I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN
(director: Herbert L. Strock; screenwriter: Kenneth Langtry; cinematographer: Lothrop Worth; editor: Jerry Young; cast: Whit Bissell (Dr. Frankenstein), Phyllis Coates (Margaret), Robert Burton (Carlton), Gary Conway (Bob/Teenage Monster), George Lynn (George Lynn), John Cliff (Sgt. McAffee); Runtime: 72; AIP; 1957-UK)
“A schlock Frankenstein by Strock.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A schlock Frankenstein by Strock. This one is strictly for the drive-in crowd of the 1950s. To see it in the next century, is to watch how a bad film could still be around because it has attained cult-film status.
A mad scientist from England is on a lecture tour in the States and wants to spend the last few months of his visa in seclusion to finish creating his monster. Dr. Frankenstein (Whit Bissell) is a distant relation to the famous monster and is continuing in the family tradition of building monsters. His current secret project is about reactivating dead tissues from different body parts and making it into one individual. By securing cadavers of teenagers over a period of time and lucking out by securing parts from a recent car crash victim, he has put together a teenage monster with the parts from different teenage athletes. Everything is there but the face.
Doc lives in a swell house that has a secret lab where he conducts his experiments. There’s a discreet housekeeper who is hardly seen, except when she serves him meals. He has an alligator pit where he disposes of the spare body parts he no longer needs and he also will use the pit to rid himself of his future wife when he feels she is jeopardizing the secrecy of his project.
Doc works in secret with his skeptical and very nervous assistant Carlton (Burton), who’s an expert on electrical treatments. Doc pumps his helper up, who wants to quit the project, by telling him how this will be the greatest science experiment of all time and how they will both be recognized for their great contribution to mankind.
Doc also has a romance brewing with a nurse. Margaret (Coates) works with him in his house as a watchdog, keeping away visitors. He promises to marry her and take her back to England when his work is done. The Doc’s a real charmer thereby keeping her in the dark about his work, until she crosses him one day and says she will find out on her own what his secret project is. This upsets Doc so much that he cuffs her. But they soon get back together again; after all, Doc’s a genius and he’s loaded with dough.
Margaret wants to prove to Doc that she’s not a dumb filly, so she investigates on her own what he’s up to. She gets an impression of his lab keys and opens up the vault where he keeps the monster. Upon seeing the bandaged monster, she runs out of there screaming. The fatal mistake she makes, is when she feels secure after Doc buys her an expensive engagement ring and she, foolishly, blurts out that she saw the monster.
The funniest line in the film comes when Doc and his helper awaken the bandaged monster, and Doc tries to get him to talk. Getting no response, Doc says “Answer me! You have a civil tongue in your head! I know, I sewed it there!”
The monster turns out to be a bit cranky and is not completely obedient to his master. He wants to go out among the people. Doc tells him he can’t until he gets a face for it. But the teenager won’t listen to his elder and takes a walk outside. When he stares through a window of a garden apartment building at a pretty blonde combing her hair, she notices him and screams in horror. The monster then breaks into her house and accidentally kills her while trying to get her to keep still. Escaping through the building, he easily knocks away some men who try to stop him.
In his pursuit to get the monster a face, Doc first orders him to kill the pesty Margaret. Doc then takes the monster to lover’s lane and spots the face of a handsome teen necking in his car. Doc rips his head off and puts it in a birdcage to take back to the lab. Bob now has his face sewn onto the monster.
The film’s violent climax for some reason switches out of its b&w format and goes into Technicolor. This is a lovable bad film, but don’t ask me why!
REVIEWED ON 5/14/2001 GRADE: C