Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lust and Rockets: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)

By Hank Parmer

A Futurama Entertainment Corporation presentation. (Approved by the Space Pope)

Directed by: Robert Gaffney
Story by: George Garrett

As the movie opens, cool, haughty Princess Marcuzan, and her mutated asthma hound toady, Dr. Nadir (which is stunningly apt, as regards both his performance and this point in the actor's career) are cruising through the ionosphere, doing their cosmic thing.

 "And I am getting a spot, right here..."

You can instantly tell this princess is the real deal. Not merely from her imperious manner, and her regal Egyptian-style headdress, but also because she rigidly eschews contractions in her dialog.

Dr. Nadir excitedly informs the princess that the mysterious planet below is the source of the radio signals they've been tracking. She has him move their spaceship in for a closer look. After a quick scan, Dr. Nadir declares the planet suitable to sustain their form of life. The princess decides to land and check it out. For some reason -- and it's definitely not because it saves the production a major outlay on bald wigs and pointy ears, okay? -- even though she's just been told the air down there should be fine, she orders the landing party to wear pressure suits and helmets. Just like every other member of the crew we see in this spaceship's control room, except for herself and the doctor, is already wearing.

Ha! Dr. Nadir announces there's a missile attack -- and it may be aimed at us!

Cutaway to stock footage, first of a Saturn rocket lifting off, then a brief clip filmed by a rearward-pointing camera on a V-2 as it arrows into the clear desert skies above White Sands. If you've seen any Grade-Z space epics from the drive-in era, you'll be all too familiar with this sequence.

The princess orders the doctor to destroy the missile. (Just to be on the safe side, you understand.) Dr. Nadir eagerly seizes on this opportunity to whip out his favorite catchphrase. Rapidly reeling off some coordinates to a crewman, he concludes with: "Focus force fields! And now ... MAXIMUM ENERGY!"

The rocket instantly morphs into an Atlas booster, which then blows up real good, to much eeeevil cackling from our gnomish, pointy-eared doctor.

Fun facts: The actor who portrays Dr. Nadir, Lou Cutell, appeared in no less than three movies with "Frankenstein" in the title during his long career -- this one, Young Frankenstein and Frankenstein General Hospital. (Didn't Roy Thinnes have a cameo in that one, as the creature's gall bladder?) Princess Marcuzan, incidentally, is played by June, 1959's Playmate of the Month, Marilyn Hanold. Her other challenging roles to date have included that of a cannibalistic Venusian Amazon in the Three Stooges short Spaceship Sappy, and a minor part in the horror "classic" The Brain That Wouldn't Die. And yet, she gets top billing in this one.

Cocoa Beach, Florida: The score swings into a jazzy secret agent theme featuring twangy bass guitar, bongos and saxophones, while the audience gets a nice, long drive-by gander at the rocket garden in front of Patrick Air Force Base. Cut to the back of a strictly-observing-the-posted-speed-limit Lincoln Continental, where we meet our earthly protagonist, two-fisted scientist Dr. Adam Steele. Played, in his first motion picture appearance, by prolific Broadway, film and TV actor James Karen. Crammed into the back seat with him are his (colleague? secretary?) and love interest, Karen Grant, as well as Gen. Bowers and Col. Frank Saunders -- who throughout this scene stares stonily ahead. I think he's had it up to here with the never-ending Kentucky Fried Chicken jokes.

The General's worried: They've lost three rockets so far, he reminds Dr. Steele. He wants Adam's assurance nothing will go wrong on this latest shot. As an afterthought, he asks Ms. Grant how she's doing today. She smiles, wanly. She really doesn't seem to have many lines in this thing.

More spy music, paired with stunning panoramic views of Cocoa Beach's scenic motel signs.

Back to the Lincoln, where Gen. Bowers lends emphasis to his next line by removing his glasses (Act-innnng!) before asking how much longer until they get to Cape Kennedy. The driver says it will be another five minutes. So we get ten more minutes -- it felt that long, anyway -- of secret agent theme and that Lincoln Continental tooling along Highway 401, then up to and through the gate at Cape Kennedy. Followed by a shot which lingers lovingly on a vacant gantry, until the P.O.V. finally arrives at the parking lot outside the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Inside, we find a handful of reporters impatient for their first look at this mystery guy who's the space program's newest astronaut. Dr. Steele kicks off the press conference with news that everything's go for tomorrow's launch to Mars. (What an ironic coincidence!)

Col. Sanders is introduced, and in answer to the first question, expresses his complete confidence in his ability to handle the mission. Strange signals recently detected from space are mentioned by one of the journalists, but Frank is noncommittal. Another reporter wants to know how this newcomer could have been chosen for such an important flight, over other, more experienced astronauts. (They have a pool going on who Frank had to sleep with to score this plum assignment, with Gen. Bowers the three-to-one favorite.)

Frank explains he's a test pilot. He was told he was selected for this job by a computer program, and of course he never questions the decisions of his superiors. But another scribe won't let it go: He's been covering the space program for years, yet before today he'd never heard of Frank. How does the colonel explain that?

Frank, with a boyish grin, replies, "I guess I'm the shy type."

And then he seizes up. There's a long, uncomfortable silence in which we can hear a faint whirring and clicking, while Col. Saunders sits there, unblinking and completely motionless, that toothy smile frozen on his face, until one of the reporters works up the courage to ask Frank if he's all right.

Adam makes a hurried and incredibly unconvincing excuse about the colonel being tired and needing his rest for tomorrow, as he and Karen each grab an arm and hustle zombified Frank out of the conference room, leaving poor Gen. Bowers to deal with the nonplussed newshounds. Luckily, they're easily distracted when the quick-thinking officer offers to stand them drinks at the bar. Irresistibly enticed by the prospect of sopping up some free booze, these dogged reporters neglect to follow up on NASA's apparent willingness to entrust their first mission to Mars, not to mention a multi-million dollar spacecraft, to an astronaut who's subject to the occasional petit mal. That, or he doesn't handle pressure very well.

Steele and Karen rush Col. Saunders to their laboratory, where they peel back his scalp to reveal he's got only half a brain: The space where his left hemisphere should be is occupied by a tangle of electronics. I guess they kept the right side of his brain intact so he could retain his artistic ability.

Dr. Steele believes the excessive humidity is the most likely culprit for causing Frank's electronic half-a-brain to short out. Good thing Mars has a dry climate, then. All the scientist has to do is give a capacitor a quick wiggle, and his astronautical automaton is back in working order. Dr. Steele glues Frank's scalp back down with rubber cement.

Gen. Bowers joins them. He's understandably jittery about gambling his career -- er, the mission on this malfunctioning bio-mechanical mashup. The general hints if there's another foul-up, Steele might just find himself at McMurdo, programming kamikaze cyberpenguins.

But the scientist is optimistic. He's dedicated his life to proving there's no need to send men into space, when synthetic astronauts "pieced together from transplants" like Frank can do the job for them. Not only are they eliminating the possibility of human error, he explains, but in case something goes wrong, or "his brain breaks down" (again) Frank even comes with this handy remote!

Then are they going to send somebody with the remote along on the mission (which you'd think would negate the whole point of substituting an android for the real thing) or does that little gadget have a truly remarkable range?

Time for another all-you-can-stand (and more) serving of stock footage from the early days of the manned space program, as a Mercury astronaut gets a lift over to the gantry and is sealed in his capsule. Then more beauty shots of a Saturn V on the launch pad. All to the driving beat of the rocking anthem "That's the Way It's Got to Be", by a band called "The Poets". Whom no one has ever heard of, or will hear of again.

At first, everything's A-OK with the launch of the Mayflower II. But sadly, our trigger-happy extraterrestrials are still hovering in the vicinity. The princess commands Dr. Nadir to once again utter those fateful words: "And now ... MAXIMUM ENERGY!"

In fact, it appears the filmmakers just re-used the same footage from earlier.

Back on Earth, Gen. Bowers, Adam and Karen are gathered in front of the boob tube, watching the rocket's majestic ascent into the heavens. With the exquisite timing typical of this sort of drama, at the precise moment the general congratulates everyone on a job well done, the screen goes blank and they lose contact with the Mayflower II. Bowers gets on the radio and orders Frank to abort the mission and eject.

Raise your hands, everyone who knows what's coming next: That's right, more stock footage, courtesy of NASA! This time from a test of the Apollo command module's launch escape system. From the escape rockets firing to the parachutes deploying, we'll see every phase of the process. That's another couple of minutes accounted for. These things add up, you know.

Aboard the alien spaceship, Dr. Nadir is having another good giggle -- actually, it's the same one as earlier -- in front of his televisor, savoring his latest deliciously naughty act of interplanetary vandalism as he watches Frank's rocket explode. But then he notices someone has ejected from this one. Princess Marcuzan is not amused to learn there was a pilot on that "miss-ile". She berates her toady for having done exactly what she ordered him to do. Now she's worried the earthlings will find out about them. The princess commands Dr. Nadir to find and destroy that pilot.

Calculating that Frank's capsule will touch down somewhere in a remote part of Puerto Rico, they land their shiny new 1965 model Buckminster 2000 spacecraft. The aliens demonstrate the classic extraterrestrial's unerring instinct for setting down close to where an unlucky hunter is stalking his prey. Being both hostile and stupid, the instant this representative of the human race discovers their ship and sees a guy in a spacesuit emerging from it, the earthling peppers the spacecraft with bird shot. The ET's disintegrator ray solves that problem in a hurry.

"Go back where you came from, you goldang Commie revenuers!"

(Like many of the cheesiest cinematic aliens circa the mid-to-latter Sixties, our invaders are packing modified Wham-O Air Blasters. For those of you who aren't toy collectors, or weren't kids back then, the hand-pumped Air Blaster was released by Wham-O in 1965, and almost as quickly pulled from the market. Because we little fiends soon grew bored with knocking over a lame cardboard target with a blast of compressed air, and began to devise all sorts of ways it could be used to torment pets and younger siblings. Can you say "lawsuits" and "ruptured eardrums"? I knew you could.)

Next we see Frank, grounded, safe and sound, none the worse for his harrowing experience. But that doesn't last long. He's barely given time to shrug out of his parachute harness -- what happened to that capsule? -- and indulge in a bit of aimless wandering before he runs into one of these blaster-crazy aliens.

But our undaunted droid isn't about to evaporate in a puff of pyrotechnics like that luckless sportsman. Or maybe the shot was a near miss, or the alien forgot to pump it up -- I mean, check the charge on that blaster, because all that happens is the left half of Col. Saunders' face is rendered extra crispy. He retaliates by leaping onto the alien and giving him a savage pummeling. Then Frank wanders off in a daze, beeping and whirring.

 Maybe I should have asked for the original recipe, instead ...

The aliens find their severely beaten comrade, and carry him back to the ship. Dr. Nadir's second in command (Bruce Glover, of all people, some of whose more memorable parts include the assassin "Mr. Wint" in Diamonds Are Forever, and Jake's assistant "Duffy" in Chinatown) breaks the news to the queen and his princess that Frank got away. She's simply furious, and concludes that feeding the injured crewman to her pet monster, "Mull" (also played by Bruce Glover) will be just the ticket to tighten up discipline.

Then again, this could also be the aliens' version of Trumpcare.

The princess fears Frank's escape will put a major kink in their plan to scope out the Earth surreptitiously. Something about "pollenization" is mentioned in passing. What, they're here to steal all of Earth's fruit orchards?

Despite Dr. Nadir's misgivings, Princess Marcuzan decrees they must immediately proceed to Phase Two of their mission.

Meanwhile, Frank staggers across a barren, rocky landscape. It's a beautiful, cloudless day -- then, without any kind of transition, it's nighttime. At a roadside construction site, Frank flags down a young couple out for a drive in their Thunderbird convertible. But when the gruesomely disfigured cyborg attempts to hitch a ride, the driver signals his reservations about this by shoving a fire pot in Frank's face. The android goes berserk and strangles him, then disappears into the night.

Back at the spaceship, the princess has Dr. Nadir describe the conditions on their home planet to the crew, over the intercom. Today's weather really kind of sucks, though, because of the just-concluded nuclear war. According to the doctor, the lucky ones died immediately, while the others will go mad and slowly rot away. At least they can console themselves with the knowledge they won the war.

There's one minor hitch, though: As the princess explains, her otherwise all-male crew (we'll stretch a point for Dr. Nadir) are the sole survivors of their species. All the women back home, she tells them, are dead.

You can see where this is leading, right? They have to kidnap some fresh breeding stock, to repopulate their devastated planet! I guess there's an unexpected bright side to the atomic holocaust.

Cut to Frank, who's back stumbling around on that rocky promontory again, then the scene switches to the lab at NASA. Dr. Steele and Karen -- who finally has some lines in this thing -- are trying to pick up the android's telemetry signal, with no success, while the general sulks by the telephone. Adam is rather churlish about Frank's fate; he considers the android just a hunk of defective junk now, but Karen is worried that their creation might be lost, and hurting. She reminds Adam that for some unexplained (and if you ask me, kind of sadistic) reason, they programmed Frank to feel pain.

She asks Steele, "What if everything except the energy level, or the data communication, or the electronic memory were destroyed?"

Adam replies, "Well then, he'd be a blank, an astro-robot without a control system. Oh, he could feel and experience things, but he wouldn't know anything."

Larry Blamire can only dream of writing dialog this goofy.

Back to Frank, now lurching along a wind-swept beach in fabulous Puerto Rico. Dr. Steele continues with a voice-over: Frank's instinct will be to re-connect with his master control. But without knowing where that is, he could wander around for days.

Cutaway to the lab again, as Dr. Steele and Karen speculate about their astro-robot's current state of mind. If he has a bad experience, muses Adam, it might trigger his self-defense routine. (In hindsight, though, maybe they shouldn't have defaulted that response setting to "Violent Psycho".)

Karen: "What you're saying is, he might turn into a Frankenstein."

[Dialog provided as a service to the mentally slower members of our audience.]

Frank happens upon an islander splitting coconuts with his machete. Once again, our misunderstood monster is attacked before he can even say "Hola!" and inquire the way to the master control. Frank hacks the poor sap to death with his own machete.

Gen. Bowers receives word over the phone that Frank's capsule has been found in Puerto Rico, although there's no sign yet of the astro-robot. But ominously, there's also a vague report about some kind of violence involving a guy wearing what might have been a spacesuit. Whatever: It's off to sunny San Juan for our trio of merry astro-nuts!

Which of course means -- more stock footage! This time of an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker; I just can't get enough of watching this bird taxi and take off in near-total darkness, followed by some daylight shots of the aircraft soaring high above the clouds.

The next scene opens with a sprightly, Caribbeanish musical theme, as sparkling white-crested waves roll in on yet another of Puerto Rico's many scenic beaches. The camera pans to another attractive bit of scenery: a blonde in an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny polka-dot bikini. She cavorts in the surf, while her schlub of a significant other slouches in a folding chair in the shade of some palm trees, engrossed in his newspaper. I'd say the magic has definitely departed from this relationship.

Toweling her buff self off, and earning nothing more than a disinterested glance or two from her companion -- is this guy dead below the waist, or what? -- she suddenly spies a pair of spacesuit-wearing aliens approaching through the palms. They promptly disintegrate her boyfriend. The girl screams, albeit halfheartedly. When she attempts to run away, the aliens sprint up on either side of her and each grabs an elbow. They escort her off-scene at a quick trot, like bodyguards hurrying a particularly annoying fan toward the nearest exit. She seems remarkably cooperative.

The filmmakers evidently feel they haven't quite wrung their money's-worth out of that KC-135 footage, so we cut to another minute or two of the aircraft, flying, landing and taxiing on the tarmac.

Our protagonists are met at the San Juan airport by an Air Force officer accompanied by a tall, distinguished-looking Latin gentleman. In an inexplicably artsy touch -- which may have inspired a running gag in Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie -- we don't hear the dialog when introductions are made all round, just a dramatic musical theme and a faint overlay of jet noise.

Oh, who am I kidding? They probably thought the recorder was on, and didn't have enough money for another take. Regardless, I'm sure the audience will be on the edge of its seat during the following scene, in which Dr. Steele and the rest get in some cars and drive away from the airport at a stately pace, with sirens blaring.

Back to the winners of the aliens' "first catch of the day" competition, as they drag their captive on board their spacecraft. The princess wishes to inspect this specimen of Earth female. Her captors force her to hold her arms over her head and turn around slowly, while Dr. Nadir and the rest of these smutty space jockeys leer at their comely, teeny-bikini-clad victim. As does Princess Marcuzan. I'm beginning to understand why the princess hasn't volunteered yet to help repopulate her planet.

She declares herself pleased with their find. The princess promises Dr. Nadir if the crew collects some more like this one, they'll soon be able to proceed with Phase Three.

Cut to Steele and company, as they investigate the site of the first abduction. Not that there were any witnesses, you understand, only an abandoned car and a couple of folding chairs left on the beach. But it must be a slow day, so the police thought it worthy of calling to their attention. Adam examines a chunk of sand that he believes has been fused into glass by tremendous heat -- and it's radioactive, too! Although, if truth be told, this prop looks more like a cat's been using this patch of beach as a litter box.

Later, back at their hotel, Karen is increasingly distraught over the thought of poor Frank, out there, lost and alone, on a murder spree. She really is attached to that astro-robot.

Gen. Bowers pops up briefly, to let them know Frank's been sighted. He promises that if the android gives them any trouble, he'll bring it back in pieces, then he rushes off to be in on the kill. Faced with the imminent loss of ten years' worth of work, Dr. Steele and Karen take off on a Vespa -- evidently NASA is in the midst of a severe budget shortfall -- to search for Frank.

Here the Puerto Rico Tourism Board and the San Juan Chamber of Commerce get their licks in, too, as Dr. Steele and Karen buzz around San Juan for a while on their motorscooter. To the lilting strains of the Lennon/McCartney-wannabe romantic ballad "To Have and To Hold", by another justly unknown pop group: The Distant Cousins. (Nowhere near distant enough, if you ask me -- think of it as the "(Have) Mersey sound".)

With their Vespa wide open, it takes Adam and Karen only an hour or two to reach the countryside and begin looking for their vagrant astro-robot. Speaking of which, Frank has once again gone in a circle: He's right back where he started, at that rocky promontory. He figures the hell with this, and seeks shelter in a cave.

Now we learn that Frank's remote also includes a tracker. Adam really did think of everything when he was piecing together his astro-robot. And I'll bet he's getting more than a bit of a passive-aggressive thrill right now from the knowledge that he didn't give the general one of these useful little gadgets.

They soon locate Frank in his hidey-hole. Karen is horrified at the sight of his half-melted face. Yet again, Dr. Steele has to remind her the guy's just a robot, and could she please dial back that mothering instinct -- if that's what it is -- a couple dozen notches? To get his whiny assistant out of his hair while he tries to patch up Frank, he tells Karen to go do something useful, like, find the general and bring back some help. She can't bear to be separated from her beloved astro-robot, but Adam insists.

While Karen fights her way back through the underbrush, we see a bunch of aliens come piling out of their spaceship at the double. This plan to kidnap some nubile young Earth females for breeding stock has plainly engaged their enthusiasm.

And we're in luck: All through this next sequence we're going to get an encore of "That's the Way It's Got to Be" -- does it, really? -- as it bounces between guys in spacesuits booking it through the underbrush, and teens and young adults rocking out to this chartbuster at their pool party, little suspecting the terror coming to interrupt their joyous gyrations. This being the '60s, of course there are lots of close-ups of waggling derrieres in tight capri pants. Judging by the guests at this party, Puerto Rico is populated almost exclusively by Anglos.

The party-crashers from beyond make a dramatic entrance, by disintegrating a guy who's dancing dorkily by himself on the diving board. (But that's okay, really, because he was embarrassing not merely our own species, but sentient life everywhere.) With such a smorgasbord of Earth females, the aliens have some difficulty deciding which ones they'll take, while they hold the men at bay with their Wham-O blasters.

"Can we dance wif yo dates?"

Selections made, they blow this square dance, leaving some boyfriends experiencing major shrinkage. And no doubt anticipating a mighty awkward conversation with the girls' parents. ("Hello. Mr. Johnson? This is Billy Nordlinger. You'll never guess what happened to Cindy Lou at the party today ....") And what about the women who weren't abducted: Should they feel relieved, or offended? Or perhaps a little of both?

Karen's ride for help is rudely interrupted when she's waylaid by the spacemen, as she's racing through the countryside on her Vespa. I really did not see that coming.

The ladies from the pool party are marched on board the alien spacecraft and locked together in a holding cell. Then one of them is led to another part of the ship -- this craft really is far more spacious than you'd think from those exterior shots -- and made to lie down in what appears to be a bed cubby. This may just be a comment on how boring their dates were, but these women don't seem all that bothered by what's going on here.

Dr. Nadir invites the princess to view [portentous and lasciviously sinister chuckle] the "purification". (I don't care what they're getting ready to do: The way he says it, it sounds so dirty.)

Purification apparently is considered quite an attraction by these ETs. So much so that the ship has a cozy chamber with several chairs provided for the audience. One by one, the captive women are made to lie down in that cubby. Then they're covered with a piece of mosquito netting, and fed into a slot. After a couple of seconds, a theremin sounds like it's been playfully goosed, and the aliens get their netting back for the next purification.

Try as I might, I'm just not seeing the entertainment value here.

Now Karen is dragged toward the alien ship. In what I imagine is some sort of compensation for the strictly ancillary (and annoying) role she's been relegated to so far in this production, the actress is allowed to have a-more-or-less believable reaction to the prospect of being taken aboard this weird spacecraft, for god-only-knows-what, by a trio of creeps in spacesuits. She digs her heels in, and tearfully pleads with her unheeding captors as she makes them half-carry/half-push her through the airlock.

Meanwhile, aboard the ship, Dr. Nadir informs the princess that the "electronic purification" of their breeding stock is going swimmingly. When Karen is brought into their presence and searched, he's astonished -- as well he might be -- at the level of technology implied when they find Frank's remote. He wants to know what it's used for, but without waiting for a reply to that one, he demands Karen tell him her purpose.

Karen bravely clams up. (Although that barely passing grade she got in Philosophy 101 might mean she's at a loss for a good answer to that last question.)

The princess has Karen locked up in the cell next to Mull, the Space Monster. (Remember him?) This should loosen her tongue. And maybe some other organs, as well. The aliens shackle her to the bulkhead and let Mull grope her through the bars. Kinky ... I've heard that in certain kinds of clubs, you have to shell out big bucks for this kind of thing.

Mother told me there'd be days like this.

Gen. Bowers has called it quits for today's astro-robot hunting. Now he's relaxing in his undershirt, back at the hotel, while reading a magazine. He's interrupted by an urgent telephone call: Surprisingly, Washington's been keeping a close eye on these strange events in Puerto Rico. Reports of a string of disappearances and brutal murders, of weirdos running around in spacesuits, and most disturbing of all, the news that these punks have been messin' with the womenfolk, have the authorities in a tizzy. So now the Powers That Be light a fire under the general's lard butt. Clearly irritated at having to put down this especially juicy issue of "Buttered Buns", Bowers rouses himself to call out the military.

[Cue Daffy Duck, about to get another load of buckshot in the face from Elmer Fudd] Not again ....

Yes, more stock footage. This time, of airborne assault troops on maneuvers: queuing to get on their helicopters, helicopters lifting off, helicopters flying in formation.

At long last, sirs, have you no decency?!?

In the meantime, Dr. Steele has grown impatient, waiting for Karen to return. He leads Frank out of his cave and the two head back to the road. They trudge across the rocks and through the palms. During this nail-biting trek, Adam divides his time between riding herd on his wonky astro-robot and griping to himself about Karen's tardiness. They find the abandoned scooter, but no Karen. Fortunately, Dr. Steele has a duplicate remote, which he now uses to locate the first one.

Is there anything these handy devices won't do? But ... what if you lose the second remote, too? I'll bet the dealer really socks it to you, when you have to buy a replacement.

Dr. Nadir and the princess pad -- er, kill the time with some more purifications. I have to admit, there are certain aspects of this business which I find perplexing.

Oh, sure, I get that the aliens may have concerns about social diseases and such. And even with that extensive library of stock footage from NASA and the Pentagon, given this cockamamie, paper-thin story, the filmmakers must use every trick in the book to come up with some sorely needed filler. I suppose that for those rare individuals with this highly specialized fetish there's a pervy thrill to watching fully clothed young women get covered with mosquito netting and stuffed into a slot. Dr. Nadir and Princess Marcuzan certainly seem to get a kick out of it.

But for one thing, they appear to have "purified" more women than they've abducted. Maybe the aliens had to run some of the girls through more than once. And occasionally, while the ladies are undergoing this process, there's a muffled cry. What's that about? Did they get hung up in the machinery, or are they having a really good time? During this last purification, Dr. Nadir and the princess exchange glances and shake their heads while the girl gets fed into the machine, and then there's another scream, at which the doctor chortles gleefully, while the princess allows herself a faint smile. So they knew beforehand that was going to happen?

So much about this is a mystery to me.

Having had their fill of the purification-kibitzing for now, the two check to see how Mull and Karen are getting along. Aw, she's no fun -- she passed right out! And the Space Monster seems to have found something else to do. Besides, judging from the state of her blouse and slacks, which you'd think those talons would have ripped to shreds but are in fact in need of nothing more than a good dry cleaning, the creature's heart wasn't really in it.

By this time, Adam and Frank have traced Karen to the alien spacecraft. Leaving the astro-robot to watch the ship, Dr. Steele trots back to the road to summon help. That jazzy secret-agent theme breaks out again as, in a gripping action sequence, Adam mounts the Vespa, kick-starts it and putts off down that dirt road, at a blistering 20 mph.

Happening upon a convenient beverage shack, Adam, after some initial difficulty with the language barrier, makes the proprietor comprehend that he wants the telephone, not a Cuervo. But that's completely understandable, since the word for "telephone" is so much different in Spanish, right?

Adam has some trouble persuading the communications sergeant at the base to pass the word along to Gen. Bowers that he's located an alien spaceship. However, once the message reaches him, the general doesn't hesitate to call in stock footage of pilots scrambling, and Starfighters and Super Sabre jets taxiing, barreling off the runway, flying in formation, peeling off and zooming through the sky.

Meanwhile, Frank has done an exemplary job of keeping his one good eye on the spaceship and not beating, strangling or hacking to death anybody, while he hides behind some bushes. But then a returning party of aliens bursts out of the underbrush -- these guys seem to do everything on the run -- and dog-pile the astro-robot.

He goes down fighting, beneath a wave of aliens. Apparently (knocked out? deactivated?) Frank is carried aboard their flying geodesic dome. Karen, still feigning unconsciousness, watches the aliens deposit him in the purification area and leave.

Time for -- c'mon now, deep down in your hearts, you chumps know you crave it -- more clips from those airborne assault maneuvers. And other assorted military hardware. (More! More! I'm still not satisfied!)

While the aliens are distracted by the fierce M-80 bombardment taking place outside their ship, Karen nags her faithful astro-robot awake. Obeying her instructions, he gets the drop on an alien, takes his blaster, and forces them to set the other abductees free.

Just in the nick of time, Adam arrives at Gen. Bowers' forward command post. When the scientist clues him in to the possibility that Karen and at least two other women are being held aboard the aliens' ship, the general considerately calls off the bombardment.

The girls scamper away from the spacecraft during this lull in our epic confrontation. Frank goes to turn Karen loose, but while he's releasing her from her restraints, one of those tricksy aliens throws the switch opening the door to Mull's cage. That's right: One hour and ten minutes into this 76-minute feature, and Frank -- excuse me, Frankenstein has finally met his Space Monster.

The heroic astro-robot lets fly with his purloined blaster, but it has no effect on the creature, though the weapon's muzzle-flash appears to set something on fire in the spacecraft. Karen and Frank make their way through the billowing smoke to the airlock, and he lowers her to the ground. But just when he thought he was out of this, Mull yanks him back in again.

This metaphorical battle of the planets continues for a couple of minutes, as Frankenstein and Mull the Space Monster first paw and flail at each other, then hug, and waltz around in the thickening fog. It's hard to tell if they're fighting or suddenly discovering deep feelings for each other. Who knows what the crew is up to during this sequence.

Dr. Nadir and the princess panic.

Instead of proceeding to Phase Three of their plan, the princess opts for an immediate pullout. They get the rockets lit, and take off, but before they can make this lousy planet eat their stardust, Frank breaks away from Mull and turns his blaster on the control panels. The spacecraft is vaporized -- though it takes four or five cutaways from the princess and Dr. Nadir, dying in the wrecked control room, to instant replays of that same workhorse shot of an Atlas booster exploding, and back again, before it really takes.

Back down on good old Mother Earth, Karen totters out of the scrub and collapses on the road. The lovers are reunited when Adam and the general drive up in their jeep. Credits roll, as the blissful pair once more tour the streets of San Juan on their Vespa, while we get a reprise of that ersatz-Beatles' ballad.

The End

Even though this crappy movie has a uniquely skeevy affect, somewhat similar to chugging a bottle of Nyquil and then rolling naked on the floor of an adult theater after hours, I have a confession to make: Despite what you might think, of all the crappy movies I've written about so far, for some inexplicable reason I find myself entertained by the half-hour or so of actual movie which somehow got itself wedged in between the stock footage and tourism spots.

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is so brazenly awful, in so many ways, that even after multiple viewings I still can't make up my mind whether or not this is intentional parody. I mean, naming a character "Dr. Nadir" would seem to be a pretty obvious giveaway. One thing is for certain: Prior to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dr. Nadir and Princess Marcuzan are positively the campest visitors to this small planet in all of SF cinema.

But perhaps we should be asking ourselves what it is about Earth that attracts these alien horndogs when they're on the rebound, after they've killed off (accidentally or otherwise) all their own females. Especially this bunch of oddballs. Why can't we meet some nice extraterrestrials for a change? The kind who'll give our planet flowers and candy, maybe take us to dinner and a show? Who're looking for a committed interstellar relationship, instead of this wham, bam, grab 'em and scram.

Heck, even the Kanamits gave us advanced technology and wonder medicines, not to mention a neat cookbook with lots of interesting recipes.

Could it be that these outsiders have been monitoring our broadcasts, studying our advertisements and observing how we've let the place go, so now Earth's acquired the reputation as the easy planet in this sector of the galaxy, the one with low self-esteem?

It's something worth pondering.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

as bad as it is, i really like this movie, and Dr. Nadir is the cutest alien i ever saw !!
Still i wish they could have done more with the story.