Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter – USA, 1965 – reviews

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter is a 1965 American science fiction horror Western feature film directed by William Beaudine (Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn GorillaVoodoo ManThe Ape Man) from a screenplay by Carl K. Hittleman. The Circle Productions movie stars John Lupton, Narda Onyx, Cal Bolder and Estelita Rodriguez.

The film was released theatrically on 10 April 1966 as part of a double-bill, along with Billy the Kid versus Dracula. The pair were produced by television producer Carroll Case for Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures.

Plot:

Maria Frankenstein (Narda Onyx) puts a monster’s brain in the body of Jesse James’ (John Lupton) sidekick (Cal Bolder)…

Review:

William Beaudine’s swansong – begun just a fortnight or so after Billy the Kid… finished shooting – is as plodding and nonsensically plotted as its companion piece. The title again is misleading: Maria Frankenstein, the eccentric villainess, is actually the granddaughter of Baron Victor, whose work she pursues fanatically.

Driven out of Vienna with her lily-livered (and inexplicably much older) brother, Maria has pitched up at a matte painting of an abandoned mission in Arizona, attracted by the frequency of electrical storms – the better to power her experiments. These have resulted in several dead children, but precious little progress. Then Jesse James arrives (don’t ask – contrived doesn’t begin to cover it), seeking medical help for his wounded friend, the muscle-bound Hank, whom Maria sizes up as a perfect specimen.

As in Billy the Kid…, the western plot – stagecoach hold-up, ambush, double cross – is nondescript, but the finale tweaks the tone to something approaching hysterical. In her lab full of buzzing electrodes and bottles marked ‘poison’, Maria transplants Hank’s brain (the difference is negligible), renames him Igor and turns him on Jesse and Juanita, a Mexican spitfire.

Estonian expat Narda Onyx overplays as Maria, whether disparaging peasants or eyeing Hank lustfully, while John Lupton as Jesse looks bemused throughout. “They were made for fun,” production supervisor Sam Manners said of Beaudine’s low-budget midnight movies, which were targeted squarely at the undiscerning drive-in crowd. Fun (and a quick profit) may have been the aim, but the results are lackadaisical more than anything else.

Kevin Grant, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“Though not as flamboyantly awful as its predecessor (mainly due to the absence of John Carradine), this is still worth a look for trash-movie completists.” All Movie

” …capably shot but otherwise utterly ludicrous. Maybe it plays better on a tiny screen. Maybe it plays better if you’re half asleep. Maybe it plays better if you’ve just watched something even worse right before it. Really it only has one thing going for it and that’s the very concept of setting a gothic horror movie in the old west…” Hal C. F. Astell, Apocalypse Later

“With script and direction proving equally frail, the film is only prevented from becoming the camper’s delight promised by the title by the fact that the cast plod through it all with a grvity hardly befitting the occasion.” BFI Monthly Film Bulletin

Admittedly, beyond its brazen marketing, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter doesn’t have much to offer. Hell, it doesn’t have anything to offer. Nor does it need to offer anything else — this is the rare movie that has won the battle merely by existing. That’s a concept that, if you really sit down and think about it, is almost mind-blowing in its simplicity.” Ryan C., Trash Film Guru

“Maria’s German accent is hilariously overdone, the Frankenstein laboratory is full of pointless electrical things, and a character dies halfway through the film just to later show up again with no explanation. It’s that type of movie.” Lisa Marie Bowman, Through the Shattered Lens

Cast and characters:

  • John Lupton … Jesse James
  • Narda Onyx … Doctor Maria Frankenstein
  • Cal Bolder … Hank Tracy / Igor
  • Estelita Rodriguez … Juanita Lopez (as Estelita)
  • Jim Davis … Marshal MacPhee
  • Steven Geray … Doctor Rudolph Frankenstein
  • Rayford Barnes … Lonny Curry
  • William Fawcett … Jensen the Pharmacist
  • Nestor Paiva … Saloon Owner
  • Roger Creed … Butch Curry
  • Rosa Turich … Nina Lopez
  • Felipe Turich … Manuel Lopez
  • Fred Stromsoe … Stacy
  • Dan White … Pete Ketchum
  • Page Slattery … Deputy Andy
  • Mark Norton … Francisco Lopez
  • Duke Fishman … Fight Spectator (uncredited)
  • Herman Hack … Fight Spectator / Posse Member (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Paramount Studios – 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Corriganville, Ray Corrigan Ranch, Simi Valley, California

Technical details:

88 minutes | 1.85: 1 | Pathécolor | mono

Related:

Lady Frankenstein (1971)

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