Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965)

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Directed by Robert Gaffney

Tagline: “Warning! Beware their stare!”

Run Time: 79 minutes

Other titles: “Mars Attacks Puerto Rico”


Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster is low-budget, bottom of the barrel drive-in theater filler. Despite its enticingly lurid title, the film is listless, lazy, and should be avoided.

From the dark void of outer space approaches a spaceship. Sort of. Well, it’s a bright ball that somebody is probably swinging around in front of the camera. Anyway, inside the craft we immediately notice the striking figure of Doctor Nadir; an alien who looks like a cross between Dr. Spock, Uncle Fester, and Nosferatu. Sitting next to Nadir is the illustrious Princess Marcuzan, the putative leader of the alien mission. The other crew members (clad in de rigeur cheap-movie space suits: white jumpsuit’s and motorcycle helmets) stare intently into their instrument panels while occasionally pushing buttons in a completely random fashion.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Nadir excitedly reports a "hydrogen signal" that they’ve followed to, you guessed, a little blue and green planet: Earth. After an initial scan, Nadir determines that the planet’s atmosphere could sustain them, so exploratory visit to the surface is set in motion. (The princess orders the landing crew to don pressure suits "just in case".) Nadir turns in his chair and peers into an oscilloscope, er, I mean super-advanced spaceship computer readout. He suddenly let’s out a shriek and exclaims that the planet’s inhabitants have launched a missile attack. Little does he know that the "missile" is actually a manned space craft being launched by the Earthlings on a mission to Mars. Oh well, easy mistake to make, I suppose.

"It might be aimed at us!". Well, yes. That’s a definite possibility, Nadir. Princess Marcuzan orders the missiles destroyed and Nadir happily complies but pushing a button that must be connected to a stock-footage generator as we watch some sort of V2 rocket blowing up in midair.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Hey General, could’ya skootch over?

Back on Earth we see 4 people literally crammed into the back suit of a car because I guess the cameraman couldn’t fit them all into the frame if one of them was is in the front seat, either way, it looks like an awkward way to travel. (Sci-fi fans should immediately recognize veteran actor James Karen in his first movie role as Dr. Adam Steele. You do remember ‘Uncle Frank’ from the "Return of the Living Dead" films?…)

Frankenstein Meets the SpacemonsterDr. Steele calls a hasty press conference (complete with 4, count ’em, 4 reporters) to announce that despite the unexplained destruction of the previous space ship, the mission to Mars is still on schedule. However, there’s been a change in plans: a new astronaut has been chosen for the mission, Colonel Frank Saunders. (Get it? His name is…’Frank’…hoo hoo. Go back and look at the title of this film if you’re still confused.)

As the reporters mumble ‘watermelon-watermelon’, Frank reassures the reporters that "all" the data has been "fed into computers" (man,…"all" the data?!) and that the final result indicates that he’s the best candidate for the mission.

As the press conference comes to a close, Frank takes a final question and then, well, ‘locks up’…literally. (Realized by simply freeze-framing the shot. Brilliant.) Dr. Steele hustles the unresponsive astronaut out of the room as General Bowers distracts the curious news hounds with the promise of "free drinks" in the press room.

In the lab, Steele pulls back the skin from Frank’s head to reveal that he has a half-human / half-computer brain. (To be fair to this movie, it looks like they used half of a cow’s brian for the shot which gives it a relatively bloody realism.) After a quick examination, Steele decides that Florida’s humidity is to blame for the failed electronics. (!) (I’m not sure how the outside humidity could be more damaging to the electronics than the humidity inside Frank blood-filled cranium, but there you go.)

After a short while, General Bowers stomps into the examination room and makes it clear that if Steele’s experiment fails, he’s not going to take the fall for it. Steele proclaims once again that the Mars shot is sure to succeed. Steele continues to defend his plans for using Frank (whom Steele has cobbled together from human parts…where did he get them?) by explaining that using an android is the best approach to risky space travel since no human lives will be put at risk. Furthermore, Steele notes that Frank’s ‘brain’ can record the entire tour’s data and keep it inside his memory banks.

(I have to say that Frank’s plan is actually quite rational: sending androids on long, dangerous missions instead of humans. So why would the military be against such an obviously valuable exploration tool? Because it’s that old Canned Conflict #45: Military vs Science. One thing that I consider strange is that Steele mentions that Frank can be controlled via a remote, so if you think about it…why does Frank need a body at all? Couldn’t they just connect his ‘brain’ to the flight controls and remote control him, allowing him to gather data along the way?)

Anyway, they launch Frank into space via a long, long series of vintage Nasa footage which may be of interest to those who are into space flight. (But for somebody just trying to get through this movie it’s quite tedious.)

Meanwhile, Nadir and the Princess, erroneously thinking that Frank’s ship is another missile, take action and blow it up. Frank manages to escape. Barely. (How you could escape an explosion is not clear. I mean, once the rocket has exploded, it’s too late to escape, eh?) When the Princess realizes that the ‘missile’ was actually a manned spacecraft, she gives Nadir a scolding because the pilot got away and might report their spaceship to Earth’s authorities. Furious with the possibility of being discovered, the Princess orders Nadir to descend to Earth, find Frank, and kill him.

Moving right along…Frank parachutes to the ground, landing without a scratch. (After jumping from his exploded spaceship in the upper atmosphere. Sure.) Nadir’s ship also lands in the vicinity and a group of spacemen quickly spread out and begin searching the area. One of the crewmen quickly finds Frank and zaps him with a ray-gun, resulting in half of Frank’s face melting away to reveal a jumble of circuitry and other ooky-gooky stuff. Frank responds by pummeling his alien assailant and fleeing the scene.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

The Princess’ space ship. Really.

Nadir and the Princess, realizing that Frank is still alive and kicking, albeit horribly disfigured, decide to set in motion "Phase 2" of their plans. (I don’t recall a "Phase 1"…hmm.) But before Phase 2 is to begin, she decides to make an example of the crewman who let Frank get away and orders him to be fed to their resident monster, Mull. (Mull is confined in a cage somewhere inside the ship. Oh yeah, now that’s logical.)

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Never leave your home planet without one.

Later that day (despite a night scene showing Frank stumbling around and killing an unfortunate motorist), Princess Marcuzan reveals to her crew that they left their planet because of "an atomic war." (Errr… the crew was unaware of this? That their planet had been destroyed? You’d think that nuclear war was something that somebody would notice.) As you might have guessed, the whole mission boils down to that old standby of finding females to breed with in order to repopulate their planet. (But it’s a nuclear slagheap, so I’m sure what the point of returning to it would be.)

By the way, if my description of this movie seems ‘choppy’ and incoherent, then I’m doing an accurate job of explaining the film.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster"We have won the war…but we have no women," Princess Marcuzan solemnly concludes.

So as you might have guessed, the aforementioned "Phase 2" consists of "Capture of the Earth women!" (What…all of them?)

Anyhoo, Frank continues to make a menace of himself by randomly killing several more people, while Steele and his cute assistant, Karen, fret over what’s to become of their experiment gone awry. ("He could turn into a…Frankenstein", Karen wryly remarks.) The ”tension’ is broken when a call comes into the lab. The space capsule has been found in Puerto Rico. Furthermore, there have been reports "of violence." (What?…violence? In Puerto Rico?! Good God! Call out the military!) Sooooo Steele, Karen, and a couple of military brass catch the first plane to San Juan in order to retrieve Frank…or destroy him.

Meanwhile, Nadir’s space men have managed to capture a rather delightful looking bikini-clad woman from one of the local beaches. (Her husband gets zapped.) The young woman is brought before the Princess for inspection.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

This odd inspection involves requires the young captive to "turn around and raise your arms," all of which must be important for breeding purposes on their planet. Satisfied with the first catch of the day, Princess Marcuzan orders the space men to proceed to…Bum! Bum! Bum!…"Phase 3." (Boy, I wonder how long the scriptwriters used to come up with those names?)

After arriving in San Juan, General Bowers sets up headquarters and orders his men to capture the errant android. Bowers reassures Steele that they’ll try to take him alive; but if Frank resists then they’ll just have to destroy him. This doesn’t sit well with Steele, so he and Karen zip off on a handy moped in order to find Frank before the military gets their hands on him.

(In an oh-so-touching scene, Karen woodenly laments, "[Frank] has become so real to me." Yeah, I guess she would feel pretty close to him after being together in, hmmmmm, a grand total of one scene; and that was with his skull opened up…)

Now comes the real treat: we get to watch Dr. Steele and Karen ride their moped through the streets of San Juan. Oh, did I say treat? I meant anguish. (You wouldn’t think that padding would be necessary in an 80 minute movie…) As the happy couple cheerfully toodle around, a fluffy love song is played on the soundtrack, which seems completely out of place since there hasn’t been any indication whatsoever that Karen is anything more than an assistant, so…what’s with the love song?

Arriving at the crash scene, Steele and Karen poke around the area for about 3 seconds before discovering a cave.

A cave.

At the crash scene.

That nobody else has seen.

Yeah, right.

Inside the cave, and boy is this a huge spoiler, Steele and Karen stumble across Frank. The exhausted cyborg is laying on the ground looking all gross and icky and stuff with his melted head. Steele stays behind to repair Frank while Karen returns to base to get help.

Boy, this is the perfect time to jump cut to a dance party, eh? So that’s just what we do. Naturally, this scene will provide the initial Batch-o-Babes for Phase 3. Nadir’s spacemen quickly surround the house and take all the women captive, while the men more or less simply stand and watch. Boy, now that’s some great acting there. (Strange how it’s night time at the party and high-noon on the hill from which the spacemen are watching.) Karen is ambushed on her moped and taken captive as well.

OK, back to high-noon again. The spacemen march their captive females back to the ship and lock them up in a cage. Yes, you’d think that an advanced civilization would have more advanced methods to contain prisoners than metal cages, but there you go. As Nadir and the Princess look on, the captives are put through the "purification" process which involves being laid out on a table and being covered with a, and I shit you not, mattress cover (!!). The unlucky lasses are then pushed through a slot in the wall into who knows where.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Purified!

For some reason Nadir decides to search Karen’s purse and quickly discovers Frank’s remote control. "It looks like a very advanced device for this society," he avers. (The remote consists of a plastic box with a button in the middle and a car antennae affixed to the top. ) Karen refuses to divulge its purpose (because…?), so Nadir decides to scare the information out her by tossing her into a cage next to Mull. (Again, what’s with the cages on a spaceship?)

Meanwhile, the Big Brass in Washington order General Bowers to initiate "Operation San Juan", i.e., the complete mobilization of all military forces in and around, duh, San Juan. (Naturally, this calls for another long series of military footage in order to chew up run time. Sheesh!)

Back in the cave, Steele has stabilized Frank by twisting a couple of wires in his head, and leads him out to look for Karen. Little do they know that she’s been captured. Not only that, but she’s fallen unconscious after being terrifyingly pawed by Mull’s rubber claws. Nadir goes through her purse once again and discovers nothing new. Yep, that was scene was really, really necessary.

Frankenstein Meets the SpacemonsterUnsurprisingly, Steele and Frank discover Nadir’s spaceship after walking around for, oh, a minute or two. (I know that Puerto Rico isn’t that big, but come on!) With the help of Bad Movie Magical Powers of Deduction, Steele concludes that Karen must be imprisoned inside. Steele orders Frank to stay behind and " keep a watch on things" while he hurries back to get help. (More Magical Moped Footage…Hurray!)

Upon reaching a phone, Steele quickly calls headquarters only to discover that General Bowers is out on "Project Mayflower." (Huh?! I thought it was operation San Juan? Whatever.)

Moving right along.

Steele eventually manages to get a message to Bowers informing him of the alien ship. A squadron of (stock footage) jets are scrambled.

"We’ll approach our objective with full offensive strength," the flight leader radios. (As opposed to three-quarters offensive strength?)

(Hilariously, if you listen to the dubbed radio traffic, one of the pilot’s voices is none other than the actor who plays Nadir!)

More stock footage…and…good lord…is this really necessary?

OK, Nadir’s spacemen discover and capture Frank, putting him on a gurney (What? No more cages?!) in the same room where Karen is locked up.

Back outside we see the fighter planes quickly find the spaceship and start shooting rockets at it but to no effect ( "They’re just not working!" one pilot complains). Karen, still trapped inside, desperately tries to rouse Frank and get him to release her and the other comely captives before the ship gets blown to smithereens.

As the stock-footage barrage continues, Nadir insists that the ship take off immediately before it’s too late. Alas, before Nadir can take off with his stash of pilfered pretties, Frank awakes, overpowers a guard (standing in the doorway with his back turned…give me a break!), and releases the babes – bikinis and all. Thankfully, Steele manages to contact General Bowers and breathlessly informs him that Karen is inside the ship. Bowers quickly calls off the attack. (Is your head spinning yet?)

Inside however, things aren’t going so well for Frank. Just as he releases Karen from her cell, an alert spaceman frees Mull from its cage. Mull, probably a bit pissed off after having been cooped up for the last 300 light years, goes ballistic and starts stomping award trying to grab Frank.

In a wonderful shot, the camera is filming up from the floor in order to make Mull look bigger. Unfortunately for the editor, he forgot to take out the scene where a pair of fluorescent light-bulbs are clearly visible on the ceiling! Yes, fluorescent light-bulbs in an alien spaceship. Who would’ve thunk it.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Anyhoo, in the chaos Karen escapes from the ship and Frank is forced into a Slug-a-Thon with Mull. To be fair, Frank holds his own pretty well against the gigantic killer space-whatchamacallit, but he’s eventually driven back. Nevertheless, Frank manages to grab a laser gun (how?), and madly opens fire at Nadir and the Princess, causing them to lose control of the ship which causes it to, yes, explode.

And yup, that’s end. Roll closing credits as we watch Steele and Karen riding a moped around downtown San Juan. Yippee.

Dennis Grisbeck (Sept 2007)

Afterthoughts

On a positive note, the opening credits scene is pretty cool. It consists of NASA stock footage but sort of "freeze-framed" while accompanied by a ticking sound, producing an odd alien effect. After that, it’s all downhill. Fast.

Overall, the film is cheap and without any concern whatsoever for neither continuity, production values, nor plot development. Emotions are expressed with no character development to back them up. (For example, the odd, sudden relationship between Steele and Karen.) Glaring day-and-night continuity problems, Nadir’s claustrophobic 2-room "spaceship" that woobles when actors bump into the walls, and so on. With the exception of Nadir’s hammy performance, the entire production is stiff, uninspired, and apathetic. Avoid unless you need something to do while eating late night nachos. That’s how I got through it.

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6 comments to Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965)

  • guts3d

    There seemed to be an awful lot of moped riding in this stinker…

  • And bikinis 🙂

  • Sean

    Dr. Nadir looks like Dr. Evil.

  • guts3d

    …stare intently into their instrument panels while occasionally pushing buttons in a completely random fashion.

    Every Sci-fi movie I have ever seen seems to have this phenomenon! Even T.V. shows are not immune! They have huge walls full of flashing lights that no one ever looks at or takes a sigle reading from. Seems mighty inefficient!

  • T.R. Stone

    You know, Dr. Nadir looks—and SOUNDS—alot like Jon Lovitz. I kept waiting for him to say stuff like “Uhhhh….YEAH! That’s the ticket!” when the Princess catches him in some inconvenient truth….

  • Billy

    I actually LIKE this movie, because I used to scan late night UHF channels for movies on my B&W TV. And all the elements fell into place – babes in swimsuits being brusquely dealt with, and a Go Go band we never see inexplicably providing era specific dance party music. At Poolside. And Now, all these years later, I actually recognize a lot of the area as Vieques, not San Juan but that is the familiar locale that I’m sure they counted on. But the scenes are Vieques, lonely beaches and patios – Read the Rum Diaries of Hunter S. Thompson for more Period specific details. SO BAD IT IS EPIC, AND That’s The Way It’s Gotta Be (as the soundtrack music intones) Get out the Popcorn, cuz that is the joy of You Tube – No need to wait a year for it to maybe come back on TV, and no commercials for Boxcar Willie albums etc.

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