Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, 1966, Embassy Pictures, 88 minutes, color. Directed by William Beaudine. Starring John Lupton as Jesse James, Narda Onyx as Dr. Maria Frankenstein, Estelita as Juanita Lopez, Cal Bolder as Hank Tracy/Igor, and Jim Davis as Marshall MacPhee. Rating: Four and one-half stars out of 10.

In the mid-60s Embassy Pictures produced an odd duo: Billy the Kid versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. THEY WERE NOT COMEDIES, for which we should be thankful for, since they are much funnier as straight western/horror melodramas. Billy the Kid Versus Dracula is a little better, primarily because John Carradine overacts in a campy manner as the vampire. I doubt that these films played beyond the Saturday matinee level, if at all. Any web surfers know?

Except for the many chuckles at the horrendous dialogue and ultra-cheap special effects, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter is a pretty wretched but fun film. The plot? Dr. Maria Frankenstein and her cowed brother Rudolph are hiding out in the Wild West trying to resurrect the dead without success. They are, however, scaring the entire countryside, which seems to consist of only an aging Mexican diva named Juanita (Estelita) and her stereotypical parents. Soon arrives James (Lupton) and his big sidekick Hank Tracy (Bolder), who has been wounded. They're on the run, and Maria agrees to help Hank, but she plans on using him as a guinea pig for an artificial brain. Maria at first tries to seduce Jesse, but he rebuffs her so she tries to have him killed. After Hank becomes the monster, she changes his name to Igor, and has him kill her brother. Somewhere in this mess Jesse and Juanita fall in love and Maria is foiled in her plans.

If this film was black and white and had more unique dialogue, you'd swear it was an Ed Wood film. The laboratory in the film rivals that which was used in Bride of the Monster for bargain basement props. The acting is horrendous. The dialogue is all cliches, conveyed with eye-rolling melodrama. However, the one bright spot is Onyx as Dr. Maria Frankenstein. She plays her role with a kind of mad gleefulness. Her expressions, particularly her eyes, are those of a full-fledged loonie. TV actress Onyx, who was in the 1960s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, was born for this role. Bolder, who was a Southern California cop, as Jesse's sidekick Hank turned Igor is portrayed as an imbecile, although it's debatable as to whether that was the script's intention or the result of Mr. Bolder's acting skills.

This film if seen, is best viewed as a midnight offering at a party. In fact, I recently saw it at 1 a.m. in Utah on a tiny St. George station as the offering to the Retro Television Network show "Offbeat Cinema." It will provide some laughs for midnight fans. Some trivia: Estelita died of influenza soon after the film was completed. Lupton, who played Jesse James was a veteran character actor who played mainly TV roles. He was on several Gomer Pyle USMC episodes playing various officers. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter can be watched on the Web. Watch the trailer for it and Billy the Kid Versus Dracula above!

-- Doug Gibson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just happened to be browsing Planninecrunch and happened upon your critique of JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER. I have a tenuous quasi-connection with JJMFD. Remeber that '80's sitcom, "ALICE?" I attended the final taping and wrap party at Warner Brothers Studio, as the guest of a guest of Marvin Kaplin who played a telephone man. I had the pleasure of having a long conversation with Kaplin and one of his other guests, Narda Onyx. We talked about various Show Biz topics such as Marvin's career in early live TV. Eventually we got around to JJMFD and Narda, whom I found extremely likable, asked me if I had seen it. I said I had, and she asked what I thought of it. I told her quite honestly that I thought it was a stupid film, but very well acted. Surprisingly, she totally agreed with me. My friend stole the OPEN sign from the front window of Mel's Diner. I still have it.
Sherman Hirsh