|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2000|
"I need a brain," says Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy), a fact that at this point in "Frankenstein's Daughter," seems self-evident. He's really Oliver Frankenstein, of course, proudly trying to carry on the family tradition, with pretty much the usual results. This time, the monster is female, though since it's played by homely, male Harry Wilson, we have to take that idea on faith.
Oliver is the snippy, snotty assistant to well-intentioned but rogue scientist Carter Morton (Felix Locher), who works out of a very modestly-equipped lab in his suburban Los Angeles home. It's not entirely clear just what Morton is trying to accomplish, but it has to do with "no disease -- no destructive tissue or growth." Oliver, of course, has his own agenda which, for reasons that remain obscure, involves turning Carter's niece Trudy (Sandra Knight) into a monster occasionally. As a monster, and usually dressed in a robe and/or bathing suit, she doesn't do anything much more threatening than wander around scaring people.
This, however, is enough for the police to shoot at her upon sight. And she is a sight, even if she never looks the same way twice. (More time and attention is spent on Trudy-as-a-monster than on the Frankenstein monster Oliver is secretly piecing together.) The makeups were the work of Harry Thomas, who actually could turn out pretty good work on a very low budget in a very short order; the half-melted face of Harry Wilson here is quite effective. Even Sandra Knight's initial transformation has an odd, almost jarring effect, with her thick black eyebrows and gray tombstone teeth. But then Thomas resorts to his favorite makeup technique, half-ping pong balls for eyes; in Trudy's most extensive midnight stroll, a rubber mask and wig are used instead of makeup.
"Frankenstein's Daughter" is one of a handful of movies made in a couple of years by Richard Cunha, last heard of happily running a saloon in La Jolla. One hesitates to say that "Frankenstein's Daughter" is the best of the lot, because none of Cunha's movies are good, but at least it's watchable and modestly -- VERY modestly -- entertaining. It even has a couple of songs, not uncommon in teenage monster movies of the late 50s, here done by the semi-jazz Page Cavanagh Trio. The best number can be found in Chapter 7/1:30.
John Ashley is kind of the hero, supposedly a high school student, but looking in his mid-20s. He doesn't have much to do other than look cool in his Elvis pompadour and turned-up collar, but he was a pro, and did his job as well as might be expected. So do Sandra Knight and John Zaremba, as the principal cop. Donald Murphy, as Oliver, gives a ripe, hammy performance, not the kind given by good actors having fun, but rather the work of a bad actor who didn't know what the limits were. Felix Locher is also amateurish as the (understandably) confused Carter Morton, while Wolfe Barzell has the most erratic role as bogus gardener Elsu. "I was honored to serve your father," he mutters to Oliver.
Harold Lloyd, Jr. plays the Funny Sidekick to no particular effect, although he's not actually annoying. Like a lot of the children of much more famous parents, his life was short, bitter and tragic.
The plot is so minimal as to be almost non-existent, and everything that happens has an arbitrary feel. Lots of questions suggest themselves (like why did Morton hire Frank if he knows so little about him? How come Morton doesn't know about the secret chamber where Frank stows the Monster body until he can get a head?), few answers are offered. The movie seems like it was made by people who had heard of Frankenstein movies, but never actually seen one. The screenplay is credited to H.E. Barrie, the pseudonym of a soap opera writer whose real name no one seems to remember. Nobody paid close attention to continuity, either; when the Monster stomps out of Morton's house, it rips down the curtain on the door, and damages the jamb. Later, curtain and jamb are back to normal.
The DVD reviewed had a very annoying hum on the soundtrack, most unusual for Image, who generally do good work even with trivial little movies like "Frankenstein's Daughter." The artwork on the box is colorful, and has nothing at all to do with the movie. The movie itself is a stinker, no two ways about it, but it does have some entertaining features; Cunha's direction is basic, but the plot keeps moving, even if nobody ever seems quite sure just which direction it should take. The collection of stills is extensive, and the notes (on the box) by Tom Weaver are well-researched and interesting.
If you liked this movie you may also enjoy; Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, She-Demons, Missile to the Moon, The Giant from the Unknown