Double Feature #12: Frankenstein

Frankenstein General Hospital (1988)/ The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

Well, October has arrived.  Time to get your horror on.  Tonight's double feature presentations are unique takes on the Frankenstein story.  The first takes a comedic angle, but manages to be nothing like Young Frankenstein.  The second is a Hammer film, but manages to be nothing like the other Hammer Frankenstein movies.  Love 'em or hate 'em, they're interesting variations on a well-worn story.  Enjoy the shows!

Frankenstein General Hospital (1988)

Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982) has long been among my favorite horror comedies, so I just had to check out Mark Blankfield's sequel of sorts.

As in the previous film, we find Blankfield working at a hospital - but this time his secret experiments are a bit different.  He is carrying on the work of his great, great grandfather Dr. Victor Frankenstein in the basement of the hospital, and he's operating under the pseudonym Bob Frankenheimer.

At left is his colleague, Dr. Dixon (Hamilton Mitchell), at his right, the chief surgeon, Dr. Reutgar.

The dialog in the film is like Airplane!, delivered straight despite being beyond silly.  Take this conversation between Dr. Reutgar and Bob Frankenheimer...
Reutgar: You've heard what's been going on in the hospital. I suspect foul play.
Bob: Oh?
Reutgar: Yes.  Dr. Saperstein has lost another patient.
Bob: Have you searched the hospital thoroughly?
Reutgar: I mean he's dead, Bob.
Bob: Saperstein is dead?!?
Reutgar: His patient is dead.
Bob: Oh.
Reutgar: That's the fifth patient Dr. Saperstein has lost this week.
Bob: Boy, he really is having a bad week.

Poor Dr. Saperstein (Lou Cutell) has to see the hospital shrink, Dr. Singleton (Kathy Shower).  She offers him some tissue, but he's already blowing his nose on his toupee.

Frankenheimer's partner in crime is Iggy (Leslie Jordan).  I consider Blankfield a comic genius - and i don't say it lightly.  I've loved his timing, delivery, and physical comedy since he was on Fridays.  Combine him with Jordan, whose no comedic slouch either, and you've got comedy gold on your hands.

Yep, that's Ben Stein as Dr. Who.  All kinds of familiar faces pop up in Frankenstein General Hospital.  At left is Nurse Verna (Katie Caple) who wears a super short, incredible mini the entire film.  Reason enough alone to check out this movie.

Katie Caple only went on to do one more movie before fading into obscurity.  A crying shame.

Unbeknownst to Nurse Verna and Dr. Who, Iggy is hiding under the kid's bed.  He's left Frankenheimer's basement laboratory to tell Bob some important news: a genius has just died - the perfect specimen for a brain!

Unfortunately, Iggy will have to retrieve the brain himself.  Bob Frankenheimer has surgery obligations....

This is actually a pretty funny scene.  A vacuum incident happens in surgery which rips the scrubs right off the physician's assistant.  This would be your average Benny Hill-esque moment, but the movie plays it one step further.  We see her walk out of surgery, encounter Dr. Frankenheimer and Dr. Dixon, and awkwardly not say a word, leaving them to wonder WTF?

I knew it!  Dr. Reutgar is a bad guy. He is bound and determined to find out what secret experiment Dr. Frankenheimer is working on.  And Dr. Singleton (Kathy Shower) is in cahoots!  The plot thickens.

I know, Kathy Shower sounds like a porn name.  It's not.  Shower was a regular on Santa Barbara and appeared in innumerable straight to video fare worthy of Skinamax.

So, Iggy brings back the head, and Dr. Frankenheimer's secret experiment is finally complete.  He's created his monster.

I should mention that whenever they're in his basement laboratory, it's filmed in black and white.

It's obvious to the viewer that this monster is no genius, but Bob has yet to catch on.  Meanwhile, Dr. Saperstein and Dr. Dixon are starting to put the pieces together as to what shady business Dr. Frankenheimer has been up to.

At the same time, Dr. Singleton is using her womanly wiles to get Dr. Frankenheimer to fess up.  Dr. Reutgar and Nurse Verna catch them in the act - the horror!

There's a bunch of running gags in this film - too many to mention.  One that may become important is that  Dr. Reutgar and Dr.Singleton are into the kinky stuff.  So, you'll have a scene with Singleton innocently on a typewriter, while Reutgar is in the background in bondage.... it's funny. You just had to be there.

Although I can't show it, I do feel it is incumbent upon me to let you know that the amazing Nurse Verna does provide some gratuitous nudity.  She throws herself randomly at Dr. Frankenheimer in the elevator and rips her top off.

Dr. Reutgar finally finds out what's been going on.  He's not impressed either.  When he threatens action, Iggy presents him with blackmail: photographs of he and Dr. Singleton doing their kinky business.  They agree to keep both matters hush-hush.

This scene exemplifies a reason I love 1970s-80s comedies: gratuitous nudity can happen at any moment.  Dr. Frankenheimer is just walking to Dr. Reutgar's office, when he encounters the secretary, Elizabeth (Bunky Jones) who's been learning physical therapy, and wants him to perform some on her.

Now, we've seen Elizabeth in several scenes, giving no indication that this would be forthcoming.  Such is the magic of 80s gratuitous nudity.  Moving on... The Monster's on the Loose!

Since Iggy stole the brain from a teenager, he's stolen some rad clothing and a boom box.  The monster begins reeking havoc upon General Hospital.  First he has an encounter with a little girl reminiscent of the Universal Frankenstein film (thankfully, she just ends up in a swimming pool, alive).

I'll spare you the play-by-play of the climactic scene.  In a nutshell, the monster is found, a battle is waged between Dr. Reutgar and Dr. Frankenheimer.  Meanwhile, the monster and Dr. Singleton really hit it off - let's just say "he pleases her".  During this encounter he chugs some random potions in the laboratory, which make him smart.

Catch all that?

When the police arrive, Dr. Reutgar demands that they arrest Frankenheimer and subdue the monster.  But the monster is smart now, defends himself intelligently, and Dr. Singleton is there for support.

In the end, Reutgar is taken away by the police, and as the credits roll, we learn through polaroids that Dr. Singleton and the monster have embarked on a happy life together.  THE END

(Applause.)  I highly enjoyed this movie.  While I wouldn't say it's quite as good as Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again, it is without question, a horror comedy worth watching.  I suppose the obvious comparison is how does it stack up against Young Frankenstein.  Suffice it to say, they are very different and each succeeds in its own way.  It sounds like a non-answer, but it's the truth.  On with the second feature!

The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

The Seventies have arrived, and Hammer had to find a new approach; atmospheric Gothic horror wasn't going to cut it in the era of Easy Rider, porn chic, and Rosemary's Baby.  They had to kick things up a notch.

With The Horror of Frankenstein they did without Peter Cushing as the mad doctor for once, and went with a younger face, Ralph Bates (above, at left).  Rather than the usual eccentric that Cusing played so well, Bates is a cocky sociopath with a dry wit.

But it's not just Vic Frankenstein that's had a makeover, it's the whole enchilada; a bold new take on Shelly's horror masterpiece, and a departure from the previous decade's Hammer flicks.  People didn't much care for the new Hammer, and fans still resent it, but I'm willing to give it a go...

Within the first ten minutes, Victor has already killed his father (in order to be able to attend the university) and impregnated the dean's daughter.  To avoid any marital commitment, he returns to his castle with his friend Wilhelm (Graham James, above left).

At his castle, Victor saves the lovely Elizabeth Heiss (Veronica Carlson) and her father from a couple of highway robbers.  Of course, he won't let their dead bodies go to waste...

Kate O'Mara plays Alys, the housemaid, whos boobs seem to want to burst out of her bodice the entire movie.  It's this sort of thing that fans griping that Hammer had traded its dignity for T&A. However, I'd contend that Hammer had always been selling the sizzle, and this was just a natural progression.

Wilhelm is a witless simpleton, forever oblivious to Victor's maniacal behavior.  He helps him set up his laboratory, and barely raises an eyebrow when he discovers the robber's decapitated head. What's Victor up to? I'm not sure he even bothers to ask.  I suppose he's just there for the view.

Wilhelm is also oblivious to the fact that Victor is shagging Alys nightly.  This relationship is a bit on the disturbing side because, at the start of the film, we learn that Alys was shagging Victor's father.

Wilhelm isn't concerned with Alys, however.  He's got his sights on a different lady...

Elizabeth and her father invite Victor and Wilhelm over for dinner as a thank-you for saving them from the highway robbers.  Wilhelm is smitten.

You'll note that Kate O'Mara isn't the only Hammer Babe to be bursting at the seams; Veronica Carlson fills her dress out admirably as well.

Unfortunately for dim Wilhelm, Elizabeth has eyes for the dark and dashing mad doctor.  Victor, however, could give two shits about her.  After dinner, he steals her family's turtle (?) to take home to his laboratory.

At the lab, Wilhelm and Victor murder the turtle then bring it back to life.  Funny - I don't remember that part of Mary Shelley's work.

Soon, the enterprising Vic, has moved on to humans.  He kills Elizabeth's father and pays a graverobber (Dennis Price) to get him the brain, which he clumsily drops on the floor.  The broken glass in the brain won't cause any problems with Victor's creature, will it?

Wilhelm finally grows some balls and protests to this madness, but gets fatally electrocuted for it.  (Has there ever been a more pointless character?)  Not letting anything go to waste, Victor uses Wilhelm's hands for his creation. The gravedigger supplies the rest of the parts... and it's go time!

David Prowse, the fellow who played Darth Vader, is the Monster.  After some requisite mad scientist pyrotechnics and laboratory tomfoolery, the Monster awakes, breaks his shackles, easily gives Victor a beat down, and exits stage left.

The Monster goes on a killing spree, but Victor is able to apprehend his creation and locks it safely in the basement.

Sadly, his old school chum, Stefan, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and is pinned for the murder.  The local constable, Henry Becker (Jon Finch), is there to take Stephan into custody... but he doesn't trust Victor one bit either.

Recently orphaned Elizabeth is left penniless and is staying with Victor.  Lt. Becker, who has a pathetic crush on her, doesn't care for this either.

Wave goodbye to Alys' cleavage - she's dead.  Victor put her in the cell with the Monster because she threatened to go to Lt. Becker with damning information.  She's witnessed the many visits from the graverobber, she's seen dumb Wilhelm go missing, she's spied him carving up body parts, and worst of all, her jealousy of Elizabeth was getting annoying.

As is to be expected, the Monster breaks loose again and is soon happily killing villagers.  After the creature has sufficiently riled up the populace, it returns to the castle and goes for Elizabeth.

Victor hides his Monster in a vat which he uses to dissolve body parts with acid (I think you see where this is going).

The ending is surprisingly ho-hum.  Elizabeth is saved by Victor, but she reports the incident to the Lt. Becker.  However, Becker has brought along a couple villagers who've witnessed the Monster, and one of them accidently pulls a rope which pours acid into the vat.

The film ends with Victor looking forlornly at a vat of acid (which contains the dissolved remains of his Monster).  What?

There's no final retribution for Victor whatsoever.  He's done nothing but murder people this entire movie, yet he gets off scot free!  He even gets to have Elizabeth!  The two good guys that loved Elizabeth, Wilhelm and Becker, end up on the losing side. Wilhelm was murdered and Becker gets to go off with his tail tucked between his legs because he can't prove Victor's guilt.

We don't even get to see the Monster die.  The acid is poured into the vat, but we don't see a damn thing.  Very undramatic, very anti-climactic, and unsatisfying.  Douche-bag Victor wins in the end.

Shit ending aside, The Horror of Frankenstein is a good monster movie overall.  I can't rank it among the great Hammer films, but it delivers some good old fashioned creature feature entertainment. Gilligan recommends.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Kathy Shower kinda *was* a porn name. She was in Playboy a bunch, and changed her name from Schrauer.