Another feature of...
Our basic focus at Jabootu is the examination of humorously poor filmmaking. As luck would have it, there’s a modest audience for such material. You, for example. Of course, we are not the only venue catering to this appetite. Nor are we the first to serve it. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane.
Over the years a smattering of books have addressed the subject. As an organized field of endeavor, Bad Movie Scholarship (BMS) can be traced back to the works of Harry and Michael Medved, primarily their 50 Worst Films of All Time and The Golden Turkey Awards. It was the latter book that put our most beloved icons, filmmaker Ed Wood, Jr., and his seminal Plan 9 from Outer Space, on the map. Following in their footsteps have been such books as Bad Movies We Love (a collection of columns from Movieline magazine) and The Worst Movies Ever Made, currently available in an undated edition.
Yet it was on television that the earliest manifestations of BMS were observed. They began in the 1950s with Los Angeles’ Vampira, herself providentially a cast member in Plan 9 (and one of James Dean’s lovers). She and subsequent ‘Horror Hosts’ would amuse audiences with gibes directed at the films they offered the viewer. Such hosts provided an inexpensive mechanism through which underfunded TV stations could transform a generic movie slot into a ‘show.’ As an added bonus, such a format actually made an advantage of the low quality cinematic fare that such outlets could afford.
Most large cities boasted such a show at some point or another. The Ghoul, Zacherly, Svengoolie and John Stanley were only some of the most prominent of the breed. Elvira, although aided more by cleavage, perhaps, than wit, probably became the best known of their number. A period of fad celebrity resulted in her starring in a film based on her character. She also was involved in a series of movies released on video, wherein she ‘presented’ cheesy horror and sci-fi films.
Nor is the Horror Host a thing of the past. Throughout most of the ‘80s, Rich Koz’ Son of Svengoolie (following Jerry G. Bishop’s Svengoolie character of the 1970s) thrived on Chicago’s WFLD TV. He was unceremoniously put to pasture, however, when WFLD became a charter affiliate of the Fox Network. Roughly four years ago, though, the character was acquired by Chicago’s teeny-tiny WCIU. With Bishop’s permission, Koz dropped the ‘Son of’ and finally became just Svengoolie. Happily, his show is exactly the same, and just as funny, as it was twenty years ago.
The most recognizable and popular occurrence of BMS was the recently canceled and much mourned Mystery Science Theater 3000. Created by Joel Hodgeson as a local TV show, it was basically a Horror Host show writ large. Even so, no one can deny that the concept had never been taken to such heights before. As well, the show’s small but fervid audience, made up largely of college students, has lent BMS studies a respectability and popularity heretofore unknown.
Still, it should be noted that Loraine Newman, late of Saturday Night Live, hosted a similar syndicated show in the 1980s. This was set in a revival theater that could only afford to show Bad Movies. Failing to attract customers with this fare, the lonely staff would watch and mock the films as they screened them. The problem here, much more so than on MST3K, was that the movies were radically edited to fit into the show’s hour long time slot. Even with a flick like Robot Monster, it seemed somewhat unfair to slice a movie in half and then have sport at its incoherence.
Finally, the superior and drolly humorous British documentary series The Incredibly Strange Film Show, sadly unavailable on video or DVD, marked perhaps Television’s first in-depth examination of the field. While spotlighting the more general topic of Cult Movies, such familiar figures as Ed Wood, Ted V. Mikels and the Mexican Masked wrestler Santo received their fair share of coverage.
More recently, we have witnessed a flourishing of websites on the topic. With many created and maintained by people of obvious wit, dedication and intelligence, they ensure that BMS continues to draw a surprising degree of attention. Although there are marked similarities to these sites, most maintain some defining characteristic. We instance, we define our niche here as the uniquely detailed examination of films lurking at the Westernmost tip of the Cinematic Bell Curve.
Aside from the films themselves, moreover, we hope to bring to public attention those who most regularly and rigorously tilled the soil in the Cinematic Fields of Jabootu. Director/writer/actor Ed Wood, the field’s truest auteur, has justly acquired a startling amount of recognition. Wood fully earned his place in the canon, and I would be the last to attempt to dislodge him. However, even a cursory examination of Jabootuish films reveals that myriad others have been touched by his malign presence.
Perhaps our proudest achievement in this regard has been to bring proper acclaim to director John Frankenheimer. He is justly hailed by mainstream film buffs for a handful of truly superior thrillers (Seven Days in May, Seconds, Ronin) as well as one certifiable masterpiece, The Manchurian Candidate. Shockingly ignored, however, has been his extraordinary ability to consistently flit from one extreme end of the Cinematic Bell Curve to the other.
Yet the most fertile of Jabootuians have been, like Wood himself, the director-hyphenates. Of course, numerous actors and even producers, such as the stalwart Dino De Laurentiis, have also made their mark over the years. In the first class, however, we have met here such yeomen as Al Adamson, Greydon Clark and Ted V. Mikels. Unbound by the conventional rules of filmmaking, these mavens have churned out one world-class cinematic turkey after another.
Despite our efforts, however, there remain many others waiting to be examined. Certainly the shocking absence at our site of director Larry Buchanan is crying out to be rectified. And what of the oeuvre of William ‘One Shot’ Beaudine? Roger Corman? Bert I. Gordon? Otto Preminger? All in good time, my friends, all in good time. As well, there are many other worthy candidates. Let’s get to one of them now.
Jerry Warren produced and (sort of) directed an uncompromisingly inept slate of sci-fi films starting in the 1950s. Warren would most often procure a foreign film, one from Mexico or Brazil or Sweden. He would remove from these what he wanted and build another (sort of) film out of the parts, pasted together with, well, ‘original’ footage might be a tad kind. Actually, now that I think of it, Warren should therefore have had a better grasp of Frankenstein than Frankenstein Island indicates. After all, both assembled monstrous creations from the dead parts of others.
Titles in the Warren oeuvre include the stultifying Incredible Petrified World, the Yeti drama Man Beast, the seemingly inevitable Teenage Zombies, a number of dubbed Mexican features, and the somewhat better known Wild, Wild World of Batwoman. After that film, released in 1966, Warren apparently decided to retire. Instead, it seems, he was marshalling his energies. Thus, nearly twenty years later, he emerged to create his masterwork, Frankenstein Island.
For his comeback picture, Warren assembled a fairly impressive roster of well known B-movie and character actors. From his old stable of regulars Warren brought back the ubiquitous John Carradine. Kathrin (a.k.a. Katherine) Victor, a Warren ‘discovery,’ starred in a number of his films. She also worked for director Phil "Robot Monster" Tucker. Steve Brodie during his career appeared in a full range of films, from authentic classics to other Warren vehicles. His last role, lamentably, was in the laughable Giant Spider Invasion.
Nor were Brodie and Carradine the only once-prominent actors to appear here. Perhaps inevitably, Jabootu mainstay Cameron Mitchell is on hand. Co-star Robert Clarke, meanwhile, starred in numerous cheeseball ‘50s sci-fi flicks (The Hideous Sun Demon, The Man from Planet X, The Astounding She-Monster). Clarke was also a Warren veteran, having appeared in The Incredible Petrified World. Finally, familiar character actor Andrew Duggan makes an appearance. All in all, an impressive cast, of sorts. (Oddly, cast member ‘Tain Bodkin’ seems not to have acted in many other motion pictures, although one suspects appearances at many a Renaissance Festival.)
We open on a shot of a hot-air balloon lounging about in the sky. This calls to mind Roger Ebert’s ‘Balloon Rule,’ which stipulates that there’s never been a good movie that featured a hot-air balloon. I disagree; such a conveyance plays a pivotal role in the Ray Harryhausen classic Mysterious Island. However, their appearance here fails to undermine Ebert’s dictum. To say the least.
Over the balloon appears a message - in a nearly illegible typeface - informing us of a "Confirmed SOS – Four Man Balloon Crash – Survivors in Ocean Near Small Island…" Morse code style bleeps are heard, signifying that this is a radio alert. Or something. Meanwhile, we cut to various other shots of balloons. Dialog is looped in, purportedly recording a conversation between two of the conveyances.
The dialog concerns their search for the missing balloonists, and notes that further assistance is on the way. This last bit, apparently, is meant to explain why the ongoing stock footage features so many different balloons. Also discussed is the wind, which is described as blowing at a considerable velocity (although the balloons themselves stay mostly stationary). ‘Wind’ noises are Foleyed in to confirm this observation. "Will you guys stop your complaining?" one overheard balloonist demands. "This wind’s small potatoes compared to what got under Doc and those guys trying to cross the ocean. The last radio contact, sounded like they hit a tornado!"
At this point, over continuing stock shots of balloons and the ocean, we are served up a generous serving of one of Jerry Warren’s House Specialties: Inane and Incomprehensible Dialog (Note: Dialog will sounds much stupider if read aloud):
Balloonist #2, incredulously: "Did you ever
hear of a tornado at sea?"
This startling intro concluded, a blare of trumpets regally heralds the title card "Jerry Warren Presents." Say what you will, at least he’s not trying to duck responsibility. We then cut to a rather bare bones laboratory set. The music segues into an inappropriately grand and ominous theme, as the film’s title appears over a generated arc of electricity. Then it’s back to stock balloon shots as the cast listings appear. Perhaps the balloons represent their careers floating away.
Carradine, by the by, gets a special "and JOHN CARRADINE as Dr. Frankenstein" card. That Warren apparently believed Carradine’s name to still be a ‘draw’ in 1982 indicates that he was perhaps a wee bit out of touch with contemporary film trends. Or perhaps I do him ill service. It could be that he recognized that Jabootu enthusiasts would constitute the core audience for this film. If so, he was undoubtedly correct that a card touting the elderly Carradine’s appearance as Dr. Frankenstein would stir vast excitement in this elite segment of the population.
Oh, and let’s not forget the credit promising an appearance by ‘Melvin.’
Cut to a beach. Seagull noises are helpfully looped onto the soundtrack, just in case the sand and water didn’t clue us in. On the beach are the aforementioned Doc and his crew. They are carrying an inflatable raft, and accompanied by a medium-sized white dog. As you may have surmised, said pooch is the acclaimed Melvin. Here, he daringly assays the role of a medium-sized white dog named ‘Melvin.’
Two of the survivors, Curtis and Dino (!), begin to frolic on the beach. See, they’re just happy to be alive. In any case, they can probably use the exercise. They race each other for maybe ten yards before coming to a gasping halt. Meanwhile, we can’t help but recoil at Dino’s combo of bright V-collar yellow sweater (over a bare chest, no less), bell bottom jeans, tied-off bandana scarf and large, curly white-guy’s afro. Meanwhile, his companion Curtis oddly decides, and at some length, to do a weird pseudo-evangelical preacher speech. Apparently, this is meant to be an amusing ‘character’ bit. Instead, it makes Curtis the audience’s immediate nominee for the position of First Victim.
As Curtis continues this purportedly hilarious routine, comedic Waa-Waa-Waa-Waah music informs us that something even zanier is about to occur. Sure enough, as Curtis declaims fellow party member Mark to be a sinner, Dino stoops over behind him. A light shove and Curtis is knocked over, accompanied by further jocular Waa-Waaing. We then cut to Melvin, seen peeing on the beach. Whether this is further comedy or instead an astute critical assessment of these antics is left to our imaginations.
Dino, however, has failed to properly execute the elaborate ‘kneeling over’ maneuver. As a result, he has hurt his wrist. He runs to Doc, who perfunctorily examines him before proclaiming it OK. He notes that "If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to…" before forgetting the rest of his line. "Don’t use it for a while," he advises, "but try to keep it working."
The gang walks off to examine the cliffs that isolate the beach from the main area of the island. In doing so, they leave their life raft behind. Given that this represents pretty much the sum total of their available resources, I’d have probably deflated it and brought it with. Meanwhile, a stock shot of an iguana is cut in. This alerts us that, uh, there was a stock shot of an iguana available. They find a cave and begin to explore it. Eerie music plays as they look around while sporting bewildered expressions. Perhaps they’re wondering where all the spot lighting is coming from. They continue to walk deeper and deeper into the cavern. This, presumably, under the well known theory that when stranded on an remote island, you should immediately get lost in the bowels of a cave. Meanwhile, a stock shot of a snake is cut in. This alerts us that, well, you know.
They continue to explore. We cut to a blue box with buttons and dials, hidden in the rocks. A light on the bottom flashes on and off. I’m no scientist, but I believe that it’s a doohickey of some kind. Meanwhile, above our protagonists, a projected image of John Carradine momentarily appears. Yes, that’s right. It’s the Wizard of Mars, all over again.
Luckily (for them, if not for us), rather than getting lost and starving to death, they find an exit into the interior of the island. The bombastic music continues as they scan an ominous bunch of scrub brush. Brrr. Scrub brush. As they approach some trees while talking, Curtis suddenly grabs his wrist and screams. (Man, whoever wrote this picture had some real issues with wrists.) This is accompanied by weird electronic wree-wree sounds.
Suddenly, the music cuts off and he’s fine again. Then Mark notices a woman dressed in your basic Jungle Woman leather skin bikini. She’s horizontally strung between two trees, suspended by ropes tied to her hands and feet. It looks like someone’s finally trying to achieve Mankind’s ancient dream of a Human Hammock. Nearby is a skull on a stick. This might be scarier if the skull weren’t so patently made out of rubber. Perhaps a rubber Tabanga is buried nearby.
Dino’s attention is quickly drawn from this rather ho-hum sight by the reappearance of Melvin. He runs over to pet the dog, managing somehow not to injure his wrist. At this point more scantily clad Jungle Women appear. (Well, what did you expect from a film called Frankenstein Island?) Typical of their kind, they’re all in their early twenties and suspiciously hot. They sport freshly shampooed and styled hair, white teeth and copious make-up. Oh, and of course they speak English. In a concession to reality, however, they speak it in a halting fashion. Except when they don’t.
Following the standard operating procedure for Tribes of Lost Women, the JWs immediately start fawning over our little group. Again according to tradition, their tribe lacks menfolk. One fetching lass runs her hand over Curtis’s chest. "You’re pretty!" she coos. Unsurprisingly, the men are ordered to follow them back to their village.
Cut to a night-time shot of some JWs in the village, lighting torches. Two of them attend to an animal roasting on a small spit. Their body language indicates that they’ve never dealt with such a situation before. That their actions consist of one woman daintily poking the meat with a stick while the other gently pokes the fire with a stick adds to this impression. Meanwhile, the shirtless Doc and Curtis are getting scrubbed down with leopard skins (?) by some typically foxy JWs.
Dino enters the frame, searching for Melvin. In the background, four JWs bearing torches walk around in a circle, apparently lacking anything better to do. Dino pauses in amazement to stare at a kneeling JW executing faux Tai Chi moves in front of a mirror. When Mark comes by, Dino points this out. "That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen," he exclaims. Dino presumably doesn’t get out much. Or perhaps he’s referring to the fact that when they cut back to what he’s looking at, it’s a completely different woman, one not in front of a mirror, who’s handling a garden snake. Because of the incompetent way this is edited, we can’t tell if this is supposed to be another woman off somewhere else, or if it’s supposed to be the same woman and constitutes a continuity error. Assuming that it’s the former (or, in fact, the latter), I still have to wonder whether this would represent the "weirdest thing" he’s ever seen. For instance, one might argue that the bikinied woman strung between trees and surrounded by rubber skulls on sticks was a bit more odd than a snake handler.
The men sit together to eat dinner. A JW brings them coconut shell cups and a ceramic jug, items which don’t necessarily seem to go together. Next comes a perfectly round and finished wooden platter bearing a variety of foodstuffs. Dinner is accompanied by music provided by a JW beating on a drum. This instrument consists of a leopard skin tied over a hallow base. The skin is quite obviously not drawn tightly enough to generate sound. Besides, the fur would muffle it anyway. However, they helpfully dub in drum noises to help us suspend disbelief. Even if the beats don’t match the woman’s hitting of the drum.
Actually, we now see, there are two drums. Meanwhile, some other JWs, uh, dance, to their accompaniment. Two stand in the back, bearing torches. They dance by swaying while lifting their free arms up and down. Up front, two other women kneel on all fours and toss their heads back and forth. Between them, a standing fifth woman shimmies up and down, waves her arms and tosses her head back and forth. (If this film is taking place in the same universe where the Girl in Gold Boots was heralded as a great dancer, it explains a lot.) The guys look on, mesmerized by this, ah, erotic display. Oh, and we occasionally cut to the aforementioned snake moving on the ground. Symbolism or pointless stupidity? You decide.
The next morning, Curtis accompanies two JWs to release the tied-up one. Oddly, despite the fact that she’s presumably been suspended from her limbs for at least a day, she’s immediately able to move them about and even support her weight on them. These women apparently have, to say the least, better than average muscular and circulatory systems. The two JWs hug the released female. Curtis thus divines that her punishment is now completed. "Not punishment," he is told, "initiation." Curtis digs. "I was initiated one time into the Greyhound Lodge during one of the worst tornadoes in Kansas City…" Suddenly, the wree-wree noises resume and Curtis again grabs his wrist. (Wrists and tornadoes appear to be the big themes of this picture.) Meanwhile, the JWs casually walk off, thankful, no doubt, for not having to listen to his boring anecdote.
Doc and Mark run up, having been conveniently waiting just offscreen. "Try to work your hand," Doc commands (while not using it, no doubt), as another JW nonchalantly walks past. Curtis recovers and they split. Right on their heels, though, Dino and another couple of JWs walk through the shot. I guess that this area is the island’s version of a thoroughfare. Apparently the skulls-on-sticks posted here mean ‘hey, come on by!’ rather than the more typical ‘stay away.’
Dino and the girls continue to meander around, eating up running time. At one point, the camera highlights a skull sitting on a rock. This sight is emphasized with an ominous blare of music. Considering the plethora of defleshed craniums laying around, though, I’m not sure why the appearance of this one in particular is so dire. In fact, a pan reveals a number of skulls sitting nearby. (How, one wonders, do they keep the jaw-bones attached?) Dino stops to ask about this, but is brusquely told "we’re falling behind." They continue on.
Meanwhile, Doc, Mark and Curtis are separately following some JWs. To an ominous blare of music (actually, said blares are becoming increasingly less ominous the more they’re used), one JW points to a stone pit. Another JW is waving her hands over the pit, and when the men peer inside, they see that it contains stock footage of two tarantulas. They’re not really doing anything, but still…stock footage of tarantulas! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Back to Dino and his escorts. As they walk along, one gets grabbed by a chunky figure in a black sweater. This JW, by the way, is the only one who really becomes a character in her own right, later becoming Dino’s (*yawn*) love interest. To help us tell her apart from the other JWs, she comes equipped with a fair sized metal medallion she wears on a cord around her neck. It’s something of a comment on the film’s general quality that this woman, who becomes fairly important to the plot, is never given a name. So I’ll call her Lal. That seems like a good Jungle Woman kind of name.
So Lal screams, and Dino and the other woman run to her assistance. As do Doc and his party. The tarantulas, meanwhile, not really being in the same film, stay put. Coming together, the group chases the mysterious figure running off with Lal. Luckily for him, his captive screams a lot but doesn’t really put up any sort of struggle. She doesn’t even rain those little ‘stop carrying me’ blows on his chest. To be fair, though, she does occasionally kick her legs. Eventually, the fellow trips, or gets tired, or something. He falls to the ground and drops the girl before (literally) crawling off into the brush.
The others arrive. "I’ll fix that clown!" Dino avers, but is told to let him go. The men learn that this is merely the latest attempt by ‘Zyron’ (didn’t he battle the Herculoids?) to grab one of the women. "He tries this often, but he’s programmed to weaken," a JW helpfully explains. Zyron, we’re told, is "Part of a ship’s crew. Normal, until they experimented on ‘em!" Unsurprisingly, this gobbledygook is greeted with raucous laughter. However, it emanates not from the audience but from Jocko, an approaching salty sea dog-type. Jocko is stylishly attired in seedy clothes and adorned with a shapeless black felt hat and (oh, brother!) an eyepatch. It should be noted, however, that he sports neither a hook or a parrot sitting on his shoulder. That would be silly. Jocko is accompanied by Angus, an elderly gent with a thick gray beard.
One JW (who exhibits less than compelling thespian ability) stiltedly complains about this latest attack. Jocko replies that they should just be glad for the mirrors they gave them. (See? You might have wondered about why the JWs’ primitive village sported a mirror. Now you know. Yep, this is one airtight script.) The women stalk off, leaving Jocko to continue laughing in the broad manner of Petey the Pirate from your basic kids’ cable TV show.
Cut to a quiet moment. (Note to budding auteurs: Such moments establish a contrast that will heighten the terrors yet to come.) Two JWs are sucking marijuana or something out of one of their all-purpose skulls-with-jawbones-still-attached. I’ve heard of getting ‘stoned out of your skull,’ but this is ridiculous. Lal, meanwhile, sits with Dino and pets Melvin. Apparently, this is the village’s down time, as we soon spot others similarly taking hits. How, one wonders, is this break announced? "The smoking-skull is lit"?
Mark, standing nearby with Doc and Curtis, is nervous. "I suggest we get on our horses and get out of here right now!" he offers. We haven’t seen any horses, so I guess that this is supposed to be a turn of speech. Doc also is wary. "Well, there’s no question that they’re deep into witchcraft," he asserts. (At least witchcraft of the homemade skull-bongs and arm-waving-over-tarantula-stock-footage variety.) "So that might throw your travel plans into reverse!" he concludes. Uh, yeah, what he said.
Curtis, presumably hoping for some JW nooky, argues against this course of action. (My question is, where exactly would they go?) He’s sure that the women enjoy their company and mean them no harm. "They don’t seem to care in the least about the phenomena with your arm," Doc answers. Curtis, meanwhile, thinks he has the answer to that.
Curtis: "It’s when you mix the particular
place, not here, but on the outside, well, that’s when the power hits ya!"
Despite this well reasoned discourse, Mark remains unconvinced. Boy, there’s one in every crowd, isn’t there? Curtis tells them to follow and they walk over by Dino. Curtis asks Lal if Dino’s ever mentioned his football days. Excited, Dino stands and begins to brag about a game against Miami, when the wree-wree noises kick in and he painfully grabs his wrist.
This apparently somehow proves Curtis’ theory, whatever it is. "So watch what you say!" Curtis advises Mark. However, Curtis doesn’t know what you can and can’t talk about. (So how did he know that Dino’s football tale would trigger whatever this is?) Meanwhile, no one thinks to comment on his use of their pal Dino as a lab rat in his little experiment. (For those who care, each attack has been brought on when someone names a place...Kansas City, Miami, etc. Apparently, geography isn’t a very popular subject on the island.)
Boisterous peals of laughter announce the reappearance of Jocko and Angus. They invite the guys to come back with them. Back where? "Where the valleys rise to the sun!" Well, that answers that question. Having nothing better to do, Our Heroes agree to join them. They head off into the woods, with Jocko continuing to burst into annoying and unmotivated gales of laughter. I think I’ve changed my mind on who I want to die first.
As they walk around awhile to eat up some more running time, we occasionally cut away to something else. For instance, we see Zyron lurking nearby. We also spot another of those blue box gizmos (probably the same one, actually), like the one we’d seen in the cave earlier. Doc soon spots a house, but is told to remain in formation. They end up at a beaten-up old hut. These are the quarters for Jocko and his mates. Still laughing his ass off like some Bad Movie Santa Claus (somebody, kill this guy!), he goes off to see if he can wrangle them an invitation to the main house. Flummoxed, a sensation I more than share at this point, Doc and crew sit back and wait.
Cut to a nighttime (?) stock shot of the ocean. This is meant, I guess, to establish that it’s now, you know, nighttime. Doc and the boys are still waiting by the hut. Apparently, ‘initiative’ isn’t one of their bywords. Zyron comes by with some food, which apparently looks unappetizing. Given the poor lighting, we pretty much have to take their word for it. Bored, the guys decide to follow Zyron and see where he’s going.
They enter another hut, whereupon they find Cameron Mitchell locked in a cell. My first thought was that the Movie Police had finally caught up with him. We quickly learn, though, that it’s Mitchell’s character, Clay Jason, that’s locked up. We know that Jason’s a sailor because even though he’s supposedly been in this cell for nearly two decades, he’s still wearing his peacoat. Meanwhile, we momentarily cut to a rubber skull with a knife sticking from one socket. This has nothing to do with anything. Still, spooky, huh?
Doc begins to explain who they are and where they’re from. Jason hurriedly interrupts and cautions them not to mention any place names, confirming my earlier note. Curtis replies that they know about this, although earlier he said he didn’t know what triggered the attacks. Maybe he figured it out in the meantime, but if so, he might have wanted to tell the others.
Jason as portrayed by Mitchell is a man who’s been in captivity so long that his mind no longer functions well. Either that, or else the actor couldn’t face another lame role in another awful flick and got drunk before shooting his scenes. Asked how long he’s been there, Jason babbles and consults a board with some random lines carved into it. From this he somehow calculates that he’s been imprisoned for seventeen years. This is one of Mitchell’s big ‘acting’ moments, by the way, as he, uh, dramatically relates the shipwreck that landed him on the island.
Adding insult to injury, Jason starts speaking of his wife Lenore (!). Yeah, I’m sure that Poe appreciates the homage, guys. As if that’s not nauseating enough, they’re apparently concerned that we won’t get their ‘clever’ allusion. So they have Jason continue that "Mr. Poe…Mr. Edgar Allen Poe… had me in mind!" I don’t think so. If so, he’d have undoubtedly written, "I took the script and I did read it / Lameness, there, and nothing more!"
He begins to show them his arm, then recoils. "No! No! It’s too hideous!" (If only he were equally conscientious about sharing his performance with us.) Jason, we learn, is the camp’s living blood bank. "I’ve given red corpuscles enough to fill a frigate," he notes. Hearing this tale of woe, Curtis exclaims that "I don’t want to end up in a cell!" Just in case we were wondering. He asks Jason if he knows where they can procure some guns. Yeah, I’m sure that after seventeen years in a cell, Jason knows where all the supplies are kept.
At this juncture, Angus enters the cell with Zyron. Handling a long hypodermic, he jabs it deep into the top of Jason’s head (!). Jason continues to mutter through this procedure. Business as usual, I guess. "This man must be sedated from time to time," Angus explains. Try showing him the film then. It’s sure making me tired. Anyway, the boys have received permission to visit the main house.
Cut to a middle-aged woman wearing a slinky black dress. She’s waving a bottle of brandy, and introduces herself as Sheila Frankenstein. (Apparently, she blew her intro the first time, as this line is obviously dubbed in. Here’s a clue for prospective Foley artists: When you loop in a line, don’t make it twice of the volume of the dialog around it.) After announcing herself, she continues that "Actually, it’s Von [sic] Helsing. I don’t prefer my married name." Wow, what a clever idea. You know, it introduce a name (almost) from the Dracula mythos into a Frankenstein movie. I’m sure that Mr. Stoker…Mr. Bram Stoker…had this film in mind.
The group assembles in a sitting room. This isn’t a set, so it’s presumably the actual living room of either the director or one of the actors. Waste not, want not. They take snifters of brandy and politely begin to converse. "That’s quite a famous name you have," Doc observes. (Frankenstein, I would think, rather than ‘Von’ Helsing.) "Oh, it has my deepest reverence," she replies.
We learn that Sheila is the great-granddaughter of the Dr. Frankenstein. To illustrate, she passes around a photo of John Carradine. Said photo is surprisingly crisp for one that supposedly represents her long deceased great-grandfather. She explains that it was he who set up the island base. "Including that power which paralyzes the arm," she helpfully explains. (Yep, just like in the novel. One wonders why they didn’t call the film Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein Island.)
"Frankenstein sent many forces in action," she continues, rather oddly referring to her ancestor by his last name. "And in doing so, created his own law. He still enforces it by channeling through my husband." Yes, well, that would follow, wouldn’t it. Doc asks about her husband, causing her to melodramatically stalk around the room before answering. "Let me be specific," she answers. "My husband was an integral part of the Frankenstein experiments." (She pronounces ‘integral’ as in-teg-ral, by the way. Perhaps this unique pronunciation is the result of the many forces set into action by her great-grandfather.) "In the early days, the two of them traveled far beyond Man’s understanding of Life and Death." Much like this script travels far beyond Man’s understanding of logic and continuity.
Their sojourns created, we learn, "an unbreakable bond" between them. "It endures today, with one dead and the other alive." (I guess it’s a sort of Hillary Clinton/Eleanor Roosevelt type of thing.) This allows Dr. Frankenstein to retain control over the island. "Death is no problem. It’s just the opposite!" Apparently, the deceased Dr. Frankenstein is stronger in death than in life, much like Obi Wan Kenobi. In fact, we learn that it was his psychic powers that caused Our Heroes’ balloon to crash. His purpose in doing so, Sheila theorizes, is so that they can impregnate "the girls." (Is it just me, or is this not really the most chilling premise for a horror film? "FORGOTTEN MEN!" the poster might have read. "LURED to an ISLAND OF HORRORS and FORCED to have SEX with BEAUTIFUL JUNGLE WOMEN!!") Needless to say, they reject this horrific offer, and state their wish to leave the island.
Sheila suggests that any aid in this endeavor would have to come from her husband. When they inquire as to his whereabouts, she slyly notes that "You’ll see him!" (bum Bum BUM!) First, though, she suggests that they get a good night’s sleep and has them escorted to their rooms. On the way, they pass some, uh, I guess they’re supposed to be zombies or something. You know, like Zyron. These can be identified by their black turtleneck sweaters, watch caps and large, mismatched Elton John-esque sunglasses. One of the two zombies proves somewhat more responsive. "He’s balanced quite well," Sheila points out. Hmm, yes, that would explain it.
"They’re all programmed to be perfect guards," she continues. "But some are…unpredictable." (She apparently has a different definition of ‘perfect guards’ than I do.) Doc and the others are horrified. "If they’re unpredictable," he asks, "couldn’t that lead to violence?" "Sometimes beyond tolerance," Sheila agrees. "In such cases, a gun is useless, because they have no bloodstream. They have to be literally cut in half with a machine gun." (Uh, isn’t that a ‘gun’?) Still, she doesn’t want them to get the wrong impression, so she finishes by noting "They do fine."
The sunglasses are due to their using a "local narcotic, which causes optic problems. They become severely sensitive to light." (Uh, could we get back to that ‘perfect guard’ thing?) Doc removes the guard’s glasses for a look. Apparently, the narcotic results in the user wearing black contacts with white painted circles on them. Despite his ‘optic problems,’ by the way, the guard in no way responds to having his glasses removed. (Their sunglasses, we can alternately surmise, are to disguise the fact that Warren couldn’t afford contact lenses for all his zombie extras.)
The group continues into a lab set, larger than some, but complete with patently bogus ‘scientific’ equipment. Featured are two slab-like slanted table, complete with the obligatory restraint belts. Approaching a generic gizmo, perhaps a voltage meter, Doc improbably exclaims "This is marvelous!" Boy, wait ‘til he gets a gander at their crystal radio set. "Try it," Sheila urges. "You’ll be surprised!" "I can’t believe the reading on this meter!" he concurs in amazement. "Our best researchers haven’t dreamt of anything even close to this! How’d you work it out?" I’m sure that you’ve already guessed Sheila’s rather obvious response. "This island was originally chosen…because it was once the landing site for men and women of a superior civilization."
"Are you saying that aliens landed here sometime ago?" Mark asks. Well, no, actually, that’s not what she said at all. I guess that’s what she meant, though. Curtis quickly catches on. "Yeah, aliens! That explains about the girls!" he notes. "The girls are direct descendants," Sheila confirms, although "their blood is mixed with that of our own people." Boy, these paint-by-number scripts really bore me. Couldn’t they throw us a curve or something. I mean, how many Frankenstein / Jungle Women / Zombie / Telepathy / Alien Civilization / Hot Air Balloon movies must one sit through in a lifetime?
Curtis, meanwhile, spots a brain kept in a big Pop-o-Matic bubble. Just in case we don’t know what a brain looks like (actually, not an unfair assumption of those they probably expected to watch this film), Dino helpfully asks, "A brain?"
Sheila then pulls back a sheet to expose a hospital bed containing an aged form. It’s her husband, Dr. Von Helsing. "He’s been bedridden for some time," she explains. She then reminds them that he’s "The assistant to Frankenstein!" To help us remember this, there’s another picture of Carradine (actually, it’s the same one, only in a different frame) nearby.
She turns a dial on a ham radio or something by his bed, and ‘futurist’ sound effects, like those heard on The Jetsons, are dubbed in. We then cut to a bank of equipment that resembles a ‘discontinued’ sale at Radio Shack, circa 1957. Unsurprisingly, this includes the obligatory electrical arc generator. This is a ‘Frankenstein’ movie, after all. The overall effect of ‘super-science’ is aided by the inclusion of a pair of red and green light bulbs that flash on and off. Upon turning on yet another arc generator, Von Helsing begins to stir. (Actually, he looks like a clueless senior citizen trying to do ‘The Robot’ but not knowing how.) "I have the power!" he exclaims, making one wonder if they’re about to work the mystic Sword of Castle Grayskull into the plot, which wouldn’t surprise me at this point. Instead, as now he clarifies, he meant "The power of the Golden Thread!" Ah, now I get it.
Cut back to village, where the girls are performing a clumsy ritual dance with torches. Perhaps the art of baton twirling was passed down to humankind from those ‘men and women of a superior civilization.’ The snake handler also turns out to be a fire-eater. Perhaps later she’ll juggle some bowling pins or spin plates on sticks or sing "Feelings." Meanwhile, the same sitting women is again waving her arms in front of the mirror. As this ancient pagan ritual proceeds, the rubber skulls looking on in stony silence.
The wavering projected image of ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ appears over the Mirror Woman. (See how it’s all coming together?) Coincidentally, the image is attired in the same shirt that Frankenstein was wearing in his photograph. "Oh, Disciple of the Twelve Lights!" he intones. "Ye shall have the power! The power shall be yours. The power! The power! The power! The power!" I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that. What will they have?
Cut to the next day, back at the Frankenstein place. (And no, there’s no light over there.) In the garden, three zombie guards are doing something around that same photo of Doc Frankenstein. One gestures with (I swear!) one of those red plastic ‘devil tridents’ that you can buy around Halloween. Apparently, they manage to do something, because weird and annoying electronic music begins to play. As you’d expect, Frankenstein’s face is then replaced with a skull, while superimposed red flames dance around the photo. Same old, same old.
We see Sheila escorting her guests on a tour of the vegetable garden. In the background, many of the zombies are doing yard work. Doc gushes over the beautiful produce on display. You’d think he’d be a bit more freaked out by the ‘men turned into zombies’ thing, but apparently not. Actually, I believe that Doc is that old sci-fi standby, the well-meaning scientist seduced by the evil allure of Unnatural Super-Science. In a truly hilarious bit, Jocko hands Dino a huge gourd. I mean, it must be hilarious. Otherwise, why would Jocko break into gales of laughter after handing him the gourd? Right?
Sheila leaves them to head back to the lab. "I’ll be integrating some unusual blood types," she purrs to Doc. (No, Doc! Don’t do it! Can’t you see that her Science is Evil?) As she leaves, she mentions that there are "sports over there." Jocko finds this hugely amusing, and throws his arms around Dino as he again bursts into fits of jollity. What a merry fellow! (Please, somebody kill that guy!!)
The chortling Jocko leads them to the ‘sports.’ This consists of zombies standing around while a couple of them engage in a slow-motion wrestling/improvisational dance kind of thing. Laughing uproariously, Jocko grabs some talcum powder and approaches a wooden tub covered with a sheet. This proves to contain a human body steeped in water. Which is sort of odd, because in the long shots the tub is quite obviously only four feet in length. Jocko (who’s heartily guffawing, by the way), tosses the powder into the tub. Seemingly bored by the rather prosaic corpse-in-a-tub thing, Curtis asks Jocko how he lost his eye. Instead of answering, he raises his eyepatch. Although we can’t see anything (his back is to us), Curtis and Dino react in horror. Jocko then stalks off in a snit. Still, anything that gets him to stop laughing is jake with me.
Jocko unfortunately quickly reappears, whisky bottle in hand. Curtis, meanwhile, decides to wrestle with the zombies. (Is it even possible to become that bored? Besides, dummy, can’t you hear the ominous music?) Dino, standing nearby, looks on with delight. That makes one of him. Curtis is soon challenged by an Asian zombie, who of course knows martial arts, sort of. They then engage in what is probably the forty-seventh fakest fight sequence I’ve ever seen. Hmm. Make that the forty-sixth fakest. In a moment of pure horror, Curtis is knocked down. The horror is because this gets Jocko laughing again
Doc and Mark sneak in another visit to Clay Jason, who’s still obnoxiously quoting Poe. They try to talk to him, but he keeps mumbling about the tragic fate of Lenore. Doc, hoping to help him, plans to get Sheila to mention what they’re drugging him with. (I’m thinking that the huge needle they periodically shove into his head probably isn’t helping either.) Mark, meanwhile, raises again his suggestion that they start constructing a raft. Gee, too bad they left that nice inflatable jobbie back on the beach.
After a short bit in the village to confirm that Dino and Lal are falling in love (awww!), we cut to Sheila and Doc examining Von Helsing in the lab. Sheila mentions that the shade of Doc Frankenstein is busy making alternative plans to keep Von Helsing going. (In case I didn’t make this any clearer than the film does, Von Helsing is Frankenstein’s conduit to the living world.) Doc shakes his head. "When I hear you casually mention communicating with Dr. Frankenstein…communicating with a dead man…I don’t know quite how to take it." Sheila is more blasé. "It’s not quite so bizarre as you might think," she replies. Yeah, after all, they used to laugh at the horseless carriage.
Von Helsing, who sports a vaudeville-thick ‘Jewish’ accent, now begins the film’s twenty-ninth rambling, incomprehensible speech. Among the things we learn which we never cared about is why Zyron gets weak when he attempts to grab one of the girls, if you can even remember back that far. This is designed so as to keep him from impregnating anyone with his inferior seed. Given that they consider Curtis and even Dino (!) to be fit for breeding purposes, Zyron must be lame indeed. (By the way, the whole ‘zombies with a penchant for attempted rape’ thing seems like another chink in that ‘perfect guard’ idea.)
We also are told, again, that the guards have no bloodstream, and that they instead live on psychic energy. Finally, in the latest attempt to hold our interest by tossing something phenomenally stupid at us every five minutes, Von Helsing reveals to Doc the shocking fact that he’s…two hundred years old! (bum Bum BUM!) Not that this really has anything to do with anything. But still…two hundred years olds! (bum Bum BUM!)
Meanwhile, Mark and Curtis are at the village. They’re assigning the girls the task of collecting wood for their raft. (Not only are Our Heroes stupid, but lazy to boot.) Curtis, meanwhile, is a little worried that the raft won’t be shipshape. Yeah, too bad you guys didn’t keep your inflatable one! Hello!!
Cut, uh, somewhere. A guy with a hypodermic needle is approaching an unmoving shirtless bald guy with pointy ears. I’m not sure if this is part of our current picture, or if they just cut it in by mistake. Of course, you could say that for about half the movie. The first fellow clumsily inserts the needle into the guy’s eye and…[Future Ken: My intuition proved correct. This segment in no way touches upon anything else seen in the picture, and is never referred to again.]
We cut back to the movie we were watching, to the lab. On a workbench we see what appears to be a pink lunchbox rotating on its corner. Or something. Maybe this is a demonstration of psychic power. Or not. Anyway, Sheila and Doc are attending to Von Helsing in his bed. Von Helsing is wearing earphones. Why? It’s just that kind of a movie. Doc notes that "the oscillator is slow." Von Helsing adds that "It’s steady at eighteen hundred volts." I can’t really explain what that all means, because I’m not a scientist. This is probably what it’s like having a conversation with Stephen Hawking.
Von Helsing looks troubled. "It should be peak at about forty thousand," he maintains. Doc, however, has a theory. "Those carriers are pretty close together. They could be acting as a transformer." "Yes, of course, of course!" Von Helsing excitedly replies. Boy, I wish that Liz from the And You Call Yourself a Scientist! site was here to explain all this stuff to me. Von Helsing starts coughing. Sheila asserts that he’ll have to go back into his "trance" for at least three hours. (If he’s lucky, he’ll miss the rest of the movie entirely.)
Doc is worried. "Isn’t that dangerous with the voltage unsteady?!" (Boy, you took the words right out of my mouth.) Sheila maintains that there’s "something much more important!" "Dr. Frankenstein," she continues, "sends power from the other realm." If she means the dark dimension where Jabootu dwells, then he’s sending plenty of it, too. "Dr. Frankenstein, before he died, perfected a very startling theory." (I hope his theory is more ‘perfected’ than their zombie guards!) This, she explains, "utilizes an intermediary - a human brain!"
OK, time out. Look, I’ve put up with a lot of nonsense while watching this picture, but the idea that a ‘human brain’ is in any way involved in it is just too much! C’mon, people, give us a little credit here!
Said ‘brain,’ we learn, is kept alive on "low voltage." More, "It stays on an expanded threshold, a super-nourished state." Which is more than you can say about my brain right now. Meanwhile, the subject of Frankenstein’s most famous experiment finally arises. "How can any of us forget the great contribution he made by creating a human life? Even though it was a monster," Von Helsing sighs. Yeah, people are so critical. When asked of its fate, Von Helsing sadly laments that "Throughout the years, the mind of the Monster never developed!" (Why am I not surprised?) Yet we’re assured that "his strength never ceased!" Given that "his strength paralleled his great urge to destroy…we had to chain him to the Reef [the one surrounding the island], underwater." Boy, immortal or not, that’s got to be playing havoc with his skin.
Cut to some inert ‘establishing’ shots of the cave. These, along with the quite similar, perhaps identical, background music, tend to call to mind Larry Buchanan’s Zontar - The Thing from Venus. Which, appallingly, was a better movie than this.
Hmm, well, let me refine that statement. Actually, the acting in Zontar was generally worse (!), and the film’s direction much more static. However, its plot, while poorly executed (in more ways than one), proved basically serviceable. No surprise there, as it was lifted whole from Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World. So while the plot of Zontar is goofy, that of Frankenstein Island is insane. Just on that level, I’d have to call Frankenstein Island the poorer film. Still, it’s like debating whether Willie Mays was a better ballplayer than Lou Gehrig.
In the cave, Curtis is sitting on his ass yakking with a JW as her fellow villagers bring in wood for the raft. He’s examining the entrance to an underwater grotto, wishing he had his scuba gear. The JW, however, notes that "when we pass this spot we just keep right on going." (Except, apparently, when she just sits right next to it, like she’s doing now.) She can’t really explain why, though. Then, just for a second, Curtis believes that he sees a human figure under the water. Yep, that’s right. This grotto is the home of the Monster.
Cut away to two JWs carrying in a log. (Did I mention that Curtis should get off his ass and help?) The image of Dr. Frankenstein appears. "Oh, Disciple of the Golden Thread," he calls. "The power ye seek shall be given! It shall be given! The power! The power! The power! The power!" Oddly, he doesn’t advise them to "Pull the string!" or "Beware the Green Dragon that sits by the door!" Boy, it’s bad enough when guys appear from the Other Side. But do they have to ramble on so much to boot?
Also in the cave, Dino and Lal have sneaked off for a little quality time together. (I agree that Dino should have some time to relax, but shouldn’t Lal be working on the raft? Boy, those leopard skin bikini-wearing half-alien Jungle Women sure can be lazy!) They spot the two women just standing there with the log, apparently in a trance after listening to the apparition of Dr. Frankenstein. (I know the feeling.
Next comes a confusing series of images, even for this film. It’s the lab. The arc generators are going. We briefly see Dr. Frankenstein’s projected image, thankfully silent for once. We cut to a close-up of an obviously plastic mannequin hand. Then the shot broadens and we can see what’s going on. Lucky us. One of the zombies is tied up. Two other zombies, including the one with the plastic devil’s trident, are torturing him with an electrical lead. As he grimaces in pain (the zombie, not the viewer - although at this point there’s less difference than you might think), a super tight close-up reveals him to have fangs of the dimestore white plastic variety. Apparently, when the prop master went to K-Mart to procure the rubber skulls and devil’s trident, he decided to splurge.
We cut to a spinning black and white ‘hypnotic’ spiral. Dr. Frankenstein starts spouting stuff again, but I can’t really make it out this time, so I’ll spare you. Given the rotating spiral filling the screen, perhaps he’s listing who he sees watching Romper Room today.
We cut to Curtis, Mark and Dino again visiting Jason in his hut. (If there supposed to be any kind of linear continuity as to when and where the characters are appearing? No, I thought not.) They find him passed out alongside the bars of his cell. "It looks like he can’t move a muscle!" Dino instantly exclaims from a distance. Yeah, either that or he’s napping. Unable to rouse him (after about ten seconds), they take their leave. Boy, that was a great scene.
It’s pretty obvious how Warren was available to afford such a big ‘name’ cast for this movie. Carradine appears in the film only in matte shots, for a grand total of perhaps two minutes. In this fashion he needn’t even interact with the other characters. So he came in, read his lines off a cue card in one long take, and was probably out of there in under an hour. Meanwhile, all of Mitchell’s scenes take place in his cell (until later in the film, when he appears on one other set). Given the quality of his lines, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was improvising his dialog. This means that they undoubtedly shot all of Mitchell’s scenes in a row. At best, his perhaps five minutes of screentime probably necessitated a morning’s work. As a bonus, since the leads are all stranded on an island, they never change their clothes (which remain sparkly clean throughout, by the way). Therefore, they don’t have to waste time with costume changes. This also cuts down on opportunities for continuity errors.
Back to our film. The trio continue to sneak around the compound. More annoying electronic music and ‘bloop’ sound effects herald Angus and some zombies catching them at it. Protesting that they were looking for Doc, Angus takes them into the lab. (Getting a better look at it here, it appears that the set was built in someone’s garage.) Mark surreptitiously attempts to inform Doc that the raft is nearly completed. As indicated earlier, though, Doc has fallen for the lure of that old Frankenstein magic. When Sheila complains about his friends being in the way, Doc absentmindedly asks them to leave. When Mark tries again to get his attention, Doc rants that they’re close to uncovering the very secrets of (what else?) Life Itself. "We’re on the verge of discovering the very factor that animates it!" he exclaims.
Disappointed, his compatriots leave. Meanwhile, we see how far Doc has gone. He has Angus drag a captive JW from behind a screen. (I can’t help noticing that, while gagged, her hands and feet are free. This leads me to wonder what’s the point of applying a gag to someone whose hands are free, and why the woman just sat there behind the screen.) "She’s the daughter of a strong woman!" Sheila approvingly notes. "The parallel link to pure Alien!" Well said.
Doc asks Sheila why she didn’t try "this" a long time ago. "Transfusing animal blood with that of a human," she explains, "never seemed promising, in light of my husband’s changes." Hmm, yes, I guess that really does explain it. Taking one last stab at following what’s going on here, I think they intend to give Von Helsing a blood transfusion from the Jungle Woman for some reason or another. I’m not sure how being partly descended from "a superior civilization" of aliens, however, means that you’ve got ‘animal’ blood in your veins. Assuming that I’m following this correctly. I guess not, actually, because Doc just ordered Angus to "go get the animals." OK, folks, I give up. You’re on your own.
Back at the village, the girls have noticed that their comrade is missing. The guys, being guys and all, think they should go look for her. However, footprints tell the tale that she’s been taken to the compound for an experiment. This happens periodically, and the girls are resigned that there’s nothing to be done about it. Mark, however, thinks that they should wait until dark and then go and spring her. Dino and Lal, meanwhile, wander into the woods so that she can have a good cry. Dino is upset that this kind of thing is going on. The girls need to take measures, he posits, to protect themselves. "You know," he suggests, "like deep pits in the ground, covered with grass." Unsurprisingly, Lal appears unimpressed with this notion.
Dino, thoughtful as always, laughingly grabs Lal’s pendant and puts it on Melvin. The camera zooms in on it, no doubt so that we’ll recognize it later. It’s even lamer than you’d think, basically a flat circle of tin with a crudely painted red circle on it. The mood turns somber again as Lal laments Dino’s approaching departure. (That makes one of her.) Dino notes that he’ll miss her, too, and they kiss. Ah, well, the course of True Love never runs smooth and all that.
Next it’s nighttime back at the camp. Angus is outside his hut, petting a goat. Jocko (man, just when I’d managed to forget about him!) emerges from the hut, braying as usual. In a film like this, it’s actually quite a feat that Jocko remains, hands down, the most annoying character. In fact, except for this one guy in a flick called Dr. Minx, Jocko might well be the most annoying character I can remember seeing in any movie. Angus reminds the drunken Jocko not to fall behind in tossing the ‘embalming powder’ into that wooden tub from earlier in the movie. (See how all the threads are coming together?) He’s to apply it twice an hour, "until the autopsy." Yes, you want to make sure that the body’s properly embalmed before cutting it open.
Back in the lab, Doc is stroking the head of the now deceased JW. "I wish we could have saved her," he mourns, no doubt rehearsing his speech for the Humanitarian of the Year award ceremony. He and Sheila then examine Von Helsing again. Sheila wants to increase the voltage, but Doc nixes the idea. As Angus enters the lab with the goat, she waves him off. "No more animals will be needed," she explains. She also has him remove the JW’s body.
OK, not that it wouldn’t be an exercise in futility, but shouldn’t they explain exactly why they were mixing the blood of a JW with that of a goat? Is it to help Von Helsing (somehow)? Perhaps as a chemical solution for that human brain in the Pop-o-Matic? Just for the hell of it? What?
Back to Von Helsing. "His eyes are fluttering," Doc exclaims. "Break out the secondary coils!" Sheila sees to it, and soon additional ‘bloop’ noises are sounding, accompanied by more shots of that rotating pink lunch box. This seems to do the job. "Ease the primary back to between eighteen and twenty," Doc says. "Slowly! Very slowly!" (That’s funny, now he sounds just like the director.) Once it comes down to eighteen, he reverses course. "OK, full power! All of it!" Uh, Doc, are you sure you know what you’re doing?
They continue to waste some screentime here (after all, there’s over half an hour left). Sheila turns some dials affixed to a wooden box. A zombie who look much like deceased sports announcer Harry Carrey looks on. Von Helsing jerks around from the effects of the ‘full power.’ The lunchbox keeps spinning. Finally, however, they have to get back to the actual movie.
As a result of all this, Von Helsing ends up looking hopped up. "Have some water," Sheila suggests. You know, it’s funny, but I wouldn’t have thought that a man kept alive for two hundred years by being fed a sustained electrical current would still drink water. Shows you what I know.
Von Helsing states that he feels stronger. Sheila feels that this new treatment is a breakthrough. "You’ve never balanced as quickly as this!" she declares. Von Helsing asks what this new treatment is. Here they finally explain, I think, the blood thing. Von Helsing (I guess) has already been getting transfusions of the JWs’ alien blood. It was to this that they added the goat blood. (How would they even think of that?)
"Animal blood?! Are you saying that you gave me animal blood?!" he complains. Given his Borsht Belt Yiddish accent, you half expect him to add "What, are you meshuga or something?!" Sheila tries to reassure him. "With a slow entry rate," she explains. "The body itself homogenizes the two types!" It turns out, however, that this idea was tried back in the old days, with poor results. He’ll require a full and immediate transfusion. "We’ll have to start the transfusion slowly," Von Helsing clarifies. "Don’t rush it! But gradually pick up time as you progress!" Yes, well, that’s clear enough.
Back to the village. The image of Dr. Frankenstein is again haranguing some of the girls. "The Twelve Lights! The Golden Thread. Ye shall have its power! Its power! Its power! Its power!" Say, why didn’t you mention this before? (Actually, to be fully honest, I don’t think he’s saying ‘lights.’ It sounds more like ‘twelve langs.’ Since it really doesn’t matter, though, I translated it for the sake of making it less stupid. Kind of.)
Back to (*ugh*) Jocko. He’s sitting in his hut, and we are now treated to a ‘drunk’ scene that makes one reflect on the subtle genius of Foster Brooks. Part of his schtick, inevitably, involves loud, off-key singing. Although I wouldn’t have thought it, this is almost as annoying as his continuous laughter. Almost. This scene, unsurprisingly, goes nowhere.
So we cut to the guys (minus Doc, of course) and maybe half a dozen of the girls heading for their nighttime raid on the camp. A couple of the girls to the rear, however, stop to listen to the reappearing shade of Dr. Frankenstein. "Oh, disciples! The power awaits you! Ye will have all that ye wish! All that ye wish! I give the power of the Thread!" (At least he got some new material.) His spiel completed, the awesome specter looks around in a bewildered fashion, as if waiting for some ectoplasmic director to say, "Cut!"
The group arrives at the camp, having snuck past the perfect guards. (Still, I have to wonder if a smaller party wouldn’t have been stealthier.) They stop by Jason’s cell, but it’s empty. (Von Helsing needed a full transfusion, remember?) Walking past the ‘embalming’ tub, one curious young lass pulls off the sheet, and the zombie, or whatever, immediately rears up into a sitting position. (He was being contained by a sheet?) She shrieks her head off, of course, alerting the guards. However, by hiding all eight of their party in full view between two bushes, they evade their notice. Curtis, meanwhile, reports hearing at the door of the lab that they’ve got Jason inside and are draining his blood. Then, reacting to the ‘large’ number of zombie guards on patrol, he inquires "Don’t they cut down on the night shift?" Under the premise, apparently, that people are less likely to try to sneak in under the cover of darkness.
"Cut down is right!" Mark exclaims. "And I’m going to do the cutting!" Even Curtis doesn’t get this remark, and asks him to explain it. "Machine guns! Remember what you said? The only way you can handle these guys is with machine guns!" (Actually, of course, it was Sheila who mentioned the machine guns. How would Curtis have known about it?) Curtis asks where he’s going to get one. Mark figures that there’s probably at least one in the house. He turns to a JW, asking if she knows what one looks like. "I think so," she replies. (Having seen one…where exactly?) Anyway, they raise a window (good thing they’re not locked or anything) and climb inside. They conspicuously leave the window open behind them, though. Otherwise, the guards might not figure out what they’re up to.
Within about a minute, Curtis finds a closet, turns on the light, and (offscreen) discovers the machine gun. He says something about how’s it like out of the Civil War, so I guess it’s a Gattling Gun. Lal, meanwhile, enters a supply room for a look around. There she sees her missing comrade’s corpse, complete with (I guess) cut throat. This makes me wonder if, first, a storage room is the best place to leave a dead body, and second, if there wasn’t some more scientific method for draining her blood. Don’t they have a pump or something?
Lal also reacts by screaming her head off. For a tribe who’s lived in the wild all their lives, they’re pretty easy to startle. Fleeing from the room, Lal runs right into the waiting Angus. He throws his arms around her, then glances over his shoulder right into the camera to toss us an evil look. So much for not breaking character. (Of course, in this picture the problem isn’t that the actors break character, it’s that they don’t make character to start with.)
Back to the Lab. Von Helsing’s not doing so well and demands more blood. Jason, meanwhile, is strapped to a lab table, apparently nearly dry. Angus pops in with Lal (apparently not having noticed the other seven people stumbling around Sheila’s house). Sheila begins to send him away, then is struck by a thought. "She’ll do for the second transfusion!" she exclaims. (Yeah, don’t bother typing her blood for anything.) Jason, who’s apparently Not Quite Dead Yet, looks over. Seeing Lal, he at first believes her to be Lenore. "You’re the perfect image of my wife!" he declares. (This might at first seem like a startlingly lame plot twist, but let’s all remember how loosely the word ‘perfect’ is used in this film.) It proves more laughable even than that, though. Lal, it turns out, is in fact Jason’s daughter, thought to be lost in the shipwreck that stranded him here on the island.
This is Mitchell’s big acting moment. "Who sang to you?" he cries. "I sang to you! Who told you of the story of the seas? Of the continents, of the world, the story of Noah?!" To be fair, Mitchell gives these lines about as un-ridiculous a read as possible. He’s not going to win an Oscar™ here or anything, but say what you will, he’s giving the old college try even in this sorry flick. There’s a reason why guys like Mitchell and Carradine get hired for these things. Partly, at least, it’s because they have enough of a work ethic to actually try to act a little, no matter how pathetic the movie.
Anyhoo, Jason’s speech has reawakened Lal’s childhood memories. As Sheila approaches this happy reunion, Jason pleads with her to leave Lal’s blood where it is. "Take mine!" he cries, "take mine!" Suddenly, though, the patently canned sound of a machine gun is heard. Then Curtis lumbers in with a .50 caliber Browning Automatic Rifle (!), complete with tripod. I can’t help but notice that he hefts it partly by the barrel. He must be the Man with the Asbestos Hands, because the barrel would be scorching hot if it had actually just been fired.
Even though he’d have little time to swing this cumbersome device around (or rather, because he’d have little time to swing it around) Angus just stands there until Curtis plants the thing in a corner. With a full range of fire thus established, Dino and Mark shut and lock the Lab door. Of course, there’s still no way to control the aim of this thing in such a tight space, so if Curtis opened fire he’d blow his pals to pieces, too.
Dino goes to free Lal. Laughably, we can now see that the ‘restraint’ belt that holds her waist to the table gaps enough to leave her arms completely free. The actress, forgetting that she’s supposed to be helpless, removes them to brace herself as Dino undoes the strap. Cutting back to the gun, we see the girls readying the ammo belt. This holds a grand total of perhaps fifty shells, or enough for maybe a five second burst.
As Mark stands in the background idly gesturing at Angus (here’s a clue, guys, block your scenes before shooting them), Dino and Lal free Jason from his bonds. After helping him from the table, they move him to a cot. Yes, that’s much better. Mark, meanwhile, calls for calm. This might be more effective if he weren’t standing in front of a goofy chart entitled BRAINWAVE SYNC. in big red letters.
Mark calls for Doc to join them, but he refuses, saying that they’re out of their minds. "I’ve lost my mind, huh?" Mark replies. "Doc, I always know you were a comic!" (That’s telling ‘im!) He then tells Dino to check Von Helsing. Dino obediently runs over, looks at him for about two seconds, than trots back to Mark and nods his head. That takes care of that situation, I guess. Sheila pleads that Von Helsing will die without more blood. This is met with about the amount of sympathy you’d expect. Doc joins in, calling Von Helsing a great man, and begging that they "save him for Science!" "You don’t know it, Doc," Mark answers, "but that’s exactly what I’m trying to do for you!" (That’s telling ‘im!)
Doc warns them that "this is out of your experience!" Which is probably a pretty accurate statement, when you think about it. Sheila, meanwhile, shrieks at Dino when he jostles the brain case. (I have to admit, the guy’s a clod.) Although they never explicitly said so (I think), I suppose that that’s Frankenstein’s brain in there. Dino gets what amounts to an idea, at least for him. "Maybe it’s the brain we should destroy!" he suggests, although exactly why they would do this is left unsaid. Sheila, meanwhile, sneaks into another room (?) containing the wooden box with dials that was earlier in the main room. She randomly twists some of them, presumably putting some evil plan into effect.
Finally, she throws a switch and some fairly elaborate arc generators start, well, generating arcs. A couple of these pieces look familiar, and I’m really hoping that they aren’t Kenneth Strickfadden’s stuff. Strickfadden created the elaborate electrical gear for the classic Universal Frankenstein pictures. Needless to say, the thought that some of these same devices might be appearing in this travesty is rather depressing. And in case you consider the idea unlikely, let me point out that some of Strickfadden’s gear made an appearance in Dracula vs. Frankenstein, perhaps the second lamest Frankenstein film after this one.
Dr. Frankenstein’s image appears again. "I hear thee," he intones. "So as I hear, be thee assured my response is forthcoming!" Right after he issues an ‘action’ memo, no doubt. Sheila, meanwhile, reacts to his presence with ecstasy. Actress Victor gives us both barrels here, gasping and popping and rolling her eyes with rather more gusto than was perhaps wise. Oddly, she’s also wearing those black and white ‘zombie’ contact lenses we saw earlier. I’m not sure why, and of course it make so sense. It’s just eerie, I suppose. We should perhaps just be glad she didn’t don those plastic vampire fangs, too. Meanwhile, her eyes dart around madly. Apparently, the director didn’t tell her exactly where Frankenstein’s image was supposed be to be appearing.
Cut to the cave. Frankenstein’s image is appearing there, as well. Is there (*yawn*) no limit to his power? "Upon the name of the Golden Thread!" he trills. "Ye shall have strength! Strength! Strength! Upon the name of the Golden Thread! Ye shall have strength! Ye shall have strength!" Then, and I really didn’t think this I’d be making this statement this late in the review, but we now cut to the goofiest shot in the movie. We see a photo of outer space, over which soon appears transparent footage of green-tinted hands. The fingers wave, indicating perhaps that some vast, god-like being is attempting to cast a shadow puppet onto Jupiter.
It gets better (well, you know, not better, but…). The hands turns red! (Ooh! Aah!) Next, a red-tinted close-up of somebody’s eye, upon which is soon superimposed that circle of flames we saw earlier in the picture. Finally, we cut back to the surface of the grotto, as the Frankenstein Monster bursts from the water.
Apparently, Universal’s copyright on Jack Pierce’s classic Frankenstein Monster makeup had expired by the time this film was made. Taking advantage of this fact, the Monster is made to look as much like the classic image as possible, down to the jacket with shortened sleeves over the black shirt. Admittedly, though, the makeup job here is more reminiscent of the work of a talented ten year old preparing for Tricks and Treats. Also, it’s obvious that the actor here is basing his, uh, interpretation on the Universal films. Ghost of Frankenstein, if I had to guess. That’s the one where the brain of Bela Lugosi’s Ygor character is put into the Monster. Since he’s the wrong blood type, though, he finds himself blind. This is where we got the image of the Monster with arms outreached, stumbling clumsily along. Sure enough, as the Monster rises from the water, his eyes are closed and he frantically swivels around like a party drunk performing his repertoire of movie character impersonations.
Back in the Lab, Sheila has managed to rejoin the group with no one the wiser. (Which is pretty darn unwise, given this bunch.) She and Doc are still trying to convince Mark and the others to surrender, or leave, or whatever. Mark, meanwhile, tells Doc that he’s only acting the way he is because he’s drugged. Which is the movie’s way, I guess, of letting him off the hook for being involved in murder. Hey, not all of us can afford to hire Johnnie Cochran. "Please," Sheila urges, "don’t do this!" "Madam," Mark replies, "I’m doing nothing. And, I might add, so are you and your husband!" (That’s telling ‘er!)
Then, stalling for time, Sheila pretends to give in. Back in the cave, meanwhile, we see the Monster approaching. He’s got his eyes open now, but is still doing that waving-his-outstretched-arms thing and making angry "Uhhrr!" noises. Saying that she’s going to free their friend Lal (who’s already freed), Sheila again slips into the other room. She turns a dial again, and we see Doc having a seizure. Why? I don’t know. Why not? Meanwhile, the Monster is still staggering along, much to the apparent amusement of Dr. Frankenstein’s now laughing ethereal visage.
The Monster comes through the village on his way. Here he is spotted by Melvin, who ‘reacts’ by looking exactly as bored as I feel. Couldn’t they get him to bark or change his expression or something? Eventually, we see him running from the village, presumably to do something heroic in the Lassie tradition. Otherwise, why is he even in the film?
Back to Jocko’s hut. Either the character is starting to grow on me, or else he’s just less obnoxious when passed out across a table. Oops, he just came awake. Yep, it was the second one. (I just want to mention here that they’ve Foleyed very loud cricket noises onto the soundtrack. As all B-Movie aficionados know, cricket sound are shorthand for "it’s nighttime.") In a scene eliciting much more audience horror than the appearance of the Monster, Jocko starts his insanely loud laughing again. Thankfully, the stalwart Frankenstein Monster quickly arrives and chokes him to death. You know, I’ve made fun of this movie, but making the Monster the piece’s hero is truly an innovative twist. Now, if he would just take care of that guy from Dr. Minx…
Back to the Lab. Doc’s seizure has freed him from Sheila’s spell. (Well, that’s convenient.) Sheila again asserts the importance of transfusing more blood into her husband. Doc, having the correct blood type, volunteers. At this moment the enraged Monster bursts into the lab, at which exact second I began to wonder why Sheila thought this would be advantageous for her.
Perhaps the machine gun they acquired for the film is a non-functioning one. Perhaps they couldn’t afford the no doubt expensive .50 caliber blank rounds. Maybe they didn’t want to damage the actors’ hearing by having this thing fired inside a small building. In any case, Curtis suddenly cries out that the gun is jammed.
In the monster’s wake, the zombies have also gained entrance. Despite being unstoppable and outnumbering our protagonists, they quickly are shown getting their assess kicked. Meanwhile, to explain why Our Heroes aren’t getting killed, we are shown the Monster. Surrounded by the various small groups of combatants, he just stands in one spot and waves his arms and upper body around. As this is frenetically shown from different angles, one is reminded of the cocktail party routines from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the ones where everyone dances in place until the action stops so that someone can deliver a joke.
In perhaps the least well motivated scene I’ve ever witnessed, Angus walks through the melee and right up to the Monster. Maybe he hoped to bum a cigarette off him or something, but I think you can guess the results. Next we witness some really poorly choreographed fighting. (Actually, the notion that this was even perfunctorily choreographed is probably being generous). Then back to the Monster, who in one of the lamest attempts at a ‘rampage’ in Cinema history is shown flipping over a balsa-wood table covered with empty plastic bleach bottles.
The scuffling (although using that word to describe the ‘action’ here seems a bit much) continues. Then Melvin the dog shows up and barks a little. However, upon seeing the Monster standing rooted in one spot while swinging his torso and making ‘grrr’ sounds, Melvin flees the room. It’s possible that this was meant to be funny, but I really, truly don’t know.
Back to the fight. A JW smacks a zombie on the head with a candy glass beaker and apparently knocks him out. (So much for that whole ‘have to cut them in half’ thing!!) Another JW watches Curtis as he performs some rather aimless martial-arts kicks. (Remember that party drunk doing the Frankenstein Monster impression? Now he’s doing Kane from Kung-Fu.) She’s soon imitating him and handing the zombies their butts. Even more, you know, then before.
Now…wait, let me watch that again. No…Yep. OK, and you can track this movie down if you don’t believe me. And I wouldn’t blame you. The zombie guy with the plastic devil’s trident just waved it over a JW’s head. There was a sound effect, and when she turned around she was wearing those plastic vampire teeth. Then…wait. Hmm, rewind that, and…yep. OK. So she’s wearing the fangs, and another zombie suddenly sporting a large gun made, I think, from black plastic piping opens fire and a puff of smoke comes out of the barrel and then we see the fanged-JW and they animate her red and then she disappears and the background lighting fails to match. I hope that I didn’t make any typos in that sentence because I intend never to read it or think of this scene again.
So the zombie shoots another girl, because an effect like that is too good to waste. (This is all, by the way, shot in a dead serious fashion - I don’t want you to think that it’s meant to be satirical or anything.) Then another girl is trapped by a guy. (He’s not sporting glasses, so I assume he’s not a zombie). She escapes by biting his hand and then he cringes to the floor because the snake-charming JW comes by holding a tarantula and is supposed to put it on his chest as he reacts in horror only the spider doesn’t want to let go of her hand and finally she has to awkwardly shake it onto him and then she waves her garden snake at him.
Then the Monster knocks over a plywood shelving unit. Then he moves back into the middle of the various contending groups and plants his feet and swings his arms around some more. Then we spotlight on a JW and a zombie tussling near the Pop-O-Matic brain carrier. Just in case we don’t ‘get’ it, Sheila exclaims "The brain! It’s going to be destroyed!" Her husband tells her not to worry. "If the brain is damaged, the other one will activate in seconds!" (OK, now they’re trying to tell me that two brains were involved with this picture?! I supposed they have a bridge to sell me, too.) "The power will start again!" he promises. "The backup brain was hidden years ago, just in case!"
So the brain is fried or something, and Sheila reacts with an expression similar to a housewife who’s just discovered that her soufflé has fallen in the oven. The zombies, who, of course, feed on psychic energy, fall lifeless (more so even) to the floor. So does the Monster, which makes no sense, but never mind.
One of the JWs runs up and implores Our Heroes to leave. (I’ll second that motion!) Noticeably standing about one foot away from Sheila and Von Helsing earlier, she overheard the back-up brain thing. "Now’s your chance to go!" she cries. "Take the raft and go!" Doc concurs, noting that they can bring back help. Curtis kisses whatever JW this is. I guess that they’re supposed to have fallen in love. Somehow I missed that part. Dino, meanwhile, tries to get Lal to leave with them. She refuses to go, though, choosing to stay with her father, who’s too sick to move.
Cut to stock footage of a harbor. Boy, that was an easy escape! Meanwhile, the guys, still wearing their one suit of clothes, are meeting with an army Colonel (Andrew Duggan). It’s supposed to be in his office. However, his pressed board desk with it’s small American flag and gray plastic inbox fail to disguise the faux brick wall in the background, revealing that this was shot in someone’s den.
Having relayed their tale, Mark asks the Colonel "Who has jurisdiction over something like this?" (Movie Police?) "Nobody," he replies. "It’s a friendly island." Mark presses the thing about the American citizen (Jason) being held prisoner. The Colonel is still somewhat skeptical, however. "If I didn’t know I was hearing this from the horse’s mouth, I’d check my communications for a big hole!" (He might want to check that ‘horse’s mouth’ thing, I think he’s off about 180°.)
Despite the fact that their tale is somewhat implausible, however, he feels it must be checked out. "I can not brush off the reality of that raft that you were on," he admits. "Those logs are tangible! Obviously. Rooted to the ground." "And the ground is there, just like I told you!" Mark replies. "And if it hadn’t been for those logs, we wouldn’t have gotten anyplace! [Unless, of course, they had kept their inflatable raft.] And believe me, that’s something I’m very thankful about!" Doc throws in his two cents. "So much has happened, really, that the mind can’t catalog it." (I’ll say!) "But the one thing on top is, we’ve got to get back there!" Swayed by the irresistible logic of these arguments, the Colonel accedes to their demands.
Cut to the beach. With a fearsome Naval yacht in the background, we see the guys and four ‘soldiers’ pulling up on shore in a dingy. Apparently, this is a covert mission, as the GIs’ uniforms consist of mismatching caps (some solid green, one camouflage patterned) and baggy green jumpsuits. Except for the one sporting a green utility jacket and pants. Do I even have to mention that their haircuts are way too long? Also, their rifles look a bit small - I think they’re plastic toys, scaled maybe 90% of the real thing. Oh, and did I mention that the Colonel wasn’t in the group landing on the beach, but suddenly appeared as they walked through the cave?
To the astonishment of Our Heroes, the island shows no sign of ever being inhabited. Yep, even the house is gone. So is the village of Jungle Women. The whole kit ‘n’ caboodle. The Colonel, needless to say, is somewhat ticked and quickly pulls his, uh, troops. Our foursome stays behind, looking on in shock. Could it have been, they wonder, all a hallucination?
As they ponder their collective sanity, at least one loose end is tied up. Melvin the dog makes his appearance and rejoins the group. But what’s that he’s carrying? Why (*gasp*) it’s Lal’s medallion! So it wasn’t a dream after all. Our Heroes all smile and laugh, apparently not stopping to consider that the JWs’ disappearance suggests they are either captives or dead. And thus, with this literal shaggy dog ending, our picture ends.
Review by Ken Begg