Movies From the Black Lagoon: Frankenstein 1970

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Frankenstein 1970 - 1958, Unrated
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

Boris Karloff returns to the franchise that made him a household word in this shaky sequel that casts him as the last descendant of Baron Von Frankenstein.
The film opens with an awesome sequence. A young lady comes running toward the camera screaming in abject terror while a hulking brute (with a nasty limp) shuffles after her. The location is remote and the fog is thick enough to slash with a knife. The lady turns a corner and finds herself trapped between the creature and a murky pond. She opts to get wet but this critter is not afraid of water and plungers after her. The beast grabs her in a chokehold and hastens the process by shoving her head under water. A voice calls out-"cut"- and we realize we have been punked - that it was all a movie.
Actually, these people are filming a schlocky television documentary on the history of the "Frankenstein" legend. To this end they have hired the last remaining member of the family to let them use his ancestral home as their prime location. They are a slimy crew that includes a fast talking director, his backstabbing publicist, and a determined young actress. Frankenstein is a sad and somewhat disheveled dude whose tired appearance owes to having been captured and tortured by the Nazis during World War II.
The television crewmembers are also staying in Frankenstein's castle and most o the action is set there. Frankenstein proves to be an awkward host but the place looks more modern and even sports an enormous aquarium as the centerpiece of the living room. Unfortunately, the basement rocks a secret laboratory where Frankenstein is trying to keep up the family business by trying to reanimate the dead using nuclear energy.
This Frankenstein is a bit amateurish and allows his butler to see his experiment. This means he has to go and he does-but not before donating his brain to the experiment. The doc has a second klutz episode and drops eyeballs he has collected for the monster. This necessitates sending out his creature without the benefit of eyesight. This leads to much confusion as one of the screens most awkward monsters goes on a mini-rampage that also knocks over a lot of stuff.
The ending finds the monster turning on the wicked doctor and accidentally causing a reactor leak that wipes out the pair and predates "The China Syndrome" by twenty years.
This is hokey but great fun thanks to a sly turn by Karloff. He is perfectly at home with the material though the action never gets better than in the opening sequence. The film does a decent job of parodying the genre. Karloff appears to be winking at the audience, especially when he's called upon to play the organ and deliver an evil laugh. The self centered Television crew are a jaded poke at the industry which was beginning to challenge the popularity of going to the movies. Howard Koch directed and would prove to be a better producer having put together "Airplane" and "The Odd Couple".
The biggest blunder is the monster. It spends the whole movie wrapped in bandages and its head is so bulbous that you would think it's a mummy that was wrapped up before it could ditch the lampshade it was wearing. Luckily the film is featured alongside three other horror romps featuring Karloff and Bela Lugosi. You also get "The Walking Dead", "You'll Find Out", and "Zombies on Broadway". Extras include commentary by Tom Weaver, who has published interviews with all of the horror greats.
Best Line: "Shuter, yours is not the brain that I would have chosen, but at least you are obedient."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.