Thursday, August 14, 2014

Monster Team-up Reflection #17: Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove

One of the most acclaimed, but often still inexplicably overlooked, monster team-up films of the past decade is "Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove". Written, directed and produced by William Winckler (who has a strong supporting role in the yarn), the 2005 brew is a heavy mix of horror-movie styles, trending not only on Universal turf, but touching on the carefree likes of "Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster", "Beach Girls and the Monster" and "Horror of Party Beach". 

In essence, "Frank/Creature" presents an unofficial matching of Mary Shelley's famed giant (designed with Jack Pierce style in mind) and the Creature from the Black Lagoon (aka, the Gillman). As it stands, despite its obvious homages, Wickler's black-and-white opus emerges as his own specialized recipe: like "Star Wars: A New Hope", a hodgepodge of many movies seamlessly blended to the point of seeming originality.

The film starts with the Creature's unruly escape into the sea, vainly pursued by Dr. Monroe Lazaroff (Larry Butler) and his assistants (Alison Lees-Taylor and Rich Knight, the latter of whom also supplied the excellent make-ups). The Creature, we learn, was concocted based on Dr. Frankenstein's documented techniques, but due to the specimen's unruly behavior, Lazaroff decides to trek to Frankenstein's homeland, Shellvania, to locate the legendary scientist's Monster and resurrect it to determine how he might improve upon his own variation. 

Shellvania, as it turns out, is an ominously dangerous place, for no sooner does Lazaroff locate the Monster's grave that he and his assistants are pursued by a daylight-roaming werewolf (portrayed by Corey Marshall, who also plays the Creature, with Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick in a cameo when the wolf reverts to human form). 

Once the wolfman is slain, the Frankenstein Monster (Lawrence Furbish) is disinterred and transported to the doctor's California beach house. It's there that the Monster is revived with yet another revealed purpose: tracking and killing terrorists, with the prototype Creature intended as the first of a Navy Seal type militia to fortify the plan (which will now hopefully be controlled like the Monster via acute, hypnotic suggestion). 

Though Lazaroff's plan is zealously noble, it's quickly dashed, for the escaped Creature returns to the shoreline, senselessly slaughtering a string of folks, most of whom are curvaceous women. In desperation, the doctor decides (though only after his assistants' urgent pleas) to unleash the Monster to immobilize his wayward demon.

The task initially proves arduous for the Monster, due to the Creature's comparable strength and poisonous claws, but the intrepid giant perseveres and in the end, an all-out beach brawl ensues, with only one of the fabricated behemoths left standing. 

Bridging (and often interacting within) the monster sequences is a girlie-mag troupe, consisting of camera-ace Bill Grant (Winckler) and his two assistants (Dezzirae Lee and Gary Canavello) who, upon fleeing the Creature after an initial shoot, are nonetheless ordered by their superior to return to the cove to photograph yet another lovely lady. The second jaunt results in even further mayhem, with a Creature attack resulting in the model's grisly death. When the frantic trio flees for safety, it inadvertently arrives at Lazaroff's lair. The poor folks then learn that not only is the famed Monster alive and well, but that the madman is responsible for the amphibious fiend.

Such interludes allow ample tributes to unfold. The lab sets invoke the quaint ambiance of those from "Brain that Wouldn't Die" and "Teenage Frankenstein". The beach scenes are also nostalgically staged, appearing culled from the early '60s. Perhaps this is because the otherwise modern tale comfortably settles itself into an older mindset. At times, it even dares to reach back into the likes of "Bride of Frankenstein", Hammer lore and shamelessly lifts "Swan Lake" from Tod Browning's "Dracula" as its commencing theme. 

It must be noted: "Frank/Creature" isn't shy about being corny, but never becomes condescendingly silly. It also makes decent use of inside-jokes, a recurring appearance by Frankenstein's ghost (again Marshall), plus various supporting roles and cameos, including the aforementioned Patrick, porn-star legend Ron Jeremy; science-fiction author David Gerrold; Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman; and George Lindsey, Jr. (yep--Goober Pyle's son) as the girlie-pic publisher. 

For monster team-up connoisseurs, this one's clearly tailor-made and received at least some well deserved exposure when horror host, Mr. Lobo aired it some Halloweens ago. For those unfamiliar with such crossover novelties, the film will still satisfy with its brisk pacing, chilling costumes and (for those with a lustful eye) undressed women. 

Too bad Winckler hasn't done another along these lines. If anything "Frank/Creature" once more proves the monster-rally formula still seeps appeal and with imagi-movie mergers now all the rage, the present seems more than opportune for yet another ghastly resurgence!

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