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Professor Frankenstein, a university lecturer with an alligator pit under his house, steals body parts of dead athletes from the wreckage of a crashed airplane. He builds a hunky male monster with a hideously disfigured face, which goes on a killing spree. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
American International Pictures released this film to many drive-in theaters on a double bill with Blood of Dracula (1957) with the tag line: "Warning! Can You Take It? Fiendish! Frenzied! Frightening! It Will Haunt You For Days Afterwards!" See more »
The production of this film, hot on the heels of Michael Landon's immortal 'Teenage Werewolf' opus, signified that Teen Horror was in fact a specific genre of film. Teen Horror films have been a constant cinematic present from 1957 to the present, although they have waxed and waned several times over the past 53 years. Everything you see in 'the Craft,' 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' and of course the ubiquitous 'Twilight' movies is a re-hash of Teenage Werewolf and Teenage Frankenstein.
Wereas Teenage Werewolf focuses on the personality and emotions of the Michael Landon character, thus structurally grafting the point of view of 'Rebel Without a Cause' to the horror genre, Teenage Frankenstein is more pre-occupied with Whit Bissel's portrayal of a Dr. Frankenstein living in the era drive-in movies. As such, Teenage Frankenstein follows more traditional monster movie conventions than Werewolf.
Nonetheless, teenagers are featured heavily, and teen actor Gary Conway as the eponymous monster is a major presence, so it is indeed appropriate to study this film in the context of the Teen Horror genre.
This film is an excellent example of the aesthetics of low-budget 1950's monster film-making. The acting is earnest and competent, the script does not get bogged down with dialog that would try to explain weak plot points, but rather dances across such places quickly, as one might dash across a wobbly bridge before it can collapse. It moves quickly and delivers just what the intended audience expected and needed: cheap and harmless thrills.
One of my favorite sequences involves the monster's search for a suitable head for himself at a nightime lovers' lane with teens parked in their cars. This is the earliest example I know of where the monster targets promiscuous teens. Also, since this film was obviously intended to be shown at drive-ins, so it must have been neat for 1957 teens parked in Studebakers in the dark to imagine their own heads as being coveted by a monster lurking somewhere nearby. Almost pushing the forth wall, really.
While this movie is fun and better than the title would suggest, it does lack the original psychic/emotional center that characterizes the classic horror pictures. King Kong, Frankenstein, Godzilla and Creature from the Black Lagoon all have a definite theme, a center, a statement relating to life and the human condition. So far as I could discern, this film does not. If a viewer can content himself with a bit of escapist fun, he will be satisfied.
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