Frankenstein 1970 – USA, 1958

Frankenstein 1970 is a 1958 science fiction horror feature film directed by Howard W. Koch (producer of Pharaoh’s Curse; Voodoo Island; The Black Sleep) from a screenplay written by Richard H. Landau and George Worthing Yates, based on a story by Charles A. Moses and producer Aubrey Schenck (Daughters of Satan; Macabre). The movie stars Boris Karloff, Tom Duggan, Jana Lund, Donald Barry and Charlotte Austin.

Warner Archive is releasing Frankenstein 1970 on Blu-ray in April (date to be announced). The disc will feature a new 1080p high definition transfer with DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 and SDH subtitles. Audio commentary by historians Charlotte Austin, Bob Burns, and Tom Weaver from a previous DVD release will be included.

Plot:

Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) was tortured by the Third Reich for not fully cooperating with them during World War II. He suffered disfigurement but now continues his work as a scientist.

The Baron has reluctantly allowed an American television crew to film a made-for-television horror film about his monster-making family at his castle in Germany. The crew gives him enough money to buy an atomic reactor and he uses it to create a hulking monster, which proceeds to kill off members of the crew for more spare parts…

Reviews:

” …everything about this sorry excuse for a monster movie says 1958, including a prominently displayed Westinghouse refrigerator. The sole highlight is the opening sequence in which ingénue Jana Lund is stalked by a typical, and mostly unseen, ghoul.” Hans J. Wollstein, All Movie

” …Frankenstein 1970 consists of long scenes of Karloff hobbling confusedly around his lab; his attempts to liven things up by constantly grimacing and scowling and gnawing on scenery don’t amount too much.  The monster appears to have an overturned bucket on his head […] The whole thing seems to last much longer than its 80 minutes…” Dan Erdman, Alt Film Guide

“While its corniness isn’t totally lacking in entertainment value, the film damages one of horror’s most classic dynasties more than it gives it the good press it could’ve used at the time. Frankenstein 1970 claims to be a fitting successor to its titular cinematic bloodline, but it’s little more than a condescending imposter.” A.J. Hakari, Cineslice

“Too much dialogue and too little action […] keep the film on the sluggish side. And this movie does the disservice of perhaps making Karloff and The Monster sadly seem to be getting near towards the end of their sell-by date. But it is still notable as the movie that turned Karloff from the original Monster into the Baron…” Derek Winnert

” …the real disappointment here is Karloff’s performance […] He seems to have been saddled with too many gimmicks, what with the big scar on his face and the exaggerated limp being more distracting than scary, and though he handles certain scenes quite well, there are others where he is overacting and seems somewhat desperate.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“… a feeble affair, making no attempt at a convincing futuristic world – in fact, just one more hack shocker.” Ivan Butler, Horror in the Cinema, Zwemmer/Barnes, 2nd edition, 1970

“It’s not a terribly good film but Karloff really is quite delicious in his role, the Cinemascope framing is often well used and there’s the kernel of a good idea here.” John Llewellyn Probert, House of Mortal Cinema

“Karloff might not be in peak form here, but he is so much fun to watch as usual and really plays up the sinister side of the Baron. I love seeing Karloff in action and while he could deliver sincere, dramatic efforts, he was also a master of chewing scenes and that’s what we have here.” Marc Fusion

“The sci-fi and horror aspects are a decent enough match, but there’s an awful lot of hanging about waiting for the next plot development, and as they were not doing much novel with the concept the result was a very ordinary film indeed.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

“Unfortunately, Boris alone can’t keep this one afloat. The opening scene is really well done; but after that, the chills are few and far between, and Boris is hamstrung by an especially bland supporting cast.” The Terror Trap

frankenstein 1970

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frankenstein 1970 colour still

Frankenstein-1970

DVD release:

In October 2009, Warner Brothers released the DVD “Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics” which includes Frankenstein 1970 as one of the four films and features an audio commentary by co-star Charlotte Austin and historians Tom Weaver and Bob Burns.

Cast and characters:

  • Boris Karloff … Baron Victor von Frankenstein
  • Tom Duggan … Mike Shaw
  • Jana Lund … Carolyn Hayes
  • Don ‘Red’ Barry … Douglas Row (as Donald Barry)
  • Charlotte Austin … Judy Stevens
  • Irwin Berke … Inspector Raab
  • Rudolph Anders … Wilhelm Gottfried
  • Norbert Schiller … Shuter
  • John Dennis … Morgan Haley
  • Mike Lane … Hans Himmler / The Monster
  • Jack Kenney … Assistant Cameraman (uncredited)
  • Joe Ploski … Station Porter (uncredited)
  • Otto Reichow … Atomic Reactor Expert (uncredited)
  • Franz Roehn … Cab Driver (uncredited)

Technical credits:

83 minutes | black and white | 2.35: 1 CinemaScope | Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Trivia:

The film was originally intended to be titled Frankenstein 1960 but this was deemed to be not futuristic enough. Frankenstein 1975 was also apparently considered.

Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

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