FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD
(1965, Japan, Frankenstein tai Baragon)
Here's a plot you don’t see very often. In WW2, the Nazis seize what's left of Frankenstein's monster (a living heart), and ship him to their allies in Japan. As the scientists are on the verge of using the heart to create indestructible soldiers (to presumably win the war), the lab is nuked, as it was located in Hiroshima. Unlucky!
15 years later, a strange boy appears in the forest. The heart has survived the blast and completely regenerated the Frankenstein monster – which explains the secret of it surviving so many Universal horror films in the forties. Somehow, the script is allowed to confuse the name of the Doctor with the monster, and it’s refered to as Frankenstein.
There's then some blunt deductive work and trifling medical moral dilemmas as one scientist regards the boy as being as disposable as a laboratory guinea pig. He uses the logic that if the arm is cut off and then regenerates, that'll prove it's Frankenstein!
Then, following the time-honoured Ultraman rulebook, (if it's a monster, it'll automatically grow 5 storeys high), Frankie goes large. This special effect is realised by the actor pacing around amongst model sets, without the use of slow-motion, which makes it look even more like an actor pacing around model sets.
So Toho, you've got a new monster, what are you going to do with him? Well, he's going to have to meet another monster - talk about yin and yang. Suddenly, a non-extinct dinosaur appears who's ducked the ice age by living underground. Baragon is good at burrowing, he has a big horn, big ears, a heat ray, and can leap toy tanks in a single bound. Is it possible it's a kind of dinosaur, professor? "Highly improbable." You said it, prof.
As Frankie's story gets bogged down with a long manhunt, we eventually get some good monster fights, a spectacular miniature forest fire, and a double climax. After the main event is over, someone says, "Look a giant octopus", and round two begins.
The title alone meant I wanted to see this thirty years before I got the chance. The photos in Famous Monsters of Filmland made the wait feel even longer. It’s not all monsters either, because the sparks are flying between American import Nick Adams (also the star of Die Monster Die) and the alluring Kumi Mizuno (of Godzilla: Final Wars 2004, Matango - Fungus of Terror 1963, and the essential Godzilla flick, Invasion of the Astro-Monsters 1965).
While America is still waiting for a complete set of Godzilla DVDs, it's good to see the other Toho monsters also being released.
Disc 1 in the superb Media Blasters 2-disc set of Frankenstein Conquers the World has the Japanese Version with two possible endings (choose the ‘international’ option for the rare alternate octopus ending). Disc 2 has the English dubbed US version and more extras. All three versions have been presented in 2.35 widescreen for the first time in an English video release. Thank you Media Blasters, you're forgiven for Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds…
If you want to see more pix, there's some screengrabs from at DVD Beaver, and a complete list of extras at SciFi Japan...
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