A spaceship containing a selection of survivors from a doomed planet has gone into orbit around our Earth and they are observing the activity closely. When they see a space rocket being fired from Cape Canaveral, they assume it is a missile aimed at them to destroy their craft, so Princess Marcuzan (Marilyn Hanold) orders her second-in-command Dr Nadir (Lou Cutell) to shoot it down, which he does by increasing the power of the forcefield. They watch the rocket’s demise with great satisfaction, but down on the surface the space programme is undaunted by this setback and sets about planning their excursion to Mars. However, instead of risking a human life in the rocket, the head of the project, Dr Adam Steele (James Karen) has other ideas: he will send up a cyborg, a robot man called Colonel Frank Saunders (Robert Reilly).
"And now... maximum energy!" If those words mean anything to you, then you’ve probably seen Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster at some point in your life, because they're not said once, but twice, with the same clip each time. That should give some idea of how cheap this was, a modest but wacky science fiction flick that was strictly B-movie material, with more stock footage than you could shake a stick at, but nevertheless picked up a cult following thanks to its almost unintentional entertainment value since while you couldn’t imagine anyone taking it seriously, you could envisage plenty being highly amused at the shenanigans set forth here. It was filmed in Puerto Rico (evidently to take advantage of the beach) by a bunch of New York creative types, and against the odds a few of the cast did actually go on to fairly respectable careers.
The most recognisable, James Karen made a number of cult movies and appearances in bigger productions. Lou Cutell went on to show up in many comedy efforts, both on television and film ("Is this something you can share with the rest of us, Amazing Larry?!") and further down the cast list was an uncredited Bruce Glover, father of Crispin Glover and character actor extraordinaire. Both were labouring under some terrible bald cap, pointy ears makeup to make them look more alien, though the Princess apparently demonstrated the visitors' females looked very much like our Earthwomen, which was likely why they were here, because as a spot of exposition tells us they have lost many of their females in the disaster back home so need to repopulate.
Repopulate with a bunch of bikini-clad go-go girls, that is, for this was the nineteen-sixties, yet somehow by taking a fifties sci-fi plot and wedding it to a later era they managed to bring out the curious perversity inherent in many of those works where nubile ladies were menaced by outlandish monsters from outer space or other dimensions. This focus on women, on sex basically, offered a certain personality to the proceedings that was not exclusive to Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, but was assuredly capitalised upon. It was the only feature directed by occasional cinematographer Robert Gaffney, but it should be noted it was not inspired by Mary Shelley's classic novel, for it was more taking the creature's creator's name and applying it as a nickname to the cyborg.
He doesn't operate entirely smoothly, it had to be said, for in his press conference he adopts a fixed grin as his circuits malfunction, which gives the chance to see inside his robot brain when Steele and his assistant Karen Grant (Nancy Marshall) operate on it, to reveal it appears very much like an old transistor radio set. Cutbacks at NASA, one assumes. But worse is to come when the aliens shoot down Frank's craft as it takes off, and though he escapes in a pod he is nearly finished off by raygun-wielding henchmen out in the middle of nowhere. This causes him more malfunctions – murder was certainly one of those – but we are supposed to forgive him at the end when he battles, ah, you wondered where he was, yes, the Space Monster, who is unleashed from his cage at the climax. Really, this was so camp you'd be surprised if it was intended to be serious. All this and musical interludes of a pop variety too, in one case to accompany footage of Steele and Karen puttering about on a motor scooter, as if the Puerto Rican tourist board had put their foot down demanded a depiction of the sunnier side of their island.