This week I crossed off my top need-to-see classic Japanese Monster movie: Frankenstein Conquers The World
. Known as Frankenstein Vs. Baragon
in Japan, this is a 1965 kaiju film co-produced by Toho Studios and Harry G. Saperstein Enterprises. Genre favorites who worked on the film include director Ishiro Honda, special effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya, actors Nick Adams and Kumi Mizuno and composer Akira Ifukube. Along with the Frankenstein Monster, creatures Baragon and a giant octopus appear.
Near the end of WWII, a German officer seizes the immortal heart of the Frankenstein Monster from a scientist and transfers it to Japanese scientists for experimentation. The heart, however, is presumed destroyed in the bombing of Hiroshima.
15 years pass and the heart, having been exposed to radiation, has grown into a feral boy. The boy develops a relationship with a scientist(Mizuno) and continues to grow to gigantic size. The authorities fear that the boy will eventually feed on humans and seek to destroy him. Meanwhile, the monster Baragon is destroying villages, leading people to think that Frankenstein is causing the damage. When seeking Frankenstein, they instead find Baragon. Frankenstein saves the people and fights Baragon to the death. The destruction causes the earth to crack and both monsters descend underground. In an alternate ending, a giant octopus slithers over the hills and also fights Frankenstein.
Frankenstein Conquers The World
was featured in the opening sequence of Creature Double Feature
on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, so I was very familiar with the movie but I doubt I ever watched the whole thing more than once. It was never Frankenstein enough for me, nor Godzilla enough.
With this watching, I have to say that I loved the premise. The Monster was shown to be very hard to kill in the Universal films, so the idea that German scientists were able to keep his heart alive seemed plausible. Transfering the heart to the Nazi's allies and having it be exposed to radiation causing massive regeneration and growth also seems in line with post-WWII science fiction.
While I did enjoy the movie, it's just a bit too uneven and too goofy to be one of the top kaiju. The Frankenstein creature does elicit sympathy but doesn't really rampage and the movie ends in a typical giant monster battle. I feel that Toho wanted to use the Frankenstein Monster so badly that he was almost shoe-horned into a giant monster wrestling match. Wikipedia states that Honda wanted to tell a science-gone-wrong story but was forced into a monster mash. While I understand why the studio wanted a battle movie, it's this inconsistency that makes Frankenstein Conquers The World
not seem to fit with the others. It's definitely an odd enough movie to keep interest but it's not as much fun as the top entries from Toho, like War Of The Gargantuas
, King Kong Vs Godzilla
or Monster Zero
Nick Adams and Kumi Mizuno are solid but they also don't stand out as much as in better films. Adams in his American barbecue outfit is a laugh, though. The number of times the scientists say "science" would make a good MST3K skit.
The prologue. While the dialogue-less bit in Germany was kind of a head-scratcher, the setup all the way to the nuclear strike did a fine job. The beating heart of Frankenstein being seized by the evil Nazi and supposedly being destroyed in Hiroshima provides plenty of backstory quickly while also hinting at what's to come.
Frankenstein watching a Japanese rock and roll show. He’s having a great time watching Japanese teens doing the Twist until one of the dancers screeches. The Monster then throws the TV out the window and Nick Adams hits him with a chair. This odd mix of events is meant to show that the creature is misunderstood but with Frankenstein’s weird grunts and squeaks it winds up being unintentionally humorous and slightly annoying.
The Monster’s escape. The 20 foot tall Frankenstein makes for a relatively small Kaiju but seeing him walking through the larger than usual model sets was pretty cool. Likewise when he encounters the cruise ship.
Baragon crashing through a village and spitting feathers after eating a bunch of chickens. Some of the miniaturizations are pretty good but the choice of a model horse and boar was puzzling.
The final battle. Frankenstein is now typical kaiju size and uses wrestling moves on and throws boulders at Baragon. It’s a pretty good fight especially with the blazing forest fire in the background. Sometimes Baragon's flame breath is effective, other times, there's no effect. The inclusion of the giant octopus, which doesn’t appear in the regular version, is another odd choice.
Frankenstein Conquers The World trailer
Nick Adams died in 1968 of a drug overdose, which was ruled either an accident or a suicide. His friendships with James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Natalie Wood led to a great deal of rumors and speculations.
Harry G. Saperstein was a producer and distributor for UPA studios. His relationship with Toho Studios led to the availability on US TV of the Toho monster movies in the 60's, 70's and 80's.
The giant Frankenstein idea had started with a concept that was stolen from Willis O'Brien and meant to be used in a "King Kong Meets Frankenstein" concept. Influenced by this, Toho planned on producing "Frankenstein Vs Godzilla". This idea was scrapped for Mothra Vs Godzilla
in 1964 and the Frankenstein concept was then used for Frankenstein Conquers The World
You can watch Frankenstein Conquers The World
Frankenstein Conquers The World