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Jesse James meets

Frankenstein's Daughter

      "What a fool I've been! See! The dual-thermic impulsonator must  be attached only to the body of the living brain and the artificial brain!"

-- Dr. Maria Frankenstein, putting the mad in mad science   

 

     

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Gonzoid Cinema

 

 

Buzzkillers!

"Hey, Jesse? How are we s'posed to get into that there painting?

 

Watch it!

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Sights &
Sounds:
Jesse James
meets
Frankenstein's
Daughter
(1966)
 Circle Productions /
 Embassy Pictures Corp.

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Sinister
Sagebrush:
The Final Films
of William "One-
Shot" Beaudine.

Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter

 

It was a dark and stormy night ... The natives were growing restless ... And we're in some serious trouble already because our clichť generator just broke. 

Meanwhile, in a small peasant village somewhere along the Mexican border, what's left of the local population are hastily packing their belongings to escape the curse that has come to plague their town; a strange pestilence that began when those two foreign doctors moved into the old monastery up on the hill overlooking the village, and then all the children who went to work for them began to die under mysterious circumstances. Hailing from Europe -- Vienna to be more precise, these sibling, aristocratic interlopers claim that the unfortunate children were stricken down by some highly contagious virus that they are feverishly trying to cure. Suspicious, but frightened by the rumors of what's really going on inside the monastery walls, the natives decide discretion is the better part of valor and settle for a en masse amscray instead. And when the second to last wagon pulls out, all that remains is the Lopez family: Poppa, Mama and daughter Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez). And the only reason they're sticking around is because the last member of their clan, Francisco, is still somewhere inside the monastery walls. 

With a terrible storm approaching, Juanita tries to collect her brother but is stopped at the door and informed that Francisco has also contracted the mystery contagion, and despite the doctor's combined efforts, it's only a matter of time before he expires. As the family mourns, if they really knew what happened to poor Francisco, I guarantee their blood would congeal and curdle with sheer fright!

...Okay, okay. Methinks I'm taking this all a little too seriously. We are talking about a film called Jesse James Meets Frankensteinís Daughter, right? Right. And that means we've finally gotten around to doing this here companion piece to Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. Unfortunately, Iím sorry to report that this film falls victim to the exact same pitfalls as its sister act. That's right. Director William "One-Shot" Beaudine and writer Carl K. Hittleman are at it again and play it straight, so weíre basically stuck with just another Halloween episode of Bonanza.

The script is solid, the sets are solid, and the stunts are solid, so there really isnít a whole lot wrong with it. But it comes off as so banal, youíll catch yourself anxiously awaiting the conclusion so's you can just move on with your life. And since we aim to please, lets get back to the film already as that thunderstorm finally breaks wide open. Meantime, inside the monastery, Maria and Rudolph Frankenstein (Narda Onyx and Steven Geray) marvel at the severe weather that rumbles through the plains on a regular basis. Both a chip right off of dadís old block, the siblings continue their infamous father's ghoulish experiments -- although it appears Rudolph doesnít seem to have the stomach for it. Not really interested in reanimating cadavers, these two are more into experimenting with an artificial brain their father created. And when these pre-processed brains are placed in the subject patient, according to theory, they should become mindless slaves. So far though, each attempt to transplant a brain into one of the villagers has ended in abysmal failure. Thus the contagion ruse. Believing that their test subjects weíre too young and weak, Maria doesnít realize that Rudolph, who thinks these experiments are an abomination, is secretly poisoning the test subjects. Now, with only one brain left, they must find the perfect test-subject.

Meanwhile, Jesse James (John Lupton) and his beefy friend, Hank (Cal Bolder), are trying to raise a little grub money by bare-knuckling the local thug of the saloon owner (Nestor Paiva -- another fan favorite here at 3B Theater). When Hank beats him, and beats him soundly, Nestor tries to welch on the bet until realizing heís dealing with thee Jesse James and quickly pays up ... Whatís left of the James Gang then meets up with whatís left of the Wild Bunch to pull off another stage hold-up. Both gangs have seen better days; put together, there are only five men. And tensions are high as Butch -- the leader of the Wild Bunch -- argues with his brother, Lonny (Rayford Barnes -- who looks real familiar), about his share of the loot. Since he was the one who found out about the stage carrying the large payroll, and the decoy trick they use to get through the Pia del Morte (-- a small pass that's a perfect spot for an ambush), Lonny feels he deserves a bigger cut. He also isnít very happy about cutting in the James Gang, and in a drunken stupor, he draws on Jesse. But Jesse proves faster and shoots the gun out of Lonny's hand. Fed up, Butch warns Lonny that heíll only get the same amount as everybody else, and if he doesn't sober up, he'll get nothing. This, of course, doesnít sit well with Lonny, so he sneaks off and finds Marshall Macfee (Jim Davis). Telling Macfee that he's gone straight, Lonny rats out both gangs, and is very keen on seeing a certain notorious outlaw hung by the neck until he was dead.

Getting to Pia del Morte with his posse first, Macfee sets an ambush for the ambushers. When the bandits show up, including the turncoat Lonny, they wait for the decoy stage to pass through first before Macfee springs his trap. And while he takes care of the Wild Bunch, Lonny aims his rifle and draws a bead on Jesse. Hank sees this and gets in the line of fire, taking a bullet in the shoulder. Moving quickly, Jesse helps him onto a horse and they both escape during the confusion. Ordering the others to take the bodies back to down, Macfee mounts up to go after the James Gang alone. Still determined to see the outlaw dead, and without a second glance at his brother who was just shot down like a dog, Lonny tags along.

Hankís wound is pretty serious, but luckily, they stumble upon the Lopez family. Told that Hank was hurt by accident, Juanita offers to take them to the doctor in nearby Prescott. Being on the lam, Jesse declines as best he can, but Juanita easily figures out why he's being so coy and agrees to take them to the doctors at the monastery instead. Along the way, Juanita goes to the river for some water, when from out of nowhere, an Indian grabs her and stifles her screams. When Jesse goes to search for her, he soon finds himself wrestling with the Indian for his trouble. Managing to kill the brave with his own knife, Juanita is very, very grateful to him for saving her life. Then suddenly, the two stumble onto a John Ford set as the rest of the tribe thunders by on horseback -- never to be seen or heard from again! Safe, the girl and the outlaw kiss.

Upon reaching the abandoned ghost town, Juanita refuses to go any further, saying she will wait for them there. Jesse and Hank head on, and then somehow manage to traverse the giant matte painting and reach the monastery. Told the same cock-and-bull accident story, when Rudolph moves to help the injured man, Mariaís eyes actually bulge with glee at Hankís beefy frame; she has found her perfect specimen.

While his partner takes care of the horses, the doctors begin to work on their patient. In a delirium, Hank calls for Juniata and Jesse by name -- and I guess theyíve even heard of the famed outlaw way over in Vienna, too. Still in a state of complete glee-gasm, Maria tells Rudolph that the situation is perfect: the outlaws are on the run and wonít be missed, but needing to eliminate all the witnesses, Maria sends Rudolph out to round up Juanita while she starts measuring Hank's cranium for a date with a bone-saw.

Time passes, and when Macfee and Lonny show up at the monastery, Maria lies, claiming to have seen no one. They buy it, and several days after they leave, Hank starts to get better with Rudolphís care. And while she sits with him, whenever they're alone, Juanita warns Hank that as soon as he is strong enough, he and Jesse must leave this place or they will both surely die. When Hank asks if she will come with them, the girl doesn't answer ... Later that evening, Juanita makes the same plea to Jesse and is pleased that he also asks if she'll come with them. Even though she does love him, she must remain to stop the evil that has destroyed her village. But it turns out that someone else has got the hots for Jesse, too. Turning her feminine wiles and weird accent up to eleven, Maria tries to seduce the outlaw, promising that together, they can build and empire and rule it -- well, together. Jesse is not swayed and ends this embarrassing session by telling Maria that they'll be leaving as soon as Hank is ready to roll. Alas, this rejection sends Maria into a spiraling snit. Determined that if she canít have the outlaw then no one can, the mad doctor sets in motion a trap that will get Jesse permanently out of the way so she can experiment freely on Hank. 

Told by Maria that Hank has had a massive relapse and needs more medicine, Jesse is then given a prescription to be filled at the pharmacy in Prescott that reads: 

Hello. My name is Jesse James. I am a bad outlaw. If lost, please return me to Marshall Macfee and then hang me by the neck until dead.

After Jesse rides off to Prescott, the Frankensteins begin the transplant procedures by shaving Hank's head, and while Rudolph amputates his old brain, Maria starts percolating the new one.

In town, when Jesse gives the pharmacist the bum prescription, the clerk nervously excuses himself to the back room, and then hightails it out the back door to the Marshallís office. But Lonny is the only one there, and with the reward dollar signs a-spinning, he sends the reluctant apothecary back to his store to distract the outlaw. Fortunately for our hero, Lonny isn't all that good at being sneaky and is quickly dispatched. Still thinking he needs the medicine, the pharmacist shows him the false prescription. Realizing he's been had, Jesse rides back toward the monastery, where Juanita has managed to sneak in and observe the awful experiments in secret. The transplant itself has been completed, and Maria is about to move on to the next step. 

Donning her Strickfaden's Electronic Brain-Swapping Beanie-Helmet, she connects it to Hankís new brain. Then fluorescent tubes light up, machines whir, and Tessla coils spark off as she begins to program the artificial brain -- accomplished by raving at the top of her lungs and thinking bad thoughts into her magic helmet. The experiment appears to be a success as Hank stirs, but he just as quickly loses consciousness. Having seen this reaction before, Maria tells Rudolph to get her a syringe of adrenaline to stimulate him before its too late. This time, she catches Rudolph filling it up with poison, and having had enough, he turns on his sister. As they struggle, Maria screams for help and this tumultuous commotion wakes Hank back up, who then throttles Rudolph to death at her behest. As Maria gleefully dubs her new pet Igor, horrified by what she has seen, Juanita flees the premises to find Jesse, whom she runs into on the road to Prescott. And though she pleads with him not to return to the hellish monastery, Jesse is stand-up guy and must go back to rescue Hank. Left behind, Juniata continues on into town to find Macfee. 

When he arrives at the monastery, Jesse sneaks in and thinks he has the drop on Maria -- until Igor sneaks up from behind and knocks him out. Strapping the outlaw to the table, Maria drugs him, with every intention of making Jesse a slave, too. (Wait a second. I thought they only had one brain left?) In Prescott, Juanita somehow manages to convince Macfee of the evil doings going on at the monastery. Once there, he tells Juanita to wait outside. Inside, Macfee finds Jesse still strapped to the table with his brain intact. Unfortunately, Maria finds him before he can cut Jesse loose. Siccing Igor on him, the monster bear-hugs Macfee until he passes out. And while they drag Macfee off to the dungeon, Juanita sneaks into the lab and releases Jesse. But her timing sucks, too, as the bad guys come back in time to catch them. When Maria tells Igor to kill them both, Hank manages to assert himself and wonít kill his friends. Instead, he turns on Maria and kills her. 

The relapse is only temporary, though, and unfortunately, Hank/Igorís faulty motor-neurons have gotten stuck on kill mode. Unable to shoot his friend, Igor soon starts wiping the floor with Jesse, leaving Juanita to pick up one of the discarded guns and shoot Igor. As he dies, Igor reverts back to Hank one last time and calls out Juanitaís name. Then the film proceeds to kick us while we're down by ending with Juanita tearfully saying goodbye to Jesse as Macfee hauls him off to jail.

The End

Well, thatís ending's kind of a downer.

But speaking honestly, the film really didn't have all that far to fall. It does pick up a little during the brain-swapping sequences, but they just canít carry the film no matter how much gusto Narda Onyx pumps into her character. And she pumps. A lot. Iím not quite sure what accent she was trying to pull off, but it didn't stay the same from scene to scene. And I finally remember where I saw Rayford Barnes before. He was Joe Don Bakerís fellow detective in the MST3k great Mitchell.

Now, I donít want to be a historical nitpicker, but if memory serves me correctly, I believe Billy the Kid wore twin guns while Jesse James wore only one. E'yup, the creators of these two films even got that mixed up. That shouldnít really bug me, but for some reason, it did.

While watching Billy the Kid vs. Dracula I kinda warmed up to the earnestness of Billy and Betty, but here, I was completely indifferent to Jesse and Juanita. I don't know if I should blame the story or the actors, but I really didn't care what happened to any of them. And that's the biggest difference between the two films, making Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter, hands down, the bigger slog to sit through. Neither film falls into the "So bad itís good" category because they're so lethargically mundane -- especially this one. Not a lot happens in this movie. It isnít terrible, but again, with a title like that, I was expecting a lot more awfulsomeness.

In the end, I can recommend both films as bizarre anomalies of mixed genres, but beyond that, there just isnít a whole lot there.

Jesse James meets Frankensteinís Daughter (1966) Circle Productions :: Embassy Pictures Corporation / P: Carroll Case / D: William Beaudine / W: Carl K. Hittleman / C: Lothrop Worth / E: William Austin / M: Raoul Kraushaar / S: John Lupton, Estelita Rodriguez, Narda Onyx, Steven Geray, Cal Bolder, Jim Davis
Originally Posted: 07/29/00 :: Rehashed: 04/24/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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