Blu-Ray Review: Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Written by H. E. Barrie
Cinematography: Meredith Nicholson
Film Editor: Everett Dodd
Music by Nicholas Carras

Cast: John Ashley (Johnny Bruder), Sandra Knight (Trudy Morton), Donald Murphy (Oliver Frank/Frankenstein), Sally Todd (Suzie Lawler), Harold Lloyd Jr. (Don), Felix Maurice Locher (Carter Morton), Wolfe Barzell (Elsu), John Zaremba (Lt. Boyd), Robert Dix (Det. Bill Dillon), Harry Wilson (The Monster)

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With Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958), The Film Detective has topped their exquisite Blu-Ray of Giant From The Unknown. Shot in less than a week in May of 1958 for about $65,000, Frankenstein’s Daughter is a typically glorious, wonderful late-50s junk movie.

Richard Cunha directed a handful of films, including Frankenstein’s Daughter, that I have a real fondness for, regardless of whether they’re any good or not. Caught this one on the late show as a teenager, when I was soaking up as much of this stuff as I could get my hands on.

At the time, I was enticed by stills in some monster movie books and magazines, and by the fact that John Ashley was in it. I’d seen Ashley in Larry Buchanan’s abysmal The Eye Creatures, a 16mm AIP TV movie from 1967 (and a remake of 1957’s Invasion Of The Saucer Men) — and, of course, the Beach Party pictures.

John Ashley: “Frankenstein’s Daughter was really rock bottom. But the people involved were very nice, especially Dick Cunha, the director.”*

Richard E. Cunha was born in Honolulu in 1922. He attended LA’s Art Center School. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, Cunha enlisted in the Air Force and served in their First Motion Picture Unit, making training films at the Hal Roach Studios (nicknamed “Fort Roach” at the time).

After the war, Cunha started his own company, making industrial films and commercials — and he shot some early TV shows. He’d later work as DP on Death Valley Days and Branded.

It was in 1957 that Cunha began his run of low-budget monster movies: Giant From The Unknown, She Demons, Missile To The Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. Each were done in about a week for around $65,000. They’re a load of cheeseball fun, with personal favorites being Frankenstein’s Daughter and Missile To The Moon (I’m a sucker for those guys-reach-another-world-and-find-a-society-of-women movies). It’s hard to put your finger on what makes Cunha’s movies somehow better than the other one-week wonders from the same period, but they are. 

But our focus today is on Frankenstein’s Daughter. It’s got yet another member of the Frankenstein family conducting the family business under an assumed name (the very lame Oliver Frank). Oliver is working as a lab assistant and spiking the fruit juice of his boss’s niece Trudy (Sandra Knight) with a secret formula that contains something called Digenerol. While all this is happening, Trudy has recurring dreams of turning into a monster. And if all that’s not enough, Oliver is also assembling a female version of the typical Frankenstein brand of “perfect being.” All that, and it’s got a Playboy Playmate in it (Sally Todd, February 1957). Sounds awesome, don’t it?

On Blu-Ray, this thing looks terrific — nice and clean and sharp, framed the way it should be (1.85), with surprisingly punchy audio. Never thought I’d see it look like this.

Then there’s all the extras, and The Film Detective really piles ’em on. For starters, there’s a commentary from Tom Weaver (who also wrote some stuff for the packaging). Then there are two terrific documentaries: Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker Of The Unknown (complete with some interview footage) and John Ashley: Man From The B’s. I loved ’em both. This is an all-around wonderful release, my favorite so far from The Film Detective.

It’s really easy to recommend this thing, especially to fans of such nonsense. Here’s hoping that The Film Detective gets around to She Demons soon (Missile To The Moon got a pretty solid Blu-Ray release from Snappy Video).

* From Interviews With B Science Fiction & Horror Movie Makers by Tom Weaver

3 Comments

Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Ashley, Richard Cunha, The Film Detective

3 responses to “Blu-Ray Review: Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958).

  1. Walter

    Toby, I’m continuously amazed in the movies that are making it to a Blu-ray release. Somehow or other, I have managed to miss ever viewing FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER(1958). Although, I’ve enjoyed viewing Sandra Knight in movies and tv shows over the years. Knight was in several small budget movies from the late 1950’s through the mid 1960’s. Her first movie was the small budget hit, THUNDER ROAD(filmed 1957, released 1958). THUNDER ROAD was the first movie that I recall viewing her in. I first saw it on the WHBQ Channel 13 Memphis MONDAY NIGHT MOVIE in 1967. Knight portrayed Roxanne “Roxie” Ledbetter, who was a girl-next-door type. Roxanne, secretly loves moonshine runner Lucas Doolin(Robert Mitchum) and her love is unrequited. Knight made a good debut.

    Getting back to FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER, I wonder if there was any attempt to interview Sandra Knight for this Blu-ray release, because she is still with us at age eighty-two years young. She’s given interviews in the past and probably would have, if asked.

    By the looks of the pictures in this write-up, the make-up artist should be commended, because his work is really gruesome looking. The beautiful Sandra Knight is transformed into a horrible looking monster of the female Jekyll and Hyde type. Also, Frank’s creation of a female monster is even more gruesome looking. As we know, people working with small budgets can be creative and often are. They sure don’t seem to make movies like this any more.

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    • Thunder Road is a terrific little movie. Of course, it’s a big deal in North Carolina since it was shot around Asheville. Some of the locations are still around and look pretty much the same as they did all those years ago.

      Blu-ray Review: Thunder Road (1958).

      With Frankenstein’s Daughter, the story goes that the makeup man didn’t realize the monster was supposed to be a female, so there’s no semblance (my big word of the day) or woman-ness in his design for the creature. It certainly looks nothing like Sally Todd, who supplies the head!

      Your comment about creativity and budgets is very true. It’s a miracle in itself that a movie even got made for $65,000 in less than a week! That is one of the things that draws me to cheaper movies — the fight just to get something on the screen.

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      • Walter

        Toby, that’s what draws me to the cheaper movies, for the most part. How they were able to get made is always quite a story, in itself.

        I noticed that about Frank’s monster not being too female looking. I guess the make-up man just smeared some lipstick on his creation’s lips, hoping the shirtsleeve audiences wouldn’t care.

        I think I read somewhere that Robert Mitchum, in an interview, said that he made more money from THUNDER ROAD than any other movie he ever made and it was still making money(1970’s). I know that the movie was still playing in drive-ins during the 1980’s and probably is still playing in a theater somewhere, even in 2021.

        A Little aside here. Some of my family, on both sides, at one time or other made moonshine whisky and beer. My cousin Rex D____ was a bootlegger and ran illegal liquor in his car, back in the day(1960’s). One time he was being chased by the county sheriff, who made it a hot time for bootleggers, except for his own personal bootlegger. Rex had to ditch his car and then ran across a field, so that the Sheriff Joe S_____ couldn’t catch him, but Rex’s car with the illegal liquor was confiscated. So, from what I viewed, THUNDER ROAD was closely accurate to the way it was for some people, but not all.

        THUNDER ROAD, a small budget movie, is one of the quintessential drive-in movies of all-time.

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