Directed by Howard W. Koch
Produced by Aubrey Schenck
Screenplay by Richard Landau and George Worthing Yates
Story by Charles A. Moses and Aubrey Schenck
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Music: Paul A. Dunlap
Film Editor: John A. Bushelman
Cast: Boris Karloff (Baron Victor Von Frankenstein), Tom Duggan (Mike Shaw), Jana Lund (Carolyn Hayes), Donald Barry (Douglas Row), 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)
The last member of the Frankenstein family has fallen on hard times. To keep things afloat, namely his experiments, Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) has rented his castle out for a horror movie shoot. He’s eager for them to wrap and get out, then he realizes the cast and crew offer up a sizable supply of body parts.
Frankenstein 1970 (1958) takes this terrific film-within-a-film premise — an American film crew making a Frankenstein movie in the real Frankenstein castle, while the real monster reposes in the lab below — and puts almost none of its potential on the screen. Another thought-provoking idea, that Frankenstein was tortured by the Nazis — in other words, he got a bit of his own medicine, is brought up and dropped. And what could’ve been made of Karloff’s “real” monster meeting its cheesy movie namesake?
I’d been wanting to see Frankenstein 1970 since I was a kid, thanks to some lurid stills — and the fact that it was in black-and-white CinemaScope. And for an eight-day Allied Artists monster picture, it has its moments. The opening’s well done, with a young woman chased through a foggy swamp by a deformed monster, only to have it revealed as part of the movie. And a scene where Karloff, convinced to appear in the film project, goes off script as he tells the story of his ancestors’ work — is a hoot. Both demonstrate the plot-line gold that was waiting to be mined. Cinematographer Carl E. Guthrie does a terrific job, as always, and I’ve always liked long takes in CinemaScope movies (I’m sure they were used more for efficiency than aesthetics on this one). If there’s one thing I’ve learned watching cheap movies of the late 50s, there were some real pros doing excellent work on these crummy things.
Guthrie’s craft is well-presented in the Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics DVD set. It also includes The Walking Dead (1936), You’ll Find Out (1940) and Zombies On Broadway (1945). The films themselves aren’t always stellar, but they sure look good. Recommended.