Monday, February 22, 2010

Mixed Genre Monday: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966) - starring John Lupton and Nardna Onyx

Hiya, Kiddies! So, your ol' Professor has decided to do something a little different this week. Instead of the usual western on Monday, horror/scifi on Tuesday, etc., this week we're going to take a look at movies that cross the boundaries of genre. Today, for instance we're going to take a look at a movie that is a cross between a western and a horror flick, 1966's Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.

The film opens in the small town of SomewhereintheSouthwest. The town has been suffering from unexplained death and disease ever since the new tenants moved into the castle at the top of the hill that overlooks the town. It seems that (despite what the title says) Baron Frankenstein's Grandson (Steven Geray) and Granddaughter (Narda Onyx) have moved in and are carrying on their grandfather's experiments on the townspeople. They have come to America because of the extreme number of electrical storms which they need to power their experiments. Posing as doctors, they have been kidnapping the local children, but so far they have had no luck in their attemps to bring the dead back to life. And as more and more children have turned up missing or dead, the townspeople have simply been moving away from what they see as a cursed town until only the Lopez family is left. Family daughter Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez) has visited the castle because her brother went up there and never returned, only to be told that he, too, has been taken ill.

Just an aside: the accents are played so thick and heavy in this film that it actually took me a moment to realixw that the Lopez family was blaming the town's misfortunes on "God's Will", and not on a "Cod's Wheel". Whatever that might be.

Anyway, after about 15 minutes of the baroness and her brother it's time to get to the western part of the movie. Now if you had just joined in at this point, you might have no idea that nothing odd was going on, as this part is played just as straight as any oater of the time. We first meet Jesse (John Lupton) and his travelling buddy Hank (Cal Bolder) as they are trying to raise some money by betting on a fist fight between Hank and a man named Stacey. After they win, we cut to the hideout of the remaining members of the Wild Bunch (the film obviously couldn't afford an entire bunch, so we are left with leader Butch Curry, his brother Lonny, and their partner Pete Ketchum) who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jesse and Hank. When the pair finally arrive at the hideout, Butch lays out his plan to steal $100,000 from a coach that will be transporting the money from the town bank to a nearby fort. Lonny, unfortunately wants nothing to do with having to split his take with Jesse and Hank, so he arranges with the town's sheriff (played by Jim Davis, immediately recognizable to Dallas fans as patriarch Jock Ewing) to betray his partners for the reward money and being named a deputy.

Obviously, these two strands are eventually going to intersect, and when Hank is wounded in the resulting ambush, Jesse takes him to the village and the pair find respite at the Lopez house. Juanita then takes them to the castle so that the doctors can patch up Hank's wounds. Upon seeing the strongman, Maria Frankenstein realizes that he is just the specimen that she has been looking for. After a bit of surgery, Hank is rechristened Igor and becomes Maria's undead slave. Will he now follow her orders and kill his former partner? Or will Jesse be able to overcome the newly-made monster?

Ok, let's be honest. We're not talking about a great work of art here. We're not even talking about a stunning piece of filmmaking. What we are talking about is an interesting cross-section of genres that actually plays out pretty well, definitely an entertaining enough way to pass an hour and a half or so.

Alright, so how about a trailer?

And, as an extra bonus, here's another trailer for the movie along with its equally genre-bending co-feature (but that's a film for another day, once i'm certain that it, too, has passed into the public domain.):

Ok, time for the skinny:

Title: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
Release Date: 1966
Running Time: 83 min
Starring: John Lupton and Nardna Onyx
Director: William Beaudine
Producer: Carol Case
Distributed by: Sam Manners

The movie is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon, with commentary and an introduction by your Professor's favorite film critic: Joe Bob Briggs Presents: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.
Or it's available for rental from Netflix: Joe Bob Briggs Presents: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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