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Legendary outlaw of the Old West Jesse James, on the run from Marshal MacPhee, hides out in the castle of Baron Frankenstein's granddaughter Maria, who proceeds to transform Jesse's slow-witted pal Hank into a bald zombie, which she names Igor. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Not as hilariously awful as you might imagine, but nevertheless this hybrid-genre hokum is tame, without fireworks
Veteran filmmaker William Beaudine, with 256 movies under his belt, directed this dreary, low-budget, drive-in oater without much flair. Beaudine and scenarist Carl Hittleman go to absurd lengths to give the preposterous plot (what if Jesse James tangled with Frankenstein's daughter) a plausible set-up. Our notorious heroine and her elderly assistant have fled Germany to conduct their abominable experiments in the relative isolation of the old Southwest in a converted monastery. Film theorists will have a field day with the metaphorical implications of Frankenstein renovating a Catholic monastery. Maria Frankenstein longs to follow in her dastardly daddy's footsteps, but the Mexican peasants nearby don't make good guinea pigs. They have a nasty habit of dying on her. Interestingly enough, Frankenstein's daughter relocated to the American West to take advantage of the frequency of lightning. Anybody who has heard the commentary track on the Kurt Russell movie "Tombstone" may recall the director commenting on the abundance of lightning on their movie set in Arizona, so "Jesse James" contains a modicum of plausibility. The infamous outlaw is trying to lay low when he hooks up with Butch Curry and the Wild Bunch. (Obviously, Butch Curry is Butch Cassidy, but the producers must have felt that one real-life outlaw was sufficient.)Anyway, Butch's greedy brother Lonny alerts Marshall MacPhee about Jesse's whereabouts. During an abortive stagecoach robbery, Jesse's partner Hank catches a slug in the shoulder, and Jesse takes him to the House of Frankenstein to get patched up. Naturally, evil Maria takes them in, because muscle-bound Hank qualifies as the perfect specimen for her blasphemous experiments. See what I mean about the bedrock of plausiblity? This horror horse opera appears to have been shot on a shoe-string budget, since Beaudine stages the action largely in master shots. A mustached John Lupton makes a bland Jesse James. Other than an accurate alias, Jesse's character has been white-washed beyond recognition, and he utters lines about himself that only a censor would pen to dissuade anybody from following in his footsteps. After Hank's transformation to Igor, the camp factor in the action picks up, but there is simply not enough camp to keep this western fired up. Not as hilariously awful as you might imagine, but nevertheless this hybrid-genre hokum is tame, without fireworks. Maria dons a multi-colored G.I. helmet during the transformation sequences, and her laboratory pales in comparison with even a Hammer entry. At one point in the film, she refers to herself as Frankenstein's granddaughter. The producers really should have made up their minds. If there is anything truly execrable about this superficial, saddle-sore sagebrusher, scrutinize the long shots of Frankenstein's monastery: it's an obvious matte painting! Maria Frankenstein is a hoot as a character. In a lackluster cast, veteran character actor Jim Davis of "Dallas" fame stands out as a stalwart lawman, while long-time heavy Rayford Barnes provides the most excitement as he tries to collect the reward on Jesse's head. Worthwhile only as a curiosity piece, "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter" (* out of ****)lacks the audacity of "Lady Frankenstein." The year after Beaudine made this nonsense, he helmed "Billy the Kid Versus Dracula."
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