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  Frankenstein 1970 Atom Heart Father
Year: 1958
Director: Howard W. Koch
Stars: Boris Karloff, Don 'Red' Barry, Jana Lund, Tom Duggan, Charlotte Austin, Norbert Schiller, Rudolph Anders, Irwin Berke, John Dennis, Franz Roehn, Joe Ploski, Otto Reichow, Mike Lane
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is a cold and misty night, and a girl (Jana Lund) is being chased by a hulking figure through the forest path. She tries to shake him off, but a fall means he gets ever closer, and once she reaches the nearby lake she has no choice but to back away into the water. This does not stop her pursuer, and he follows her, catching up and grabbing her around the neck, pushing her under the surface as her screams are silenced - and then the director shouts "cut!". This is a television show being filmed, and the girl is Carolyn Hayes, an actress; they have permission to shoot there and at the castle from a certain Doctor Frankenstein (Boris Karloff)...

The Curse of Frankenstein was a hit around the world in the late fifties, which revived interest in those classic movie monsters which had fallen away in popularity thanks to the barrage of science fiction creatures that flooded the screen in that decade. One of the results of that were a number of low budget Frankenstein movies, and this was one of them, taking place in the near-ish future as if the producers were hedging their bets about how far the Gothic horror would take them as far as box office takings went, and had decided to include a sci-fi element or two to keep the decade's tried and tested formula alive.

Its true casting coup was getting Boris Karloff to play the title role, as he had not made an "official" Frankenstein film since House of Frankenstein back in the forties. Although he was not playing the monster, he did have the part of the doctor who was causing all the kerfuffle as the television crew descend on him, which he has found is the only way he can raise cash for his experiments. These take place in his nuclear-powered lab in the basement, reached in pleasing style through a secret passageway, but there's not much else that was pleasing about this other than the odd touch of the macabre - that opening sequence was routinely claimed to be the best thing about the movie, and Boris isn't even in it.

As if to make up for the setbound flavour of the enterprise, Karloff went way over the top in his portrayal, barking every line, chuckling madly, and energetically pounding away on a pipe organ to unwind; he also limped around in time-honoured Long John Silver fashion, after telling us that he was tortured by the Nazis, which explains his scars and general lack of health. He is creating a being in his lab, both to continue his great-grandfather's work and to ensure he has some kind of descendant himself, as he has no offspring to speak of. This he does by taking bits from his guests, so when the creature needs a heart, the doctor simply lifts one out of his manservant: very loyal chap, that.

But he also needs a pair of eyes, after dropping the pair he has Peter Cushing-style, so we are left in suspense as to who the unwilling donor will be. As it is, Boris works his way down the cast list with the assistance of his now-ambulatory creation, which is all wrapped up in bandages from head to toe. We are meant to wonder what it could possibly look like under there, which is all leading up to a visual punchline for the final shot, but as earlier the doctor has made it perfectly clear the visage he has chosen then it's not so much of a shock. The sci-fi and horror aspects are a decent enough match, but there's an awful lot of hanging about waiting for the next plot development, and as they were not doing much novel with the concept the result was a very ordinary film indeed. It was nice to see Boris, but his best Frankenstein moments were when he was playing the monster himself. Music by Paul Dunlap.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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