Saturday, July 18, 2015

Vamp or Not? Frankenstein Island

I received a comment recently from JaredMithrandir asking if I had seen Frankenstein Island, a Jerry Warren directed film from 1981, as it had a vampiric element. I had not but I discovered that it had been uploaded to YouTube and this, of course, gave me opportunity to watch the film.

Now, my expectations were low. It is an obscure 80s horror featuring Frankenstein (and his monster) but as I quickly discovered it gives us opportunity to see John Carradine – who is Dr Frankenstein – as a giant floating projection of a head! Surely worth the entrance fee alone, especially when that fee is free.

in the caves
It starts with hot air balloons and we get the impression from the radio chatter that one balloon is missing, having been caught in a freak weather moment. We then see four men arrive upon an island in a dingy. Now the print wasn’t good at all but the dingy seemed in one piece – making me wonder about their overriding desire, later, to build a raft. Anyway the four guys are Paul (Robert Clarke), known as Doc, Mark (Robert Christopher), Curtis (Tain Bodkin) and Dino (Patrick O'Neil). The island seems to be beach and unassailable cliffs until they find a cave.

an island girl
The cave leads to the island interior. There seems to be a lot of lumber available for their raft and, eventually, they find a tied up girl. More girls (in leopard print bikinis) come along and lead them to their village – nothing is said about the tied girl until the morning, when it is revealed that she is undergoing initiation. The girls feed the castaways but, in the morning, one of the girls is grabbed by an odd looking man. They give chase and rescue her. During this sequence they also make a discovery that saying a place name out loud makes the speaker’s limbs go into spasm (apparently a control mechanism, which seemed rather convoluted and unnecessary).

Sheila Frankenstein von Helsing
They discover that the girls are born of the island (later it is suggested that they are hybridised aliens!) but there are men on the island who are sailors, shipwrecked like them (though they were technically balloon wrecked) and all quite mad. Despite the warning about the men’s madness they go off with some of them, maybe because they asked nicely, and are eventually taken to a ranch style house owned by the Frankenstein’s. The main Frankenstein is Sheila Frankenstein von Helsing (Katherine Victor). The erstwhile Dr Frankenstein was her husband and she is helping to keep his assistant von Helsing (George Mitchell) alive.

Von Helsing at 200
Here we have the potential vampirism (and not just because of the name). Von Helsing is two hundred years old. They have a ship’s captain – who believes himself to know Edgar Allen Poe and laments the loss of his wife Lenore – held in “protective custody” to drain off amounts of blood. This is transfused into Von Helsing to attain his longevity. Further they occasionally take an alien girl and transfuse so much blood into him it kills the girl. His longevity is almost a half-life, with him confined to bed and needing to be in a coma for periods of time to maintain his life. As for the balloonists, Sheila wants Doc to assist her looking for a more active longevity for Von Helsing (and he goes along with this after being drugged). This seems to be under Frankenstein’s instruction as Sheila channels her late husband’s spirit. The others may stick around to impregnate the alien women, though one couldn’t help think that ultimately they would be turned into mindless guards (as some of the men have been).

John Carradine's giant head
The Monster is chained underwater in a grotto within the caves (you can bet he’ll escape) and the men (bar the drugged Doc) are intent on escaping. So we have a smorgasbord of ideas presented with some risible acting – the best actor is the dog, Melvin, who plays himself. But is it vamp? Well I can see the point, whilst born of science they are using blood to keep someone alive way past their lifespan and it seems to be working (albeit not perfectly). The transfusions may be killing the sea captain in the long run but are most definitely killing the alien girls when they are caught. The use of the name Von Helsing, whilst vowel-challenged, is clearly a connection to vampirism, though that may just be a smorgasbord addition. It is at least genre interesting but I would say it probably does, just, qualify as Vamp. My thanks to JaredMithrandir for bringing it to my attention.

The imdb page is here.


JaredMithrandir said...

Weren't there also Minions with Vampire like Teeth?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The minions were kind of mindless men with strange goggles. didn't notice teeth but the quality of the YouTube version was very poor