Friday, February 04, 2011

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

One has to have at least a modicum of respect for midnight movies sometimes presented on network TV. Last night’s feature was the 1966 classic - Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. An irresistible title indeed.
Many subplots ensue throughout this thriller, but here is the gist: Dr. Frankenstein, I do not recall her first name lives in an incongruous gothic abode with her inept, bumbling brother who unlike his sister, does not care at all for evil experimentation, which is an unfortunate trait carried on for centuries by mad scientists.
The nearest town is Shelby which is comprised of the outside of a saloon and the inside of a jail house.
Most of the people of the town have fled due to a series of strange deaths which are either attributed to the will of God or the goings on of the new folks down the road who call themselves Frankenstein. It seems that nobody in town has a last name except for Jesse James, Frankenstein and the sheriff, who has no first name.
James is on the run from the law and has been squeezing out a living by pitting his faithful sidekick Hank, portrayed by Brian Bosworth (at least a reasonable facsimile) against other town strongmen. We know that James is a wanted man as he keeps informing seemingly anyone within earshot that he is indeed an outlaw and must stay on the run.
Enter Juanita, hot tamale of a peasant girl who takes an instant shining to James and a maternal sensibility toward big lug Hank.
Back to the daughter. It turns out she is not the daughter of the well known Frankenstein, but of sort of a mad scientist wannabe. She is actually the granddaughter of Peter Cushing. Okay, the better known Frankenstein.
She has been unsuccessfully trying to reanimate brain transplanted peasants for reasons not entirely explained except for the fact that she is evil.
The plot thickens. Brian Bosworth gets shot by one of James’s own henchmen who is after reward money.
This happens during an ambush arranged between the henchman and the sheriff, who looks like Fess Parker.
James and Hank get away and stumble upon an unnecessary camp where Juanita and her parents are hanging around a small fire.
Obviously in need of a doctor, it is mutually agreed upon for Juanita to lead a trek over to the Frankenstein’s as they are the only medical game in town except for the pharmacist, who does not have a name.
Miss Dr. Frankenstein takes an instant shining to James but her advances are rebuffed and he politely explains to her that he is an outlaw and must remain on the run. This angers her and she sends him into Shelby on a false concoction run. This is achieved by handing him a folded note announcing his already known identity so the pharmacist can read it and alert Fess Parker.
Turns out the only guy at the jail hose is the turncoat henchman who decides to do in James on his own.
Needless to say, he does not live much longer than the next scene, a quick gun battle in the pharmacy.
Juanita decides to turn James in to the sheriff as she would rather see him dead than to have his brain removed. We find this out later during a tearful and heartfelt soliloquy.
Poor Hank goes under the knife and winds up with a new, artificial brain. He now has a scar around his head that resembles one of those wreath things that ancient Romans wore. The reanimation is achieved with a couple of painted army helmets and some neon. Too much detail for full description here.
His name is changed to Igor and he is able to comprehend English fluently, but is only able to speak two words. Jua-ni-tuh and K I L L.
The Frankenstein brother tries to inject Igor with some poison. We know this is poison as it is extracted from a bottle clearly labeled POISON with a skull and crossbones under it. He gets caught and Igor strangles him.
Enter the sheriff. Juanita has led him to Frankenstein’s lair. After a brief struggle, he is either rendered unconscious or dies, we never really find out.
Enter Juanita. Igor is commanded to kill her, but amazingly remembers her even though he has a new and artificial brain.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of all this, James gets conked on the head and strapped to a gurney where his brain can be removed, or some such malady.
Enter the climaxing conflict.
Igor/Hank must stand around shirtless, flexing and trying to figure out where his loyalty falls. Is it with his creator, Dr. Frankenstein’s daughter/granddaughter? His friend Jesse James? Or is it with the voluptuous and caring Jua-ni-tuh?
James manages to get loose and inexplicably still has his gun in his holster. Igor keeps flexing, Juanita makes scared faces, yet to her credit,
never screams, and the mad doctor barks kill orders.
Bodega Train will not spoil the outcome here, but rest assured that you will definitely know Jesse James is an outlaw on the run, Juanita and Lady Frankenstein both have the hots for him and Brian Bosworth likes to show off without a shirt.
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