159. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)
Director: William Beaudine
Writer: Carl K. Hittleman
Outlaw Jesse James, while seeking out a doctor to remove a bullet from his friend, winds up at the castle of Dr. Maria Frankenstein who is obsessed with continuing her grandfather’s work.
I was going to write this up highlighting how it was being posted on April Fools’ Day, but that the joke was on me since watching movies like this was my life. Then I couldn’t even find the time to write this up because I was too busy grading student papers—the thing that actually is my life. So I put a placeholder post here naming and linking to the movie in case any of you visit regularly looking for these things, and it got more hits than my fully-composed posts.
Y’all… I mean… C’mon… Am I watching films like Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter for nothing? Well, in literal terms, yes because there are no ads associated with this and it’s completely divorced from my paying work, but… Look, this is a passive-aggressive way to pressure you into sharing these posts with your friends, alright?
Not that “nothing” isn’t an appropriate summary of the film.
In brief, Dr. Maria Frankenstein, granddaughter of the famed Frankenstein, has fled to Mexico with her brother Rudolph to continue their grandfather’s experiments. Meanwhile, Jesse James gets caught in a frame-up with his partner Hank, leaving Hank shot. Jaunita, a woman from the village the Frankensteins have been doing their experiments in, agrees to lead Jesse and Hank to the Doctors for help. Maria decides to use Hank as her final test subject, succeeds, but at the last minute, of course, Hank turns on his creator and then is killed by Juanita. Jesse leaves with the Marshal that’s been hunting him, presumably to hang for his crimes. THE END
Now, I said, “in brief,” but that’s a lie because that implies I left things out of that description. There is nothing else to tell except a love triangle subplot between Juanita, Jesse, and Maria. There’s nothing here, not even padding. I mean, I’d previously described Hell on Wheels as “Padding: The Motion Picture,” so it’d be a fitting double-feature with this, Exposition: The Motion Picture.
We open on Juanita and her family discussing leaving the town now that all the children have died due to plague. Then we cut to the Frankensteins having a failed experiment and explaining how they’ve killed every child in the village and blamed it on a plague. Then we meet Jesse James and Hank, establishing their partnership and what’s happened to the rest of the James gang. From there, we meet another gang that’s called Jesse and Hank in for help and hear the story of the James gang again. And on and on and on. You could cut this into a tight, entertaining 30-minute piece a la Sandra Bernhard’s Reel Wild Cinema, but this is verges on 90.
This could be an entertaining short film, by the way. It’s competently filmed and acted, the set design is nice if a little cheap, and it hits the beats that it needs to hit. The only thing is, it only hits those beats and it never follows through on giving you want you want from something like this: either the monster rampaging through a space or a mob of villagers swarming forth to take their revenge.
It’s hard to even get behind a hero in this movie since the primary characters are Jesse James and Maria Frankenstein. One’s a murderous outlaw, the other is actively trying to take over the world. Hank and Juanita are the sympathetic characters, but the former gets gutted and the latter is relegated to being in love with and the love object of the two main male characters.
At heart, though, the movie’s boring. It’s so boring! Nothing happens, repeatedly. So it’s not a recommend, maybe not even as something to riff. The film is so empty that it’s difficult to find anything to make fun of. I watched the version from Elvira’s Movie Macabre, and, while she was able to insert the occasional good gag, I still had to play the movie three times to see all the parts I’d slept through.
On the upside, the movie is in the public domain and I’ve added an MPEG-2 version to archive.org. Maybe it could serve as raw material for an interesting editing project. I’d advise against actually trying to watch it for entertainment, though. If you already did because all I’d posted previously was the link to the video, April Fools.