Frankenstein Island (1981)

Some people just don’t know when to quit.

Take Jerry Warren, for instance:

He started out making low budget genre movies, but wasn’t very good at it.  He then moved to importing foreign genre films and adding additional scenes to them for the American market.  If anything, these were even worse than his own efforts.  And then, in 1966, he made his magnum opus, The Wild World of Batwoman and got sued by DC Comics (and won, despite whatever you may have heard).

So when he disappeared from the movie world afterward, there was every reason to hope that he’d finally given up.

No such luck.

So fifteen years later he returned with…this.

Let’s face it, Frankenstein Island is a mess.  I think he took every genre trope he could think of, threw them at the wall and kept whatever didn’t stick.

It starts off with a major steal from Jules Verne‘s The Mysterious Island:  four men crash their hot air balloon on a…well, mysterious island (courtesy of some radio chatter and some stock footage of a balloon festival, which is supposed to be a rescue attempt, believe it or not).

Naturally, they find an all-woman tribe there, wearing leopard skin bikinis despite the fact that there don’t appear to be any leopards around (well, maybe they killed them all).  Before long, we have skulls everywhere (including skull bongs), snake dances, magic and the giant floating head of John Carradine spouting gibberish.

It turns out that this is the island where Doctor Frankenstein carried out all his secret research with the help of (I wish I was making this up) Professor Van Helsing.  Frankenstein is, of course dead, not that that seems to stop his giant floating head from showing up spouting gibberish (John Carradine, who else?), Van Helsing is bedridden because he’s 200 years old, and Frankenstein’s daughter is carrying on the family tradition with a full range of unspeakable experiments.

And, naturally, we have a secret laboratory, complete with a brain in a jar; sparking electrical gimmicks; a machine gun in the closet for dealing with any unruly experiments; Cameron Mitchell as a prisoner constantly spouting the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe; zombified henchmen in matching, Batman TV series-style henchman uniforms; a lot of talk about ancient astronauts and advanced alien civilizations; and the original Frankenstein monster chained up beneath the grotto.

Oh, and of course, the monster gets loose at the end, just to add to the general confusion.  As if that were necessary.

We’re talking about a film which simply refuses to make sense.  At least with Ed Wood, one got the feeling that he wanted it to make sense.  Here we have a mad fever dream of a movie, whose predictable if weird final twist just adds to that strange, dream-like trance state where this film dwells.

Oh, well.  If it is any consolation, this was Jerry’s last film.  Although, sadly, it was probably his best as well.

Not that he gave us much to choose from.


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