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The 100




Frankenstein's Daughter
(1958)
Reviewed by Nicholas D'Amico
Rating: 8.5 Beans

hen I first started collecting Bad Films, I kept on the lookout not only for films I'd never seen but only heard about, but also the ones I'd watched as a kid when they were broadcast on Ghoulardi, the local Creature Feature in my hometown of Cleveland. Since, at that time, there weren't any Blockbuster or Hollywood Video stores, I had to haunt all of the little Mom and Pop video stores around town, and that's where I found this Astor Pictures beauty.

"Frankenstein's Daughter" starts with a shot of a Loser and a blond Bimbo (more about them soon) making out in front of her apartment after a date. The Loser is starting to get all hot and heavy, but the Bimbo isn't having any of it. She pushes him away and, pissed, he hops into his convertible and takes off while the Bimbo, who belongs to the genus Prickus Teaseious, watches him leave and laughs at not only his anger, but her own ability as the West Coast distributor of BlueBalls. Obviously satisfied with herself, she gathers her wrap about her and runs straight into the title character, who's running around town in a nightgown and robe. The Bimbo screams and we're treated to a close up of Frankenstein's Daughter, which is actually a misnomer because a) she's not related to Frankenstein or The Monster in any way, shape, or form, and b) she's not really the title character, just the usual "Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong!" To tell the truth, she's not really all that horrifying. She's got really bushy eyebrows, dark circles under her eyes, what seems to be a bloody nose, and pretty bad teeth, but that's about it. She doesn't even make a threatening move, all she does is stand there and look around. She's certainly nothing to scream about, but the Bimbo does anyway.

After the credits, the film fades in on a shot of Trudy (Sandra Knight), a lovely, intelligent girl (Oops! Had a Glen Or Glenda flashback there), who wakes up in bed as all women do: perfectly made up and not a hair out of place. Outside the bedroom, we hear the gnomish voice of Kindly Old Uncle Carter (Felix Locher, who speaks with some odd European accent I can't recognize), Trudy's loving guardian. He enters and tells her that she slept late, and she suddenly becomes confused and starts talking about the nightmare she had last night. After assuring Uncle Carter that she's okay, he leaves and we meet Uncle Carter's sourpuss assistant, Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy). They go to work in the laboratory, Oliver showing his contempt for the work Carter is doing by saying that whatever they do is going to fail. A little exposition follows, to wit: Uncle Carter is working on a serum that will be a real "boon to mankind" that will "wipe out all destructive cells and organisms that plague man", and Oliver thinks it's a waste of time. He has his mind on bigger and better things, as we'll find out shortly.

Cut to the Bimbo, Suzy Loller (Sally Todd). the Loser, Don (Harold Lloyd, Jr., the "comedy relief", who's wearing shorts and has a big scab on his knee), and Johnny Bruder (John Ashley) as Suzy relates what happened to her last night. The guys don't believe a word of it, of course, Don commenting that every time he leaves her she has nightmares, which is probably true. Trudy walks up in the middle of it and becomes intrigued, asking Suzy what the monster looked like. As Suzy describes her, Trudy becomes more and more troubled, then begs off the tennis match they had planned. Johnny, who is at first concerned, becomes peevish when Trudy starts to talk about the nightmare she had. He takes her home.

Back at the lab, we find out the latest experiment was a failure ( Oliver, ever the helpful assistant, tells him it was doomed to failure from the start), and we then find out that Cater knows nothing about him. They're interrupted by the gardener, Alsu (Wolfe Barzell), who drives Carter to distraction by telling him that he laid the gravel in the driveway. Oliver sticks up for him and then Carter says that if he could get "Digenorel" from the Rockwell labs, he could make it work. When Oliver objects that he'll never get within a mile of there, Carter replies that he'll get it, "no matter what!" Oliver suddenly gets all jumpy, saying that if he does that, it'll bring the police snooping around, and "We don't want that." Carter says he has nothing to hide, and then asks Oliver if he does.

In the library, Trudy is reading a book when the creepy gardener comes in and hands her a flower. "I didn't like killing it," he says, "but some things are more beautiful in death." Well, he may look creepy, but he sure knows how to sweet-talk a girl. Uncle Carter walks in and boots him out of the room, telling him to use the back stairs. When he leaves, he meets with Oliver and they make a few insidious plans (Oliver: "Tonight?" Alsu: "There'll be an automobile accident. Heh-heh-heh…" Oliver: "You know what we'll need." Alsu: "I'll get it.")

Oliver then joins Carter and Trudy in the library. After Carter leaves "To get what we spoke about," Oliver starts oozing slime all over Trudy, who naturally rebuffs him. She goes outside and jumps in the pool as Oliver attends to his secret experiment in the secret lab (how the hell Carter couldn't know about this lab in his own house is beyond me), and Alsu walks in carrying something wrapped in a cloth. Oliver opens it up and finds a bloody hand, then yells at Alsu that he needed a head, not a hand, and Alsu offers the lame excuse that another car came along before he could finish. That's when we find out that Oliver Frank's real name is Frankenstein (SURPRISE!!) and that Alsu worked for his father. It's then established that Frank's been slipping Trudy his experimental drug to study the results. He then does exactly that and Trudy, although the drink tastes awful, guzzles it right down. She gets all woozy and goes to her room where she turns into an advanced version of what she was before as Oliver watches. She makes a threatening move at Oliver, who immediately panics ("Keep away! Stay away!!") and she runs past him and starts terrorizing the local townsfolk.

We then meet Lieutenant Boyle (Robert Dix), a cop who's fielding calls concerning a female monster in a bathing suit, and when he gets two calls about it, leaps into action. Back at the lab, Oliver is freaking out, babbling that he has to inject Trudy with the antidote before she "tears the town apart and brings the whole police force here!" Outside, Lt. Boyle and his sidekick, Detective Dylan (Harry Wilson?), are flagged down by a woman Trudy attacked via a jump cut. They go in the direction she points them and start shooting the second they see the monster. Although she's wearing a white robe, they miss her and Oliver steps out of the shadows, chloroforms Trudy, and brings her back to the house, injecting her with the antidote.

The next day, Carter and Oliver are talking about the headlines in the paper (WOMAN MONSTER MENACES CITY!) and Carter makes a few disparaging remarks about the Frankensteins. Oliver naturally takes umbrage at this and defends the family, saying that they were geniuses. Carter then whips out the vial of Digenorel he managed to steal and Oliver freaks out again. When Cater tells him to straighten up or leave, he calms down and they go back to work.

In the bedroom, Trudy (still in her bathing suit, and I have to admit, she's quite a dish) wakes up and looks at herself in the mirror, looking none the worse for wear.

Lt. Boyle is talking with Mr. Rockwell ("I don't claim to be a detective. I'm a chemist. President of Rockwell Laboratories"), who explains what Digenorel is (an experimental drug that degenerates tissues and cells, hence the name) and that some was stolen the other night.

In the lab, Carter is pouring Digenorel into a test tube when Alsu comes in through the secret passage behind the bookcase. To distract Carter, Oliver knocks the bottle of Digenorel into the sink.

Out at the pool, Suzy visits Trudy and tells her not to try to steal her thunder by claiming to have nightmares about monsters. As revenge (?!), she starts to hit on Oliver. Seeing as she still lives with her folks, she makes a date to meet Oliver on a street corner that night (how fitting!). Back at the pool, Johnny is commiserating with Trudy about her nightmares and asks her to marry him as soon as he gets that promotion to manager. (In a lame attempt to explain why Carter doesn't know about the secret lab, Oliver mentions that it's in "his unused wine cellar".)

That night, Oliver and Suzy are making out in a parked car and when she blows him off, he accuses her of being ashamed of being seen with him. She then stupidly admits that no one knows she's with him, so he runs her over with his car. Bringing her incredibly mangled body back to the lab, he and Alsu attach her head to the body of his monster. "Your father and grandfather never used a female brain," points out Alsu. "No," replies Oliver, "but now we're aware that the female brain is conditioned to a man's world. Therefore, it takes orders where the other ones didn't." Yeah, right. "Frankenstein's daughter," marvels Alsu. As the Jacob's Ladder buzzes in the background, Oliver and Alsu watch the body do absolutely nothing. While this is going on, Carter stumbles into the house, clutching his chest. It seems that, while stealing some more Digenorel that night, he was almost caught, and now he's sprawling on the stairs crying for his niece. As Trudy and Oliver assist him, the monster comes to life (looking nothing like Suzy) and staggers through the house, busting through the front door. (As you know, the female brain may take orders but has no idea how to use a doorknob.) She then does what every good monster should: she goes straight to a warehouse and kills a worker, crushing him to death in a door. (The worker helps by slipping more of himself into the doorway while being crushed, by the way.) Lt. Boyle and his sidekick get a call about it and rush off to investigate.

Back at the house, Uncle Carter convinces Trudy to have a party and goes to bed. In the hallway, Oliver and Alsu are arguing about who should go out and find the monster when Trudy walks in and demands to know what's going on. Oliver offers yet another lame excuse about searching for a lost puppy and after Alsu leaves, there's a knock on the door. Expecting Johnny, Trudy opens the door and the monster is standing there, apparently having learned a little etiquette when it comes to entering and exiting a room. Trudy screams and faints dead away and, after Alsu leads the monster back to the lab for regeneration, Johnny shows up. Taking her to her room, he postulates that this whole thing is just Suzy dressing up in a bathing suit and monster mask to back up her story, and now that there's a big magilla about it, she's disappeared until the heat's off. Trudy, having a female brain, naturally swallows this theory without question. In the wine cellar, Oliver makes plans to off Carter and then injects the monster with something.

The film then cuts to my favorite part of the movie, Trudy's barbecue. As some kind of Mambo plays, a bunch of teens swing to the ginchy sounds of Paige Cavenaugh and his Trio. Don the Loser, alone since Suzy has disappeared, sits on the sidelines grooving away. At the end of the Mambo number, Johnny says, "All right, Cats, listen to me. You can take a rest out there now while Paige and the gang swing out on a little number that's dedicated to everybody with a Special Date!" As the overage teens exchange approving looks, the band performs a song called (what else?) "Special Date":

Pick you up around eight/ Try-a not to be late/ It's so hard to wait/ When you've got/ A Special Date…/ The hop is startin' at nine/ All the dances are mine/ Guess I really rate/ 'Cause I've got/ A Special Date…/At ten o'clock/ We'll start to rock/ So hold me tight/ Wish we could dance all night…/ If we could only pretend/ The music never will end/ Never seems to get late/ when you're in love/ With a Special Date!

During this, we're treated to shots of the band and if you watch closely, you can see that the guitarist and bassist keep forgetting the lyrics to the song. During the instrumental break, Don wanders off and when Trudy goes to look for him, he jumps out of the bushes wearing a monster mask. As punishment (to him or to us?) she drags him back to the party and makes him sing. Paige gives his band members a salty wink and Don echoes the song in such an awful, ghastly "Mr. Vegas" way that you want to put a brick through the TV screen. As if this weren't bad enough, the band then breaks into a number called "Daddy Bird" and Don takes the lead vocal:

I'm hip (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bird (yeah yeah)/Let's flip (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bird (yeah yeah)/ Let's hop all day and fly away tonight…/ I'm wild (yeah yeah)/ Lady owl (yeah yeah)/ Got eyes (yeah yeah)/ Crunahiese (at least, that's what it sounds like) (yeah yeah)/ Let's hop all day and fly away tonight…/ Bird's gotta nest in a treetop/ Must have swingin' view/ Hops all around to the bebop/ Stops in the middle of "I love you!/ I'm hip (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bird (yeah yeah)/ Let's flip (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bird (yeah yeah)/ Let's hop all day and fly away tonight…/ Drummer man has a drumstick/ Trumpet man has a horn/ Saxophone playin' some lick/ Stops in the middle of a bundle of corn…/ (At this point, the bassist screams to convince us that this is, after all, Rock 'n' Roll. All through the song, the camera cuts to teens either laughing hysterically or laughing and shaking their heads while they groove to the song, and the drummer either scowls at having to do repeated takes or laughs at Don.) I'm there (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bear (yeah yeah)/ No square (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bear (yeah yeah)/ Gonna growl today and prowl away tonight…/ Don't care (yeah yeah)/ Mamma Bear (yeah yeah)/ Nowhere (yeah yeah)/ Mamma Bear (yeah yeah)/ Gonna growl today and prowl away tonight…/ Horse, he a-runs at a full jog/ Kitty cat's waitin' to pounce/ Sorry, don't feed the bulldog/ Hit me with the bop now watch me bounce!/ Let's rock (yeah yeah)/ Goldilocks (yeah yeah)/ Have you heard (yeah yeah)/ Daddy Bird (yeah yeah)/ Let's hop all day and fly away tonight/ Let's hop all day and fly away tonight…

When he's done, everyone breaks into wild applause (although whether this is for his singing or the fact that the song is mercifully over is not made clear). In the house, Oliver is strangling Carter when they're interrupted by Lt. Boyle, who's investigating the robbery at the Rockwell Labs. Oliver, being the weasel he is, turns Carter over to the cops and they take him away. Oliver grins wickedly.

Later, Oliver gives the monster another injection and when he comments that his monster will kill for him, Alsu objects, pointing out that the experiment, which he has seen fail so many times, is successful. After discovering that Trudy and Johnny are engaged, Oliver spills the beans about Carter being arrested. Trudy wants to see him, but Johnny tells her he'll handle it. Having a female brain, she agrees. After Johnny takes off, Oliver hits on Trudy again and confesses to her that his real name is Frankenstein. When she won't let him rape her, he drags her off to the lab to turn her into a monster. When Alsu again objects, Oliver sics the monster on him. Trudy escapes in the confusion.

At the police station, we find out that Carter's in the hospital after having a relapse (of what?). After Trudy bursts in and tells the cops what she saw (and they believe her immediately), the news comes that Carter has passed away.

Lt. Boyle and Detective Dylan go to the house and interview Oliver. When his further lame explanations about scratching noises upstairs and the fact that he doesn't have identification don't wash, the cops get suspicious. While Lt. Boyle goes to the morgue to get Carter's keys to the lab, Dylan supposedly goes upstairs to the attic to investigate the scratching nosies. He hangs back and sees Oliver duck into the lab. Following him, Dylan discovers the monster and Oliver has it kill him. Johnny and Trudy return to the house and hear the phone ringing. Lt. Boyle is on the other end, and they inform him that Detective Dylan is nowhere to be seen. When the two of them begin to search for him, they enter the lab and discover the secret passage. The monster, hearing them call, breaks her chains and comes after them. They retreat to the lab and Oliver blocks their exit, and, after making the standard "I'm not insane" speech, orders the monster to kill them. Lt. Boyle arrives and starts to shoot at the monster through a window (?), Oliver backs into a corner, and Trudy rubs her forehead as if she's in an aspirin commercial. While keeping the monster at bay with a gurney (having a female brain, she can't figure out how to get around it), Johnny whips a container of sulfuric acid (have you ever noticed that EVERY scientist, Mad or not, has at least one beaker of that in his lab somewhere?) at the monster, misses, and hits Oliver full in the face with it. Seeing its master dead, the monster stops with the rampage and, while gaping at Oliver's dead body, lights itself on fire by straying too close to the Bunsen burner (having a female brain, it doesn't understand the concept of burning to death). It collapses to the floor and burns as Lt. Boyle says, "It's all over now. I'll call the department," and Trudy and Johnny just stand there, looking at the floor.

We then dissolve to the pool, where the newly married Johnny and Trudy are exchanging their version of wedding vows and are interrupted by Don, who says, "I now pronounce you Boy and Girl! Say, I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" "You can leave any time," offers Johnny, to which Don replies, "Thanks, Old Man," which gives us yet another reason to hate him. Forgetting that the two of them were there, he offers a newspaper to them, and when they aren't interested, he says, "Man, you're all wet!" at which point Johnny pushes him into the pool for a boffo ending.

For more information about this movie and others directed by Richard Cunha, go to THE ASTOUNDING B-MONSTER site at http://www.bmonster.com/archive.html and go to the archives page, Issue #20.







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