Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Frankenstein's Daughter (1958)

... aka: She Monster of the Night

Directed by:
Richard E. Cuhna

Under contract for four pictures with Astor Pictures Corporation, Hawaii-born director Cunha (who was more prolific as a cinematographer for TV westerns) cranked out four low-budget 'B' horror and sci-fi films in 1958. Giant from the Unknown, Missile to the Moon, She Demons and this one were all shot in less than a week apiece on budgets of about 65,000 dollars the same year. Needless to say, these meager-budgeted, rushed productions didn't impress many viewers, though several have gone to minor cult fame. Elderly scientist Carter Morton (Felix Locher) is on the threshold of creating a drug that will "wipe out all destructive cells and organisms that plague man" in his home-based lab. Though he may be a genius, he's not a very good judge of character and has surrounded himself with evil (and pervy!) assistants. The first is Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy), the guy who helps him in the lab. Oliver is grumpy, negative and sneaky, but since it took weeks to train him, Professor Morton keeps him around. Little does anyone know, but Oliver has shortened his last name. It's actually (*gulp*) Frankenstein, and he's the grandson of you-know-who and does just what one may suspect behind his employers back. He's assisted in his work by the home's weird-o handyman Elsu (Wolfe Barzell), who had worked for the original Dr. Frankenstein. Oliver sends Elsu out to crime or accident scenes to swipe spare body parts so he can construct "the perfect being." Neither of the guys can seem to keep their paws off of Carter's pretty young niece Trudy (Sandra Knight), who's had to move in following the death of her parents.

Poor Trudy just wants to live a normal life, but we're afraid that's not possible since Oliver's been using her as a guinea pig. By giving her a tainted fruit punch cocktail, he's able to transform her into a blue-faced, wrinkly creature who roams the streets at night. After her little midnight terror strolls, Trudy awakens in bed the next morning thinking it was all just a horrible nightmare. She tries to confide this to her baby-faced boyfriend Johnny (John Ashley), but he just acts like a jerk and doesn't believe her, and her friend Suzie (Sally Todd), who spotted the creature herself, gets jealous thinking Trudy just wants to steal her attention. Since she also believes Trudy stole Johnny away from her, Suzie tries to get revenge by seducing Oliver. He takes her to Lover's Lane and starts being overly aggressive, so she demands he take her home. Still needing a brain / head for his monster creation, Oliver decides to mow her over with his car instead. He takes her head back to the lab, sews it on to the body and does the standard electricity routine to it. While he's out of the lab tending to Carter (who has a weak heart), the monster climbs off the operating table and escapes out the door.

The hulking she-monster, played by male Harry Wilson with a bandaged head, goes to a storehouse and crushes a worker with a door. It then wanders back to the lab and is tied up by Oliver and Elsu in the attic, while Elsu plots to give Carter a fatal heart attack so he can have full access to the lab. In an attempt to perk herself up, Trudy decides to host a pool party where the Paul Cavanaugh Trio perform a God awful song called "Special Date." Harold Lloyd Jr., who plays Suzie's boyfriend Don, also performs a song and dance routine at the party to "Daddy Bird." While all that's going on, policemen Boyle (John Zaremba) and Dillon (Robert Dix) show up at the home to investigate matters. Oliver rats out Carter (who's been breaking into a pharmaceutical company to steal chemicals) and has him hauled off to jail. Carter dies of a heart attack in the hospital later, and the mad Oliver uses this opportunity to let the cat out of the bag and introduce Trudy to his monster creation. It's nothing a little acid and a Bunsen burner can't take of.

Despite a busy plot, the novelty of having two she-creatures in one film and an amusingly over-the-top performance from Murphy, this still manages to be mostly dull. The cast is what provides the primary interest for cult film buffs. Ashley would go to become a Beach Party teen heartthrob and then starred in a slew of shot-in-the-Philippines exploitation films in the late 60s and early 70s before becoming a TV producer. Knight, who'd later marry Jack Nicholson, and Todd (an early Playboy Playmate) both appeared in numerous Roger Corman productions. Dix became an Al Adamson regular. Perhaps most interesting of all is Lloyd. The son of famous silent film comedian Harold Lloyd and actress Mildred Davis, Harold Jr. had a very spotty career as an actor and cabaret singer in the 50s and 60s. He received only one starring vehicle - 1953's The Flaming Star, which was unsuccessful, and ended up primarily in low-grade 'B' pictures like this one. Because he couldn't quite live up to his father's success despite numerous opportunities and was gay (with a penchant for violent lovers), Lloyd Jr. became an alcoholic, suffered from severe depression, had a stroke at age 34 and died at age 40, just a few months after his more-famous father.

An easy-to-find public domain title, this can be viewed for free online on various sites or you can pick it up for next to nothing on various budget labels. It's listed in the Razzie Movie Guide as one of the 100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made.


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