Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958)

Frankenstein's DaughterThis updating of the Frankenstein story to 1958 sensibilities means that you’ve got long-in-the-tooth actors playing people in their late teens and monsters running around in bathing suits.

Johnny and Trudy are a couple of cool cats who are in love and are going to be married once Johnny gets that promotion to assistant manager. The snafu (other than her husband-to-be’s limited goals in life and his Frankie Avalon hair) is that she keeps having nightmares that she’s a monster that prowls the city streets in a blue negligee. The movie’s in black and white, so I’ll have to take Trudy’s word for it that it was blue.

This monster is basically a stuntman in a nightie with this stupid looking mask consisting of bugged-out eyes, nasty teeth, and a skin condition that would make Edward James Olmos blanch.

The movie doesn’t dilly-dally and gives us the monster right out of the gate. Of course the only person to see the monster is Trudy’s sometime-friend, Susan, a platinum blonde who when she walks, we are obligated to say “shake it, but don’t break it!”

The next morning, Trudy’s kindly uncle, the local mad scientist (he’s actually more crabby than mad) wakes her up and she complains that she’s really tired and had this awful dream. Mysteriously, the night before, all she remembers doing is having a nice glass of punch with her father’s assistant Oliver Frank.

Frank of course turns out to the secret identity of a Frankenstein descendant and as far as Frankensteins go, he’s pretty rad. First, he’s a good-looking, cool dude with a perfectly greased hairdo and always is dressed in a nice coat and tie. Second, he’s pretty much into the uncle’s face the whole time they’re working together. Frank is always telling the old geezer that he’s going to fail and he doesn’t know why they continue to waste time on the old fart’s research. To the old fart’s credit, he yells back that Frank can quit whenever he wants to. Frank, though, needs the job because once the old timer is in bed, he and his assistant (how does he have an assistant when he doesn’t even have his own lab?) are hard at work creating a monster!

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Those of you who are hoping for a coherent story are probably wondering what all this has to do with Trudy turning into an ugly she-freak. I was wondering this as well, so I got real close to my television, squinted hard at the screen and tried to use telepathy to make Oliver Frank explain what one experiment had to do with the other. It wasn’t really clear and he mumbled it quickly, but I think he said something about preserving cells and he might have even been talking about the uncle’s experiment.

Trudy eventually confesses to Susan that she is the monster. Susan, who was the first one to see the monster, has the same reaction we all would to this news. She is outraged that Trudy is jealous of her and trying to steal the spotlight from her, claiming to be the monster in an attempt to one-up her yet again. First Trudy steals her man, Johnny, then she tries to take credit for the banner headline in the newspaper that screams, WOMAN MONSTER MENACES CITY!

To show how insanely stupid Suzie is, she decides that she’s going to get back at Trudy for stealing her boyfriend and becoming a monster, by putting the moves on Oliver Frank which only results in Oliver running her over so he can use her for spare parts to complete his monster.

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His monster is an ugly thing with its head bandaged and a messed up face. It’s also wearing one of the ugliest outfits I’ve ever seen on a monster. It looks like one of those vinyl sweat suits (with racing stripes) that wrestlers will wear to cut weight in a hurry.

The monster somehow escapes and kills a person at a warehouse, then comes back home for some reason. Frank figures that was a close one and gets the creature all settled down again. Meanwhile Trudy decides that the best way to handle her own monster problem as well as the recent disappearance of sometime-friend Suzie is to hold a big party in her backyard.

By this time, Oliver is ratting out the uncle for stealing chemicals, but asks the cops to go easy on him because he’s old and infirm. The old man dies off screen at the hospital, the cops snoop around for the monster, the monster kills the gardener and a cop, Johnny throws acid in Oliver’s face, the monster catches his sweat suit on fire from a Bunsen burner and everyone lives happily ever after. (Except Susan, Oliver, the cop, the gardener, the uncle, the guy at the warehouse, and the monster.)

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A monumental non-effort in the annals of dippy teenage horror littered with many moments that will leave you with a Frankenstein Monster-like expression on your face. Oliver Frank’s chewing of the scenery with his slimy “player/mad doctor” gimmick will keep you amused for most of the movie as he gives you memorable lines such as, “from now on I decide what’s evil!” and “she treated me like a monster, so I’m going to make her into a monster!”

I’m sure something could be said about how the movie represents those awkward years as we make the transition from teenager to adult. The fear of transforming into something we don’t understand, as well as dealing with awakening sexuality as a monster that is inside of us just waiting to go on a hormone-induced rampage. I suppose you could also try and make the case that this movie is an important commentary on the repression of youth in late 1950’s suburban America. I prefer instead, to think of it as one of four films that John Ashley (Johnny) made in 1958 before hitting the big time in the 60’s in numerous movies with words like “beach” and “bikini” in the title.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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