John S Berry really came through, getting this next Chilling Classics movie our way on a quick deadline. I watched this movie too, so I can feel the pain that he had to go through. I never want anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do, you know? You can check out John on Twitter.
When it comes to the world of cinema (especially bargain, Mill Creek sets) I often remind myself at just how difficult it is to get a movie made, any movie. I try to live by the Shock Waves podcast credo of how the movie that you didn’t like somewhere it may live as someone’s favorite movie and to be positive.
We really do have enough negative bullshit going on many fronts these days (and most days) to let it soak into what a lot of us like, movies. When I am not a huge fanboy, supporting pied piper or when my neck is sore from shaking it I just repeat the mantra “It was not for me. But if you liked it please enjoy, it was not for me.” I guess this is my cinema version of the Bill Burr philosophy of “fair enough.”
Maybe this is too much philosophy for a movie by a western movie involving Frankenstein’s monster directed by a man who had close to 350 known films. But really isn’t this the 1966 version of indy cinema in the vein of Abe Lincoln vs. Zombies?
William Beaudine also made Billy the Kid vs. Dracula in the same year. Maybe he shot them back to back or maybe these were some passion products that he always wanted to do. He could make films fast and cheap, according to IMDB “Instead of shooting full coverage of scenes, he would shoot only what he knew was absolutely necessary. This saved both production time and raw stock, an important factor at the Poverty Row studios where he worked.”
The film has a few things going for it. On my second viewing after a long day, I appreciate it more. The previous night even with sleeping in and a nap under my belt I dozed off about half way thru and decided I would attempt later. The poster artwork has a distinct style and I wonder what young kids thought in the context of the times. Did they laugh at the crazy concept or did they wonder what the evil lady and monster had in store of the Robin Hood of gunfighters?
This movie is made for when you can’t sleep at 3AM or an afternoon when you are home sick from school. I cannot imagine watching this many more times but I am hoping to snag the version with Joe Bob Briggs commentary once it is somewhat affordable on the eBay. I am not sure if it is anyone’s favorite movie or ranked in their top 20 but it has its charm, unlike the lead who plays Jesse James John Lupton.
He is a very slender blonde hair guy and does not seem to have any charm or wit to his personality. Lupton reminded me of Jim Varney (Ernest Goes to…) with a thin blond mustache. Is it wrong that in my fantasy booking of a remake I have Ernest playing Jesse James and William Smith from Grave of the Vampire playing loveable oaf muscle man Hank Tracy? But I am sure the budget was not huge but I am sure Beaudine was able to turn a profit.
The film has some good ideas for the story but it never really has a scary or creepy vibe. It starts off with a pretty bland western feel (I have probably seen too many shoot ’em up carve ’em up Spaghetti Westerns) and Jesse James is seen as a noble outlaw. His big galoot of a buddy Hank Tracy is trying to win them some money in a fist fight. Hank is a huge dude and I instantly think he is going to be the star of the movie. Nope, Hank wins his fight IE does all the work and Jesse just threatens the would be welcher and gets their money.
Most of the town folk are leaving and the Frankenstein bro and sis are running out of folks to experiment on. Dr. Maria Frankenstein is actually the granddaughter of Dr. Frankenstein and she works with her brother Dr. Rudolph (who looks like a Grandpa) on various mind control, raising from the dead, super soldier kind of experiments. Seems like mainly what they get done is ruining Maria’s hair with a rasta painted helmet and either killing off the person or injecting them with some good ole skull and crossbones poison.
Luckily Maria just happens to flip thru the right book and figures out why her experiments failed. She needs a strong man and lucky for her one will soon land in her lap. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Jesse and Hank have been double-crossed by the remnant of the Wild Bunch. Hank takes a bullet for Jesse and they are on the run.
They run into Juanita and her family and she decides to take them to get help for Hank. The Frankensteins patch up Hank and don’t trust Juanita. Jesse must be giving off some sort of pheromone because not only does Juanita decide she loves him but Maria is smitten too (funny scene her brother teases her for actually being human and she paintbrushes him). But really he is more into his badass outlaw persona and chooses to stay on the run.
I am not too sure why they wouldn’t be into Hank. He is built like a brick shit house and seems very loyal and sweet. Jesse comes across cranky and moody and he smokes a lot so he probably has hot trail breath as well. Hank does not come across too bright but neither does Jesse. Jesse is easily conned and taking this noble approach way to far.
Jesse is sent away for “medicine” which is really a note incriminating himself so he will get caught. Before he goes on his mission Juanita (who is probably the smartest one) begs him not to go. She sees it is a trick and Jesse in his pompous ass fashion tells her a version of a man has got to do what a man has got to do and leaves to the near town.
Even after her begging him he has no inkling to maybe take a peek at the letter just in case. This arrogant SOB doesn’t even hold up to any light and try to read the letter. Nope he figures Dr. Maria is so smitten with him she is on the up and up.
Jesse gets some revenge and Juanita calls him on his macho BS as she has seen what Dr. Maria has done to poor Hank. Hank was smitten with Maria before he was Igor and Maria cannot stand the thought of Jesse becoming a mindless beast. Actually with Maria controlling him maybe he would have a little more charm. Juanita goes to get the Sheriff and saves the day and Jesse. At the end, Jesse rides off with the Sheriff and I am not sure if he is going to jail or to hang from a willow tree.
The film ends with a sad ending for Hank. Sadly for him, Juanita was a pretty good shot with her eyes closed but lucky because there were no gaping bullet holes in his chest. Poor Hank is buried and to add insult to the injury his grave says “Hank Tracy He was Jesse James’ friend.” Come on! The guy can’t even have top billing on his own headstone!!!
Jesse James is an egomaniac and I wish Hank as Igor would have squeezed him until he was just a hat and a bad mustache. Hank would have lived out his days with Juanita raising a family, they would have saved money on horses on account of Hank could be the plow horses.