Sunday, December 13, 2009

60s Trash: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster

This is one of those movies that manages to stay under most people's radars. First off, it is from the bygone era of low-budget 1960s sci-fi (i.e. the films all set on Earth). Secondly, it was not directed by Roger Corman. Instead, it was by a man named Robert Gaffney, who only made this film. Don't cry for him, though- he was also the director of photography for 2001: A Space Odyssey...'s part filmed in Monument Valley. Lastly, this movie is known under several other titles including Frankenstein Meets the Space Men, Mars Attacks Puerto Rico, Duel of the Spacemen, Operation San Juan and Mars Invades Puerto Rico. Incidentally, I like how someone made the distinction between them invading Puerto Rico, as opposed to just attacking it. It's like 'we'd love to stay, but we're busy- we're just going to attack you and leave.' Let's get past that bit of silliness and review the real silliness here...
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
The film begins strongly with a countdown and some obvious stock footage from a rocket take-off. Set the mood early, film! Unfortunately, a mysterious explosion occurs during this- done via film effect- and dampens everyone's mood. We get to see a bunch of talking heads- both military and NASA- discussing the problem. What could be the cause of this? As it turns out, it is the work of some space aliens. I would have never figured that out from the title! The most notable of them are the two leads: the Queen and her second-in-command/scientist. The former is from the mold of your usual space Queens from films such as Rocket to the Moon and the like, while the other is very odd. Basically, if Nosferatu was an alien and dressed in black leather, it would be this guy. Wait- maybe he's from Planet Transylvania like this movie! They explain -to each other- how their planet was overrun with radiation and that they are seeking a new home. They viewed all of the launches as attacks and blasted them out of the sky. Back on Earth, a scientist and his lady pal arrive at a NASA press conference. The brass play down the attacks as accidents and tout their new astronaut. He looks nice and all, but freezes up completely during his speech. Don't be like me and just think it's the disc skipping.
As we learn, the man is actually not human. He is a composite man made up old parts and electronics. Why? Because NASA does not want to risk anymore men until they solve the problem of the attacks. You lucked out this time, space monkeys! So, we get another missile launch scene- Great Moments in Stock footage indeed- which does not go much better. It is not completely destroyed, however, as our half-man and half-machine...on the cover of a magazine survives, but has a messed-up look. Basically, half of his face is revealed to be its natural form, while the other is still his 'human mask.' Stranded in Puerto Rico, he begins to wander around in his space suit. He freaks out a couple of young women, but runs off. Meanwhile, the aliens begin their plan: to kidnap some women for breeding. Unlike Mars Needs Women, these guys actually do something interesting! A pasty guy is out at the beach with his hot model girlfriend and does not want to go swimming with her. That schmuck deserves to die! Oh wait, the aliens just disintegrated him- thanks. Back in the less interesting plot, our two heroes take a trip to Puerto Rico- cue more stock footage- and go looking for him. They come across the scene of the incident and suspect his involvement, despite all logic to the contrary. You're supposed to save the day?
After a montage of the idiots riding around the city on a moped, we cut back to the aliens. They show up at a pool party and decide to kidnap all the woman. No, don't take Gidget! Back to Frankenstein as he wanders around some more, but stays oddly low-key for a half-man/half-monster. By the way, the story is really this choppily done. The aliens do some vague 'indoctrination' process that involves women on a conveyor belt, but one of them is too wild for this. Instead, they lock them in the room across from their monster- thanks for showing up so soon, monster! Finally, our heroes find 'Frank' and the man tries to fix him. He sends the girl off to call the military, but she is captured by aliens a mere 50 feet from our hero's location. They go to rescue her and the military joins in. They surround the ship- which was doing just fine in the atmosphere unseen- and plan to bomb it. 'Frank' gets in and knocks some aliens around. Mere minutes from the end, he locks horns with the space monster and they...awkwardly sumo wrestle. That's right- this is The Human Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy all over again! He manages to get all the women out- who show no ill effects from whatever was done to them- before the ship takes off. He activates the self-destruct sequence and the movie awkwardly stops with our human heroes looking up. The End.
This movie is not all that good, but it does have a charm to it. The space monster looks silly in its minimal screen-time, but passable. 'Frank's' make-up works at times, but they barely show it all that much either. I guess it won't surprise you that the space aliens spend more than half the time with their giant space helmets on after all that, would it? Even so, the movie does have a weird and kitschy charm to it. Any film with a pool party scene that is interrupted by an alien attack is not without its unintentional humor. If you like those silly Corman movies like Attack of the Crab Monsters or The Last Woman on Earth, then you will be entertained. It is easy to see why this guy only has one directorial notch on his belt though.
Up next, another schlock classic gets some loving. This one involves ants, tourists and radiation. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. dude, women on a conveyor belt? A Frankenstein wandering around the streets aimlessly and unassumingly? Ive always heard of this title but havent put it in yet, I hope its in one of my Mills Creek sets so I can get to it someday cuz god knows the wife wont let me add it to the que