Thursday, February 15, 2018

Frankenstein Island

Names like Ed Wood, Larry Buchanan, and Al Adamson are often bandied about in discussions of awful filmmakers (and justifiably so), but Jerry Warren may have them all beat. The man behind THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD, MAN BEAST, and THE WILD WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN finally hung up his viewfinder after FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND. Though produced around 1980, FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND looks and feels like one of Warren’s junkheaps from the 1950s, except it’s in color (his only color feature, come to think of it).

It’s basically a remake of his TEENAGE ZOMBIES from 1959 with a premise stolen from Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. It stars the usual gang of idiots often cast in trash films of the era — Cameron Mitchell, John Carradine, Katherine Victor, Robert Clarke, Steve Brodie — but it’s odd to see perennial authority figure Andrew Duggan (IN LIKE FLINT) in what is probably the worst film of his career. At least he has the decency to look embarrassed. It says something about the other actors that they all may well have been in worse films than FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND.

Four hot-air balloonists (one looks like Peter Brady) crashland (off screen!) on a remote island populated with sexy Amazons in leopard-skin bikinis (no leopards are seen on the island). Whenever one of the men mentions his hometown or home state, he feel an intense pain in their left are. This is explained as sort of like telepathy. The doctor played by Clarke (HIDEOUS SUN DEMON) tells the kid not to use his arm for awhile, but try to keep it working.

The Amazons prepare a feast that looks suspiciously like sub sandwiches from Blimpie and do bong hits out of skulls (“There’s no question they’re into witchcraft,” says Clarke, who is watching a different movie). They are eventually revealed as descendants of space aliens, not that it makes any difference to the plot. Nothing that happens makes any difference.

Also on the island is Brodie (OUT OF THE PAST) as Jocko, a one-eyed pirate who laughs a lot (probably because Brodie is sloshed); Mitchell (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) as Jayson, a crazed ship’s captain who babbles about Edgar Allan Poe (I suspect his performance is a lot of poor improvisation); Warren regular George Mitchell (HOUSE OF THE BLACK DEATH) as Dr. von Helsing, a sickly 200-year-old scientist performing immortality experiments; and Victor (THE WILD WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN) as a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein. Also roaming about: a race of mutant zombies wearing ladies’ sunglasses, stocking caps, and black turtlenecks. Of course, the Asian one knows kung fu.

Occasionally, Carradine as the ghost of Dr. Frankenstein is superimposed over the action to shout nonsense about “The Power! The Power!” The laboratory “set” is just furniture on a soundstage without flats. An ammo box painted pink is set dressing. When our heroes return to the island with the military (the uniforms are hilarious) after the lamest “action” finale you’ve ever seen (yes, the Frankenstein Monster shows up), there is, of course, no sign that anyone was ever there.

Utter dreck and Warren is solely to blame as the director, screenwriter, co-producer, editor, production designer, and music supervisor. One of the actors invested $90,000 in this film. No way he ever got it back.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

And to think I saw this in a theater back in the 70's. I remember being quite shocked at how awful it was and not in a good way.