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I first saw this film when I was 11 years old (on the KTLA 'Movies Til Dawn' at 2:00 am), and I didn't realize the impact it had on me until I saw it again a few months ago (17 years later). I found two scenes between Frank and False Frank had really affected me, SPOILER WARNING: One was when Frank, after he has fallen from grace, tries to fly and falls to his destruction on the pavement below and fades away. It affected me that the 'hero' of the film should die that way, the hero believing in his own abilities and dying because of his own failings. Second, when the False Frank is crying in the boat at the end of the film. I was again bothered by the image of the new 'hero' losing emotional control like that. Possibly these images don't mean anything to the vast majority of people who saw the film, but they had a profound effect on me. I am surprised at how few people have voted/commented on this film. I feel it is an undiscovered gem of film-making, waiting for a re-appraisal.
Starring Jon Voight and chubby comic actor Severin Darden, FEARLESS FRANK
an obscure pop morality play gone wrong. Receiving somewhat limited
it quickly gravitated to infrequent television showings, via
The story concerns Darden's Doctor, who creates a perfect crimefighter, Frank. Played as immaculately cool, in a slick suit, narrow tie and shades, Frank easily bashes baddies until his ego gains the upper hand and proves his destruction.
In the end, battered and scarred, he's rowed off to quieter climes, no longer able to function as a crimefighter or -- in many ways -- a complete human being.
An interesting watch, though overall it shows largely cut-rate production values and a somewhat depressing atmosphere as Frank begins developing chinks in his armor which first pit him against the Doctor in small ways, and later lead to his falling from grace and into the hands of is enemies. The films seems to have vanished from sight, last showing on regional television in the early 1970s, slightly prior to Filmways' buy-out of AIP and their subsequent selling off of the studio's film library.
I just finished watching this odd movie which I had taped last year but
forgotten until now. (I think it ran on Showtime.)
I think if Troma Studios had existed in the '60s they would have come up with this; it seems too strange for American International, no slackers when it comes to weird movies. Oddly disjointed story, cheesy production values, but the whole film is enhanced by narrator Ken Nordine (Word Jazz) and the appropriately chaotic jazz soundtrack.
This is a movie you should acquire and save for a late-night party with friends. It needs to be watched, not ignored as background, or you lose track of the surreal plot line. I wondered if it had been cut mercilessly because it seems too choppy. But seeing it without commercials helped immeasurably.
Somehow I doubt you will watch it more than once.
This was an amazing find for me and my girlfriend. We were watching late night television and were enthralled by this comic gem from the great director Philip Kaufman starring the young Jon Voight before he did "Midnight Cowboy", etc. This film was made before the television series "Batman", etc. and has some brilliant comic book conceits that have been copied in the Batman films, etc. After Frank is brought back to life by the good doctor, there's a wonderful scene which could have been the inspiration for Geoffrey Rush's character in "The King's Speech". The film stars a who's who from Chicago's Second City and is full of humor and energy. The acting and the directing are spot on for a little independent film and it foreshadowed Kaufman's talents for his later films like "the Right Stuff" and, in some ways, "The Unbearable lightness of Being". Hope it plays again soon. Does anyone know how to get a hold of a DVD of this film? We would love to get a copy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
i LOVE this movie. I LOVE it! i saw it in the 1980s, which contradicts other reviewers info here. but i saw it, not in the movie theaters and not on television, but in film school. the school of visual arts had the foresight at that time, to show and old film, at that time, to a bunch of lunatic film students and everyone cheered and went nuts. now, this film isn't for everyone. and i don't think i'm better or worse than anyone else who's seen this. but we'd been trained to recognize "camp" and "campy" production values for their own sake. this's a spirited romp. with an ultimately downbeat message. voight is great. monique van vooren is wonderful (always wonderful to see an underrated actress used so well) and the oddball cameos are... odd. the improvised dialog (hell, improvised shooting in chi-town) make this a must-see for fans of casavettes. think "shadows", comically unhinged. yeah, it's amateurish at times. yeah, those holes show right through. but watch this either in your 'teens or twenties, or if you can't do that, stoned might help. or if you have a non-uptight sense of the daring and outlandish, this should work for you. if you're looking for seamless, state of the art, same-ness by today's eyeball knockout special effects standards, don't even bother. you just won't get it and end up being angry for your wasted time. otherwise, check it out!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this on local independent TV as a kiddie matinée movie in the late 60s/early 70s and was weirded out by the psychedelic and darker elements. The villains are as strange as anything in a Dick Tracy comic, and Jon Voight has a precursor role to his Joe Buck from Midnight Cowboy, as a painfully naive hick who comes to the big city (this time Chicago) only to have his life thrown into turmoil. MGM HD showed this not too long ago and I got to see it again. This time I was taken with the supporting cast, many of whom were members of the early second city - especially Severn Darden and David Steinberg, plus appearances by author Nelson Algren and voice genius Ken Nordine. I was also surprised to find out that it was written and directed by Philip Kaufman, but most of that information is available though the standard IMDb info. The film looks almost like an attempt to copy the camp feel of Batman, but it is much darker, and as can be expected with anything featuring the aforementioned Darden, Nordine and Algren, also pushes into intellectual satire. ** SPOILER ALERT ** As a kid watching it, I was disturbed that the hero wound up becoming a villain, and that the villains started to become heroic (False Frank) although it now feels fairly quaint. That it wound up on a holiday kid's matinée I guess was due to a programmer thinking since it was a goofy super hero comedy, it was kid friendly. It really isn't. Death, disfigurement and a strange moral make it more of an IFC than Disney Channel film.
Knowing that Philip Kaufman directed movies like "The Right Stuff", it
blows the mind that he once directed the cornball "Fearless Frank". Jon
Voight plays a drifter who gets murdered and then reanimated as a
superhero. With cartoonish action and speech that sounds like a
recording of a recording, it's impossible not to laugh at this. It's
going to be hard to find a copy, though. I suspect that Kaufman's too
embarrassed about this movie to release it.
As for the rest of the cast, Monique van Vooren apparently is best known for appearances in Andy Warhol movies. Severn Darden was a character actor over a number of years (I best remember him from "The President's Analyst" and "Saturday the 14th"). Nelson Algren (Needles) was the author of "The Man with the Golden Arm", and Ken Nordine (the narrator) was a jazz vocalist.
Fearless Frank is a genuinely odd early work by Philip Kaufman,
featuring an early performance by Jon Voight as a flawed superhero. It
attempts to recreate the feel and atmosphere of a comic book,
particularly in its first half. Ultimately, it is a mixed bag that will
have difficulty appealing either to children or to fans of experimental
If you watch only the first half hour, Fearless Frank appears to be intended as a children's film. The characters seem straight out of a Dick Tracy comic, complete with bizarrely disfigured criminals. There is a definite camp element to this section of the film, with comic narration provided by a mysterious, and melodramatic, on screen narrator with a typewriter. Similarly, a scientist's patented evil detector gives the proceedings the feel of a sixties children's matinée. Only the plot line, which revolves around a young farm boy resurrected from the dead to become a superhero suggests anything
However, the film gets increasingly odd as it goes along. A clone of the hero is introduced, and the plot shifts from a straight superhero story to one of a character corrupted by success. From here the film becomes increasingly surreal and inaccessible. In the end, it becomes more of a film for Kaufman completists than a film one would watch for enjoyment.
Philip Kaufman is best known now for making art films for the masses but this early slice of madness is unlike any of his other films I've seen. Although looking very low-budget with shaky camerawork and bad on-location sound recording, this is a frenetic satire of comic book heroes with Voight as Fearless Frank and the bad False Frank. The bad guys look like they stepped out of a Dick Tracy comic with names like Screwnose and The Rat with cheap-looking makeup jobs to match. The anything-goes approach to the story seems like it was shot in an improvisational style which makes for a very disjointed film. I think Kaufman was trying to make an American pop culture satire in the style of self-indulgent European art movie directors like Jean-Luc Godard. This does not make it a good film, only an interesting one.
One of the most refreshingly unique films I have ever seen. A must-see for those who liked Raising Arizona or the Space Ghost series. Campy and entertaining and a most welcome break from the formulaic drivel. If you like "pop" movies, you will not understand this one. But if you are tired of the same old thing, you need a hero. Fearless Frank is that hero.
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