Thursday, May 6, 2010

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) - Ishiro Honda

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writers: Reuben Bercovitch, Takeshi Kimura, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein Novel)
Starring: Nick Adams, Tadao Takashima, Kumi Mizuno, Koji Furuhata, Haruo Nakajima,

Imagine if you will that the Nazis managed to get their hands on the surviving heart of Frankenstein's monster (don't ask how it survived just go with it). Imagine further that the Nazis handed the heart over to Japan towards the end of World War II (again, just go with it). Now imagine that the heart was in Hiroshima when Allied Forces dropped the atomic bomb. Still with me?

Where, oh where, could this unlikely series of events lead? If you guessed "a giant Frankenstein's monster fighting a giant Godzilla like monster" you would be correct. I mean, would it even be possible for that series of events to lead anywhere else? It all just makes perfect sense, right? Oh, it doesn't? Whatever, just go with it.

I would say that as far as Kaiju movies go, Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) is pretty enjoyable. It certainly doesn't have the depth that the original Gojira (1954) had. This movie obviously doesn't avoid making mention of the effects that the A-bomb had on Japan but it isn't as central to the plot as it was in Gojira. Let's face it though, if you are watching this movie you are probably doing so just to see Frankenstein's monster grow to an enormous size and take on another giant monster. The giant monster of this film happens to be Baragon, a giant, fire breathing, four legged dinosaur that would go on to appear in Destroy All Monsters (1968) and several other Godzilla movies.

Ishirô Honda, director of Gojira (1954), directs this film and manages to create a pretty interesting although very ludicrous story. The special effects in the film are pretty good for the time period. Kaiju films are known for their somewhat cheesy effects, obvious model work and guys in rubber suits. This movie is no exception but for the most part it works pretty well. The miniature work is actually done well enough to make it visually believable when Frankenstein's monster begins to grow.

The movie also does justice to the Frankenstein's monster character. He is mostly portrayed as kind and misunderstood. The only times he kills in the movie is when he has no other choice. I was actually surprised to see how well they portrayed Frankenstein's monster considering how convoluted the story was. It would have been very easy for them just to turn him into simple giant monster that exists only to fight other giant monsters. The fact that the movie actually takes time to give the character a little depth managed to impress me a little.

Now, I guess it is time to tell you what you really want to know. Just how awesome is it when Frankenstein's monster fights Baragon? I will say that it probably isn't the best Kaiju fight I have ever seen but it certainly isn't the worst either. For the most part is was a fun fight to watch but it really just went on a little too long and I can't really think of anything about it that stood out over any other Kaiju fight except that it involved one monster that wasn't in a rubber suit. Baragon does come across as just a cheap knock off of Godzilla and their is part of me that wishes that it was Godzilla in the movie. There would have just been something really awesome about seeing two of my favorite classic movie icons duking it out. Even without Godzilla I would say that this is worth seeing if you are a Kaiju fan.

Rating: 6/10

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