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Wednesday, February 26, 2014


If you're just joining us, my son and I have decided to watch about 70 films in the kaiju/tokusatsu genre in order to prepare for the release of the new Godzilla film.  You can see the list HERE.

Now.  Today's movie is Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965; released in Japan as Frankenstein versus Subterranean Monster Baragon).

My 10-year-old son, James, will review it first:
Well... I thought it was good, for a monster movie. It's related to "War of the Gargantuas" because, SPOILER ALERT, Frank's hand was supposedly "Dead", but 3 years later, the hand grew its own body (A.K.A The brown G).   
And Baragon is in the movie too, digging holes underground and stuff.  And there's two endings, 1. Frank kills B, but fights a giant octopus and falls into the sea!!  2.Frank kills B but one of B's tunnels has a cave-in, and they happen to be over the cave in, so they fell.  The octopus ending sucks.  The other one is realistic. 
So, i'll give it 3.1 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!!
My turn:
The movie begins with the hint of something that always seemed so obvious and badass: fighting World War II with monsters.  Given that the war came at the height of the Universal monsters' popularity, I can't believe no one ever tried to do something with that.  Well, Bryan Johnson and Walt Flanagan made a comic series, War of the Undead, about it, and there's the recent movie Frankenstein's Army, but that's it. 
I say we get a "hint" of it because Germans break into Dr. Frankenstein's lab and steal his monster's heart.  Later, it's delivered to the Japanese with the promise of it being a great weapon, but the Hiroshima bombing stops those plans. 
After that, it's a long road before we get to some action of a kaiju nature.  A street orphan turns out to be the mutated heart of Frankenstein's monster and he grows and grows until he has to walk through models when he's in a scene. 
And the model work is great.  When he escapes and goes to visit his would-be girlfriend, you almost don't even realize he's standing among fake buildings, trees and signs in some shots.  I did love the scene when he's trying to get food and he throws a tree at a bird.  (The boar, though, wasn't so hot.) 
Rarely for one of these movies, the human element is at least close to being interesting.  The scientists chasing Frankenstein's monster down work in radiation and have been studying the long-term effects of the Hiroshima attack.  And their focus doesn't stray too far from that.  Too often, the human plots are so divergent with a plethora of unneeded characters ... here, it's just right.  Not great, but still OK. 
Later, Baragon shows up.  Now, he's treated as a villain in this movie, but later, he becomes Toho's cutesy kaiju.  Their fight is long in coming, set up by Baragon's attacks being confused for the rampage of the mutated Frankenstein monster.  Baragon's town-trashing near Mt. Fuji was a promising scene, but it got cut off too soon.  The big fight itself is good but features some unfortunately sped-up footage, reused Godzilla effects and Baragon's "awwww" exterior, which detracts from the menace.  The forest fire was well done, though. 
The version we watched had the absurd octopus battle inserted, solely because the film's American backers loved that scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla.  Given that the movie is supposed to end with both Baragon and the monster being sucked into the earth, that Frankenstein's monster survives to fight a stupid octopus from out of nowhere before falling into the ocean instead just underlines how bad an idea it was. 
The movie has the Toho Triple Threat in effect and stars Nick Adams and Kumi Mizuno ... who'll star in the next movie, too.  We also get repeat performances from "Dr. Yamane" (Takashi Shimura), Jun Tazaki and one of the goof-offs from King Kong vs. Godzilla (Tadao Takashima).  Damn Toho and their predilection for reusing actors ... 
Frankenstein Conquers the World ... not really.  3.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Up next, King Ghidorah returns in Invasion of Astro-Monster.

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