= Highest Rating
Poor John Carradine. And Cameron
Mitchell. And Andrew Duggan. And Robert Clarke.
Fine character actors all, these thespians hit
absolute rock bottom with Frankenstein
Island, the final film of director Jerry
The Wild World of Batwoman).
It's pathetically cheap and inept — I'm talking
Mighty Gorga level
production values here. Stupefyingly awful
would be the succinct way to describe it. Fortunately
there are a handful of unintentional laughs to
be had, just barely enough to keep the film from
making EC's 1-point Cinematic Shit List. I mean,
any movie featuring the floating, superimposed
head of John Carradine, an inebriated Cameron
Mitchell spouting verse by Poe and bikini-clad
Amazons smoking weed from a skull-bong couldn't
be all bad, now could it? Well... it comes
mighty damn close.
Four balloonists, led by scientist Dr. Hadley
(Hideous Sun Demon's
Robert Clarke), find themselves storm-tossed castaways
on an uncharted Pacific isle. (We only know this
because stock footage of hot-air balloons is used
during the credits, with radio messages heard
describing their loss at sea.) Here they encounter
a lost tribe of white jungle girls, who enjoy
handling snakes, genuflecting in front of mirrors,
shimmying to bongo beats and toking a local herb
from a 'steamboat' fashioned from a human skull.
Actually, things don't seem all that dire for
the castaways... until realizing that should they
ever mention a place other than the island,
a sharp, jabbing pain suddenly strikes them in
the right arm. (???)
Later, after much wandering around, the balloonists
discover other inhabitants, including a disoriented
Cameron Mitchell (furiously method acting in a
prison cell); Jocko, a laughing, drunken sea salt
(played by the drunken Steve Brodie); sweater-wearing
zombies in oversize sunglasses; and Sheila Frankenstein
('Batwoman' herself, Katherine Victor), who's
naturally conducting evil and immoral experiments
— like growing "beautiful", giant-sized
vegetables. The island is controlled by the ghost
of Dr. Frankenstein, who pops up occasionally
in the form of John Carradine's superimposed head,
spouting ridiculous nonsequitors ("The
golden thread!" "The power! The
power!") a la Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood's
Glen or Glenda.
There's also a 200-year old guy named Von
Helsing (kept alive with blood transfusions),
a disembodied brain in a plastic dome, and a dog
named Melvin. One of the zombies carries around
a little plastic 'devil' pitchfork — as found
in dime stores for Halloween — which he periodically
wiggles at Amazons and fellow zombies, magically
turning them into fanged creatures. For no apparent
reason, a shirtless Asian man gleefully injects
a shirtless men's clothing store mannequin with
a hypodermic needle. Even the Frankenstein Monster
makes an appearance, unchained from his grotto
prison beneath the island's reef to strangle some
of the secondary characters. (Rivaling the dismal
portrayal in Dracula
vs. Frankenstein, it's perhaps the sorriest
rendition of the classic creature ever seen.)
The dialog can only be charitably described as
retarded; we're also treated to what have to be
the worst fight scenes in motion picture history.
And could someone please explain what the hell
that spinning pink box was supposed to be?
With this sort of nutball material you'd think
would be a real kneeslapper. But no. (Cut down
to about 30 minutes, it just might be bearable.)
The film is simply excruciating in its awfulness,
a sad, pathetic embarrassment to everyone involved.
Andrew Duggan, who appears in the last five minutes
as an army colonel investigating the island, personifies
this in the flesh. Never have I seen an actor
look so dejected to be before the camera, a disgusted
"Christ — why am I doing this?"
writ plainly on his face.
Jerry Warren masochists and hardcore Carradine fans
are likely the only folks who'd find this disc acceptable.
Yes, the movie's an abomination, but Anchor Bay
showed with Hell
of the Living Dead that a terrible movie need
not get a terrible DVD release.
In fact, a quality presentation can make the pain
so much easier to bear. The transfer used here is
mediocre-to-poor quality. Grain and print damage
abound. Audio is tinny and muffled. But I have it
on excellent authority that this edition represents
the very best elements available to the copyright
holders. (Retromedia does put out good product,
as evidenced by the company's excellent Special
Edition of The Deathmaster.)
I have no beef with the fullframe presentation,
as the film was likely shot that way, but in overall
terms it looks rather poor. This might be acceptable
in one of those cheap multi-film 'public domain'
packs, but not here.
Two extras are provided: a still
and a four minute video interview with the elderly
Katherine Victor, who shares a few amusing anecdotes
about the cast.