In the annals of bad movie critique and banter, the title JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER often gets a mention. Surely, the titular mix of horror and western themes was derived to push enticing advertising and poster art before flocks of eager drive-in audiences rather than to represent a film of any artistic or ingenious merit. JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER encourages me to once again bring up that age-old cliche, "so bad it's good" or is it just "so bad?"
JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER is the last film of William Beaudine, who also directed its double-bill companion piece, BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA. Although "One-Shot" Beaudine directed over 250(!) films since the silent era, these are two he's often remembered for, as you'll rarely see a bio of the man without them listed. Beaudine also gave us a number of East Side Kids/Bowery Boys comedies, some Lugosi B-level chillers, Bruce Lee on American TV, and 175 westerns.
Anyway, JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER has a rather kindly Jesse James (John Lupton) and his muscular but simple friend Hank Tracy (Cal Bolder) teaming up with a gang of outlaws to rob a stagecoach. It all turns out to be a trap, and Hank gets shot. Jesse takes the injured Hank to a small town where everybody appears to have deserted except for Mexican spitfire Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez) and her parents. Juanita reluctantly escorts Jesse and Hank to the house of Dr. Maria Frankenstein (Narda Onyx), who is actually the granddaughter of the famous namesake. Dr. Maria and her brother (Steven Geray) are performing brain transplants, and they eventually transform Hank into a shirtless hulking bald mess with stitches around his head--and he's now called Igor!
JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER is a very slow and talky, but for some unexplainable reason, is able to keep the bad movie fan like myself engrossed from one scene to the next. Beaudine shows that he was more proficient with standard old west melodramas rather than horror, since the Frankenstein angle is not given as much screen time. Narda Onyx completely overacts, as does Estelita Rodriguez but their performances are actually kind of fun in a ridiculous way. Short, mustached Steven Geray (who around the same time filmed inserts for the American TV showing of EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN) gives us some unintentional laughs with his facial expressions and his frequent roaming over to a bottle with skull and crossbones--which he uses to protest and infiltrate his sister's experiments. There are lots of unconvincing matte shots, ranch locations and sets from other movies, and although the Frankenstein lab is decent, its machinery and props don't fare nearly as well. A modified plastic army helmet is used as an electrical head device! Look for Jim Davis (DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, "Dallas") as the sheriff, and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON star Nestor Paiva in a small role. This movie also has the funniest tombstone marking that you'll ever witness!
Previously available on VHS through Embassy Home Entertainment, MGM used the identical transfer for their "Midnight Movies" series, but never advanced the title to DVD. Elite has finally remedied that with this DVD edition, and it's a suitable one at that. Presented for the first time in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 (with Anamorphic enhancement), the framing suits the film well and helps it less resemble a shoddy 60s TV show, which it often does. Colors are bold for the most part, with some occasional muting. The print source is in very good shape, with only a few blemishes. Detail is strong, with several "day for night" shots instigating darkness on the screen. The mono audio is clear and works fine with the cheapy film at hand.
This is the first in a new series of "Joe Bob Briggs Presents," where the onetime cable TV host and drive-in film spokseman will do a running commentary on classic B movies. Briggs' commentary is a welcomed asset to the DVD, as he gives us humor and points out the absurdity of the film in such a way that you can tell he honestly loves these types of movies. Lots of the information that he relays can be easily found via the internet, but Briggs also makes amusing comments about particular scenes, gives his own views on the director's talents, and describes it as a "resume killer" as it was the final film for most of the cast. Briggs is a lot of fun and is the right man for the job. Also included is the theatrical trailer. (George R. Reis)
BACK TO REVIEWS