Mary Shelley's shocking tale of bodysnatching and resurrection has spawned some memorably bizarre movies over the years, none weirder than the seven cinematic Frankenstein interpretations we've dug up for the 30th post in our 31 Days of Halloween series.
Starting with 1910's silent version and ending with Kenneth Branagh's noble 1994 attempt with wiseguy De Niro stumbling through the role of the stitched star, Hollywood has delivered no fewer than 29 versions of the Frankenstein story. Sure, there've been lavish Hammer and Universal efforts, but also many horrifically half-baked examples, with space monsters, dinosaur creatures and even a famed Old West gunslinger sharing screen time with Frankie.
With the next angry mob of mega-budget, Frankenstein-inspired films soon headed to multiplexes, it's fitting to look back on the questionable (and mostly disturbing) movie projects broadly adapted from the sacred original.
If the thought of these deranged cult classics makes you want to grab a pitchfork and storm a burning windmill, hey, we're right behind you.
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)
No, your contacts aren't fogged over. You read it correctly. Paired with the equally weird Billy the Kid vs Dracula, this low-budget hybrid jewel has Dr. Frankenstein's granddaughter, Maria, confronting outlaw Jesse James in the Old West. Maria has taken up granddad's experiments on human corpses and finds plenty of unwilling specimens. Plenty of C-grade Western antics mixed with familiar horror scares and a good measure of Injun attacks. A pioneer in genre-bending mayhem later seen in Cowboys & Aliens.
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
This head-scratcher was brought to you by that reliable team of Japanese Godzilla moviemakers, Toho Productions. The script has a humongous Frankenstein kid, whose heart survived an atomic blast, battling a giant burrowing dinosaur monster named Baragon. Yep, you heard right. In Japan this film was titled Frankenstein versus Subterranean Monster Baragon, and the finale has the 20-foot-tall Frankie swallowed by the Earth alongside his rubber reptile opponent. Cut ... print ... sayonara.
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)
This odd, forgettable film was Hammer Horror's last gasp for the Frankenstein franchise that began with 1957's excellent The Curse of Frankenstein. Six films later, the props were thrift-store cheap and the mutant ape creature makeup unintentionally hilarious. Director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Mummy) teamed one last time with Peter Cushing, who is coiffed with a dandy blond wig.
Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1973)
Toss in the name of kooky pop artist Warhol and lots of sex, shake gently and you've got instant horror-chic appeal. Known internationally as Flesh for Frankenstein, this X-rated, Space-Vision 3-D overindulgence by director Paul Morrissey was more of a glorified soft-porn gorefest than a serious film treatment. Complete with lusty '70s starlets, gobs of blood and an invasive pair of cranium clippers, it was not for the weak-hearted. Udo Kier's leering Dr. Frankenstein relishes the eroticism with demented glee and mild perversion. Steamy stuff.
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
Mars needs women! So an invasion force shoots down android space cadet "Frank" Saunders over Puerto Rico and proceeds to kidnap bikini-clad teens to replenish the breeding stock. A reasonable plan. Frank, his electro-brain smashed in the crash, goes on a tropical rampage and dukes it out with a mutant Martian muscleman called Mull. Add some crazy dancing and musical wackiness and you have the perfect cocktail for cult classic infamy. In 2004, named one of the 50 worst films ever made. No argument here.
Black Frankenstein (1973)
After the success of 1972's Blacula, Hollywood turned its blaxploitation compass to Shelley's immortal book. Here the mad Doctor Stein helps wounded Vietnam vet Eddie Turner recover his mobility with a toxic DNA tonic. Poor Eddie is transformed into a mumbling maniac monster with an overgrown brow and powdered face, then is eaten alive by a pack of ravenous Dobermans. Also released as Blackenstein, the movie used the shameless tag line "To stop this mutha, takes one bad brutha." Or just hungry dogs out of Alpo.
Lady Frankenstein (1971)
Girl power rules in this Italian horror romp, with a tempting daughter of Baron Frankenstein, Tania, taking up the mantle of dad's dark deeds. After the monster escapes the castle and goes stumbling around the countryside, Tania creates a second creature by transplanting the head of a lab assistant to a hunky servant boy stud. Played by spicy sex goddess Rosalba Neri, there's plenty of Tania in the nude and a ridiculous Frankenstein makeup design that resembles a mushroom pizza worn as a fashionable Euro hat.
Seems Frankenstein has suffered enough indignity over the decades. It's time his image was tuned up for a newer age.
Anything there that begs for a Blu-ray release ... or should we let sleeping monsters lie?