Film: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
Release: 1966, Theatrical
Starring: John Lupton, Narda Onyx, Cal Bolder
Directed by: William Beaudine
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Description: While on the run from the law, notorious criminal Jesse James hides out in the castle of Maria Frankenstein, the granddaughter of the legendary scientist who created monsters from the bodies of the dead.
Originally released as part of a double feature with another famous horror icon meeting a real life western legend (Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula). This film is probably the one with the most serious tone, core concept notwithstanding. Set in 1882, the movie actually takes place after the announced death of Jesse James. For the curious here's some actual historical insight: In the movie they state that James is supposed to have been hanged publicly before the events of the film, but in reality Jesse James was shot in the back of the head, betrayed by a member of his gang. The other titular character is the GRANDdaughter of the original Doctor Frankenstein (why the title says daughter I have no idea), she and her brother has continued the original doctor's experiments and been forced to move to America from Vienna. If we're strictly counting years, these being the grandchildren of Doctor Frankenstein would sort of make sense, if we go by the logic that the original tale took place at the same time of the novel: 1810.. But I digress.
|Narda Onyx (right) and John Lupton (left) each play the|
titular characters of the movie.
As far as the concept of the movie goes, I have serious trouble believing that there was a market for this particular crossover. As far as I can tell, the two stories have absolutely nothing to do with each other and the "golden age" of horror films had ended in the beginning of the 1940's. Strange as the crossover may be, I actually really like the character of Maria Frankenstein. She makes for a great villain, with little to no regard for her fellow humans. She even treats her own brother, the disillusioned and reluctant Rudolph, with little to no respect. While nothing like the historical Jesse James, I also like the performance by John Lupton. He's very calm and collected, unphased by most of the problems around him so he makes for your typical bad ass western hero. As for the monster of the movie, they chose to go with a sort of Mice & Men dynamic between Jesse James and his partner who would later become the mindless creature. He's a physically strong, slightly dimwitted man who seems to be merely misguided into the criminal life. The design of the monster is also VERY simplistic to say the least, most likely due to the movie being low-budget. But honestly, in spite of their choice to make a notorious robber and murderer into their main character, the Jesse James in the movie is played nothing like the sort of person who would become this feared.
Acting wise, while both of our titular characters are given pretty good performances, the rest of the cast are kind of stiff in their deliveries, most things are also "over-explained", giving the feel of a story that was originally meant for an anthology comic, ala Tales From The Crypt. Honestly I feel that the more restraining time-limit the movie would have been given in a anthology piece, perhaps Creepshow, would've worked more in the story's favour. As it stands, I feel the movie has way too many scenes with out characters just being in the wild west, completely leaving out Maria Frankenstein for almost the entire second act. Instead we have a few western-clichés, like doing a robbery or fighting native Americans. This doesn't help the movie at all, because as I said the only two really good performances in the movie are those of the two titular characters and having most of the movie leaving out one of them just leaves the audience losing their patience. When the two titular characters finally DO meet up, there is a love triangle in the story that, frankly, seems like it came out of nowhere. Giving Maria Frankenstein more of a reason to hate Jesse James does make for a nice motivation from a dramatic standpoint, I just wish the movie instead had spent the time trying to build up the atmosphere or, more importantly - Have more scenes with the monster.
Yes, poor design of monster aside I would very much have preferred to have more time with it than the time we got. It is obvious who the monster will be from the beginning of the film and having more time of Jesse James duking it out with Doctor Frankenstein and her monster would have made for some great action scenes. It would also have made for potential drama, considering the monster is made from Jesse James' former friend. I would have liked to have seen more of that, instead of a love triangle that never really starts before it ends. Once the monster does show up however, this is when the movie actually gets enjoyable and the sheer cheese factor of the monster creation scene sold the entire movie for me. This is what I came to see and I was not disappoint by how much scenery chewing the good Doctor gets to do in this scene. That and wearing a funny hat. A funny hat always helps.
Now normally, this is where the article would end. Leaving you to find this very obscure film to your own but it just so happens that Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter is an abandoned film and therefore in the public domain. Therefore I am glad to present to you with the film, right here in it's full length for your enjoyment. Alternatively you can download it from The Internet Archive right HERE and watch it at your own leisure. Was I right? Was I wrong? Feel free to watch it and leave me a comment to this article!