DVD Review: Frankenstein 1970 (1958).

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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.

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Director Howard W. Koch on the set with Boris Karloff.

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?

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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.

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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.

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6 Comments

Filed under 1958, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Howard Koch, Monogram/Allied Artists

6 responses to “DVD Review: Frankenstein 1970 (1958).

  1. john k

    I note with interest that those cats at Kino Lorber
    in their quest to release high-def versions of virtually
    EVERYTHING in the old United Artists/American International
    vaults are giving us THE MAGNETIC MONSTER.
    Never seen this one and I avoided the MGM/MOD version,
    but will certainly go for the Kino Blu.
    Trivia note: in the UK MAGNETIC MONSTER was double
    billed with ROUGH SHOOT (aka Shoot First) my kinda
    double bill!

    Like

  2. Richard Oravitz

    Even as a kid I remember feeling as though I were being cheated when the excellent opening sequence turned out to be just some movie being filmed instead of the “real” thing. And the entire rest of FRANKENSTEIN 1970 never lived up to those first couple minutes. Big letdown.
    I’ve got the set mentioned so I should get around to watching this again 50 years later. I may even appreciate it a little this go-round. But then again, maybe not.

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  3. john k

    Anyone who has the aforementioned Warner Bros set
    please be sure to listen to the commentary on
    FRANKENSTEIN 1970 from veteran B actress Charlotte
    Austin. She gives a great insight into what Howard W Koch
    was actually like. Koch,of course was co-founder of Bel-
    Air pictures and went on to have a very productive
    relationship with Frank Sinatra and even ended up
    running Paramount for a time.
    Koch was,reputedly, one of the nicest guys in Hollywood
    and Charotte’s commentary bears this out.
    Charlotte dubbed Koch “the velvet whip” because
    although he was very firm about what he wanted,he
    did it in the nicest possible way.
    I believe people have said the same about working
    with Roger Corman.
    Charlotte mentions most of FRANKENSTEIN 1970’s
    budget went on Boris’s salary.
    Great use of widescreen certainly raises the game
    on this one.,

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  4. Richard Oravitz

    …just an afterthought. FRANKENSTEIN 1970, made in 1958, projecting 12 years into the future. If the opening sequence was (and is) a cheat, it sure would have been nice to cut from the film within a film concept by bouncing boldly into color for the rest of the movie as we now come to grips with the immediate film. Yeah, yeah too costly, but even some cheap cine-color process would have worked giving the film a big lift over it’s gimmick laden opening let down….I guess I just can’t let go of my initial disappointment of this dull offering, widescreen or not.

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  5. john k

    Return to “Real” FRANKENSTEIN.

    I am very bemused at all these great Universal titles getting
    the High-Def Blu Ray treatment in Europe.
    Germany have released lots of Universal’s wonderful Fifties
    Sci-Fi Movies like THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN,
    THE MONOLITH MONSTERS,THE MOLE PEOPLE,TARANTULA!,
    and THE LAND UNKNOWN.
    Tomorrow we get the Blu Ray of THIS ISLAND EARTH.
    I guess all these great films will surface in the USA eventually
    in some sort of mega de-luxe box set,but at my time of life I’m not
    prepared to wait.

    Now the French are on board with an imprint called Elephant
    Films getting in on the act. They have recently released SON
    OF FRANKENSTEIN and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN
    with a whole host of titles to follow.
    I understand that Universal USA are working on Universal Monsters 2
    but have no idea when that will arrive.
    I could not resist FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN as it’s
    one of my all time faves….that opening six minutes has to be the
    greatest opening to any Horror Movie…..ever!

    I might add that the Elephant Blu-Ray is jaw droppingly good.
    Elephant have promised DRACULA’S DAUGHTER,SON OF
    DRACULA and HOUSE OF DRACULA early 2016.
    At this stage I don’t know if Universal have High-Def masters of
    these wonderful films.

    It’s great that Universal are releasing their High Def master
    material to these European imprints,but I wonder how long it will
    be before these films get released on Blu-Ray in the USA.

    Like

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