Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.
Frankenstein 1970 marked the first time in 14 years that Boris Karloff appeared in a movie with “Frankenstein” in the title (the last being 1944’s House of Frankenstein, in which he played Doctor Niemann). In fact, it was the last Frankenstein movie he’d ever make, and as I sat watching it, I couldn’t help but wish he had turned the part down.
In need of some quick cash, (Karloff), a descendant of the man whose reanimation experiments led to disaster 230 years earlier, agrees to allow a film crew to shoot a movie in and around his family’s ancestral home. Directed by Douglas Row (Don ‘Red’ Barry) and starring the lovely Carolyn Hayes (Jana Lund), the film in production is (naturally) a horror flick, but the true terror lies hidden underground in the Baron’s secret laboratory. With the money he’s getting, Baron Frankenstein intends to buy an atomic reactor, which he believes will allow him to succeed where his ancestor failed. Yes, Baron Victor Frankenstein is trying to reanimate a dead body he assembled from scratch. And if he finds himself in need of an extra body part, he can always harvest it from the production crew living in his house!
Frankenstein 1970 is a bad film, but a few rays of sunshine do peak through from time to time. The opening sequence, for example, where a frightened woman runs through a forest to escape a tall, lumbering monster, is exceptionally intense (alas, it’s also a cheat: the chase is actually a scene from the movie being shot on Frankenstein’s land; soon after the monster corners the girl in a swamp, we hear the director yell “cut!”). The set pieces are also impressive (though released by Allied Artists, Frankenstein 1970 was shot on the Warner Bros. backlot), and a monologue delivered by Karloff, where he recounts the checkered history of the Frankenstein family, proved that the horror icon still had the ability to rise above sub-par material.
Unfortunately, this would be Karloff’s best scene. Through the rest of the film, he hams it up in a big way, and his flamboyant portrayal is often a distraction (even when his character is sitting down playing a pipe organ, Karloff’s performance feels a bit too over-the-top). The movie itself is also weak, with sequences that last too long (the first time we follow Frankenstein into his basement lair, tagging along as he limps from room to room, feels like it goes on forever) and a few subplots that add nothing to the story; a love triangle between director Row, his leading lady Carolyn, and Row’s current wife, script supervisor Judy Stevens (Charlotte Austin), goes nowhere.
But, in the end, it’s Karloff’s theatrics that stand out, and the fact that this actor who brought such depth to the role of the monster in the 1930’s finished out his Frankenstein run with this mediocre 1958 sci-fi / horror flick is enough to bring a tear to your eye.
—Find Dave’s original post of this review over on DVD Infatuation
Links for Dr. Shock:
Dave’s daily movie review website: DVDInfatuation.com
Follow Dave on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation
Like Dave’s DVD Infatuation now on: Facebook
Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps
Voicemail: (801) 382-8789
Subscribe to Horror Movie Podcast free in iTunes