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  Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter American Gothic
Year: 1966
Director: William Beaudine
Stars: John Lupton, Narda Onyx, Estelita Rodriguez, Cal Bolder, Jim Davis, Steve Geray, Rayford Barnes, William Fawcett, Nestor Paiva, Roger Creed, Rosa Turich, Felipe Turich, Fred Stromsoe, Dan White, Page Slattery, Mark Norton
Genre: Horror, WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Maria (Narda Onyx), the granddaughter of Dr Frankenstein of creating life from dead bodies fame, has fled her European home and ended up in California where her experiments have pretty much rendered the village her hilltop castle sits near deserted. Only the Lopez family remain because their son has disappeared when he was taken into the castle and they continue to hold out hope that he will return. Not much chance of that, however, as Maria's meddlings have put the boy into a coma; what she needs, she tells her assistant brother, is a fresh, strong body to transplant a brain into...

And why does she want to do this? Because she is a Frankenstein, that's why, what other possible explanation could you need? It makes as much sense as anything else in this tiny budget marriage of the western and horror genres, which was conceived as a double bill with Billy the Kid versus Dracula, brought to you by the same people apparently with the thinking that they could bring in fans of both, thus doubling their profits. Hope springs eternal, I suppose, but in effect there were very few cinemagoers left fulfilled by either of these efforts.

In fact, both films have gone down in history as making up possibly the worst double bill of all time, but was this one really so bad? All right, things get off on the wrong foot by putting a mistake in the title ("Daughter" instead of granddaughter - whoops), and as it plays out it looks like something made in the nineteen-forties never mind twenty years later, even if it is in colour, but surely there is some bad movie camp to be gleaned from this experience? Well, the answer to that is a resounding "Sort of", as while it's ridiculous, the film rarely becomes laugh out loud ludicrous.

This is chiefly down to the approach, as William Beaudine, the infamously unconcerned director nicknamed "One Shot" for his habit of capturing a single take for each scene, shoots the western business as if it were any number of horse operas thus making it undistinguished, and the horror stuff seems to have come from elsewhere entirely, as if someone had edited together two separate movies that happened to share the same characters. Our Jesse James is John Lupton, who according to this was not shot dead but has survived to carry on in reduced circumstances with only one member in his gang, the hulking Hank (Cal Bolder).

When James' latest plan for robbery goes wrong, Hank ends up shot and ailing so they bring him to the nearest doctor, who happens to be Maria Frankenstein, and she has big plans for him as she can hardly wait to get that mysteriously Rastafarian-looking crash helmet onto his bonce and start with the brain surgery. Jesse is also having problems because he is now being hunted down by the law, and realises what Maria has up her sleeve too late to save Hank, or Igor as he is now called. Onyx is the sole cast member who throws herself into her role, as everyone else performs with interest-sapping gravitas, and the whole antagonistic set-up is reminiscent of Freddy vs Jason, in that one villain is less of a baddie than the other and thus the hero by default. Sad to say, this should have been a lot more lurid if it wanted to hold the attention. Music by Raoul Kraushaar.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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