Thursday, October 25, 2007

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25 - Movie 2

I've always found actor Nick Adams to be a bit annoying. Dubbed into Japanese, he's a bit more tolerable, which brings us to the second feature film of the evening, "Frankenstein vs Baragon" (aka "Frankenstein Conquers the World") (1965). As Allied forces began ending the war in Europe, the Nazis delivered the living, beating heart of the Frankenstein monster (referred to in the movie as Frankenstein) to the Japanese military via U-boat. The heart is brought to Hiroshima for study. Unlocking its secrets, would mean the ability to create an army of undying super soldiers who could regenerate any wounds as they occurred. Before any progress could be made, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, ending the war.

Fifteen years later, American Dr. Bowen (Adams) along with Dr. Kawaji (Tadao Takashima) and the gorgeous Dr. Togami (Kumi Mizuno) are researchers studying the effect of radiation on human tissue. A strange feral boy is seen near their hospital, killing and eating dogs and cats. These scientists take the boy in for study, trying to uncover his origin. While trying to uncover the boy's mysterious past, the boy's appetite increases as does his size, turning him into a giant. The boy is believed to have grown from the heart of Frankenstein because of its incredible regenerative powers, and because of the radiation from the bomb. The giant boy escapes captivity, and is blamed for a series of livestock slaughters, human deaths and property destruction. Frankenstein, surviving in the wilderness, is actually being the scapegoat for another monster, the burrowing puppy-dog like Baragon. The scientists are determined to save Frankenstein, but when they finally catch up with him, so does baragon, and the two monsters end up locked into mortal combat, with both monsters being swallowed up by the earth. In the international version of this movie, Frankenstein defeats baragon, only to be attacked by a pretty cool giant octopus which pulls him into the sea to be devoured.

I really love this movie. It was a staple of my Saturday afternoon viewings as a child, appearing frequently on The Creature Double Feature on Boston's channel 56, along with it's sequel "War of the Gargantuas" (which I love even more). I expected, when I saw this movie for the first time as an adult, about ten years ago to find my affection for it was sorely misplaced, but I still find this movie very enjoyable, and very well made. Sure it has some problem spots, particurly a scene in which Dr. Bowen and Dr. Togami witness the human sized boy being struck by a taxi in a hit and run accident. The boy is clearly hurt, so what do these two compassionate members of the medical profession do? They throw a bag of food down to him then go back inside to their own dinner. The special effects are variable here, from some really great looking stuff, particularly the miniature forest, to some poor stuff such as the miniature horse, and some obvious model cars. Baragon is one of my favorite Toho monsters. Looking at him, its hard to believe he could harm anything. The Baragon suit was later reconfigured numerous times to transform him into various Ultraman foes, and then too ratty to reconfigure back into Baragon for his next appearance in "Destroy All Monsters" (1968) reducing him to a cameo, with the bulk of his scenes being taken over by Gorosaurus. Baragon would take on a more central role in the excellent "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidora: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" (2001) though the brutality involved is a bit hard to watch. Beacuse Baragon went on to be a character in the Godzilla movies, that means that Frankenstein is part of the Godzillaverse as well.

"Frankenstein vs Baragon" was the second movie to be based on an idea of "King Kong" 91931) animator Willis O'Brien. O'Brien had the idea for a movie in which Dr, Frankenstein created a 20-foot tall monster using the parts of various large animals. This Frankenstein monster would end up battling King Kong. O'Brien's idea did attract interest, but he was never involved, credited, or paid for the resulting "King Kong vs Godzilla" nor this movie.

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