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Frankenstein Island (1981).

February 25, 2011

The Scoop:
From the cinematic genius of Jerry Warren – the mind that brought us “The Wild World of Batwoman” and “Teenage Zombies” – comes the goofy turd that is “Frankenstein Island.” For this, the last film of his career, Warren eschews the schlock, nudity and gore that had come to dominate low budget B-movies in the 1970s and 1980s in favor of the kind of genial incompetence that flooded the drive-ins a generation earlier.

The plot, in which four survivors of a hot air ballooning accident (and their dog) wash up on an uncharted island and meet a mad scientist, owes more to “The Island of Dr. Moreau” or “The Most Dangerous Game” than it does to anything associated with the Frankenstein mythos. The island is run by a woman who descended from the original Dr. Frankenstein, but her poorly defined experiments don’t seem to have much connection to her ancestor’s work. Instead, we get some Amazon women in bikinis, a Poe-quoting prisoner (a slumming Cameron Mitchell), lots of idiot henchmen and the disembodied floating head of John Carradine (in a role that he almost literally phones in).

Nothing much of consequence happens, especially during the first half hour when our survivors just wander from one odd group of characters to the next. Even when the action picks up, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There is a lot of dreary incompetence broken up by the occasional flash of sheer ridiculousness. The only excitement comes in guessing when Carradine’s next surprise appearance will come. His role consists solely of spouting nonsensical proclamations about a golden thread, like a lightweight version of Bela Lugosi’s turn in “Glen or Glenda.” It’s pointless, but it keeps things entertaining until everything climaxes in a wacky lab fight.

Warren’s work in “Frankenstein Island” is a throwback to bargain basement cinema of Ed Wood, Coleman Francis and Robert Lippert. Goofy, incompetent fun.

Best Line:
“It’s when you mix the particular place, not here, but on the outside, well, that’s when the power hits ya!”

Side Note:
Warren’s previous film, “The Wild World of Batwoman,” drew a lawsuit from DC Comics, who owned the rights to the Batman franchise. The resulting legal battle kept Warren out of the film business for 15 years.

Companion Viewing:
“The Wild World of Batwoman” (1966) “Island of Lost Souls (1932) and “Mysterious Island” (1961).


Take a Look:
When in doubt, quote Poe:

Warrenesque lunacy at its finest:

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