir's secret weapon: a yak hair-covered comic beast named Mull!
Originally planned as a sci-fi farce by a trio of East Coast writers (including the Poet Laureate of Virginia, George Garrett), this bargain basement, $25,000 exercise in vulgarity is one of the quirkiest motion pictures ever to be projected onto a drive-in screen. This riotously crazy slice of filmmaking seems tailor made for the bad movie set. Almost everything about Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is dumbfounding, from converted hair-dryer "space guns" and ludicrous bald caps to the cheapo Puerto Rico location and Dr. Nadir's silly science-speak ("And now, maximum energy!"). Cutting even more corners, the two rock 'n' roll songs on the soundtrack are repeated several times over. A surprisingly large portion of the film is made up of badly scratched NASA and army stock footage, perhaps the most recycled celluloid seen since Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda?. When Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster isn't preoccupied with ogling the swimsuited babes for cheap thrills, it's prone to nonsensical plot detours. One such is a hilarious "purification ritual" inside the Martian vessel (which naturally appears roughly triple the size of its exterior), involving the girls being covered with dry-cleaning bags and placed on a conveyer belt for some nefarious, never-disclosed purpose.
I could go on cataloguing this film's crimes against logic, taste, and cinematic technique, but all you really need to know is that Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is a series of non-stop laughs and gaffes that somehow gels into a highly enjoyable flick. I don't know exactly how one-time director Robert Gaffney managed to pull the film off, but it's unquestionably a B-movie joy to watch, even as it threatens to buckle and fall apart at the seams. The stock footage works (for once), seeming less like filler than an integral part of the story. It's cut together with The Distant Cousins' "To Have and to Hold" and The Poets' "That's the Way It's Got to Be," two fairly decent '60s garage songs that magically distract from the incredible display of cheapness on hand. The bargain bin costumes and $1.49 special effects are totally appropriate and even charming in a threadbare sort of way. Cutell's extra-hammy performance as the effeminate Dr. Nadir is a surefire cure for any encroaching monotony. Though we don't get to see much of the space monster until the titular meeting, the film caps off its inspired lunacy with the best knock-down, drag out fight anyone could hope for under the circumstances -- even if the hairy monstrosity ranks among the silliest creatures ever seen on screen.
I'm even willing to overlook the print used for Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster that has seen better days. Though the 1.85.1 anamorphic transfer here is no doubt an improvement over previous VHS releases, there still are some source artifacts dancing across the screen in some scenes. These are especially noticeable in the well-worn stock footage. Still, clarity is good, and contrast seems spot on. Likewise, the 2.0 Mono soundtrack is solid, if predictably lacking in fidelity. Whadaya want? This ain't Citizen Kane, you know. As far as special features for the film, all we get are a trailer and a still gallery, but the included 14-page booklet tells the whole story of how this warped oddity came to be.
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster absolutely delivers on its sleazy B-movie promise (well, all except for the Frankenstein part, I guess), and it is truly one of the best bad movies I've ever seen. It is an unselfconscious pantheon to the pathetic that easily ranks alongside trash classics like Plan 9 From Outer Space, Robot Monster and The Horror of Party Beach. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is highly recommended for schlock connoisseurs, cult cinema masochists, Puerto Rican yak creatures, and children under 12.
And now, maximum innocence!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Still Gallery