FRANKENTSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD
Archive for the Nazis Category
The theme for the covers I selected for this post are around Nazis. Mainly Nazi’s torturing white girls in various insidious methods. And when I say insidious that is just what I mean. These weren’t your fun loving Nazis that you would find at your average concentration camp following some sort of protocol. These were your loose canon type Nazis who did as they damned well pleased and when they did do something they wanted it was to full bodied white girls who were all tied up and hapless. I mean, one cover they have actually turned monkeys with serrated knives loose on some gals, girls get roasted alive on a couple others while on another cover a lass is branded with a swastika while her companions look in from their cage and wait their turns. Only one of these covers has the good white guy sneaking up behind the damsel’s wretched captors. This was common on many of these covers and he may have a gun, or a knife or maybe just his bare hands. But somehow you imagine the girl will be okay. I assume no good white guy sneaking up from behind in the dungeon means the girl’s fate is sealed. The covers are often nihilistic in this sense, but still a lot of fun. I have always felt nihilism was an underrated form of entertainment. And you have to love some of those article titles. Simply priceless.
For a great blog on this subject check out Men’s Adventure Magazines
1964/Director: Jack Curtis/ Writer: Arnold Drake
Cast: Martin Kosleck, Byron Sanders, Barbara Wilkin, Rita Morley, Ray Tudor
All the action in The Flesh Eaters takes place on a small island off the Atlantic coast where five people must face a ravenous, microscopic organism that consumes human flesh in a matter of moments. The budget for the film by director Jack Curtis is obviously very low and according to one story was subsidized by winnings his wife made on a TV game show. The characters are all comic bookishly two dimensional (and not surprisingly since the screen writer was also a comic book writer named Arnold Drake): a mad Nazi Scientist, a drunken former screen queen, a down on his luck pilot, a zany beatnik and a good hearted gal with huge hooters she is not adverse to showing now and then.
The evil Nazi Peter Bartell, played by Martin Kosleck who made a career of playing evil Nazis, is the man experimenting with refining the flesh eater experiment that was begun during the war. His experiments are interrupted when the plane being flown by studly looking Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) has to land off the coast because of a bad storm. With him are his passengers jaded former movie idol Laura Winters (Rita Morely) and her assistant Jane Letterman (Barbara Wilken). A rule in low budget sci fi flicks is “lots of dialog” and this movie follows the rule form beginning to end, but the chat is actually not too bad. The acting is campy and hammy often enough but I get the sense the actors and crew knew this and had a little fun with what they were working with, and so The Flesh eaters becomes a more watchable and enjoyable ride than The Brain Eaters. The group is joined later by one of the most obnoxious characters in the film, a beatnik named Omar who rants and raves about love as the weapon so often that we feel relieved when he has his entrails eaten from the inside out later with a microbe laced martini made by Professor Bartell. In one memorable scenes hero Grant Murdoch must rescue lush Laura Winters who has walked out onto a jetty looking for her booze. He gets some of the flesh eaters (usually holes poked in the film) on his leg ad they are removed by Bartells pocket knife. They need something to stop the bleeding and in no time sexy Jane Letterman removes her blouse and spends the rest of the scene in her white bra.
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There are some actually gory death scenes in this film which were ahead of its time in 1964. I have mentioned the demise of Omar the beatnik, and later characters have similar explicit death scenes. One thing that threw me for a loop was that at the end the surviving castaways must deal with a huge rubber monster after an attempt to electrify the microbes only cause them to grow and unify. In a very odd twist the thing that kills the beast (remember in old sci-fi flicks there is usually one special things that does the beast in, never bullets, and it must be found and developed in the last twenty minutes of the film) is human blood delivered directly into the eye. Strange that a thing that consumes human flesh is killed by human blood.
The photography (by Curtis under the pseudonym Carson Davidson) is actually pretty good, and while the effects are pretty low budget they were pretty effective for the time. The two women are pretty sexy and the tension between super jock stud Grant Murdoch and evil genius Peter Bartell is stereotypical and amusing. How else would you want it? This is a good bad movie and of the two reviewed here I recommend this one more highly. Not to missed by enthusiasts of midnight cinema.
1941/Director: Jean Yarbrough/Writer: Edmond Kelso
King of the Zombies was a feature put out in 1941 by Monogram Pictures –later to become Allied Artist Pictures- which was part of a small group of studios known as Poverty Row, so called because of the low budgets they worked on. Monogram was noted for action and adventure fare and they may be best remembered for the Charlie Chan series that featured in some episodes black actor Mantan Moreland as Charlie Chan’s chauffer Birmingham Brown. Moreland appears in the silly but entertaining King of the Zombies and its sequel Revenge of the Zombies (1943). In King of the Zombies Mantan Moreland steals the show from the lame leads played by Dick Purcell and John Archer though his sometimes over the top portrayal of a bug-eyed and trembling manservant has garnered some pretty negative comments about the actor online. I touched on the usually negative roles offered to blacks in movies of this period (thank God that all the ‘hood’ and gangsta’ films of today have freed blacks from all these negative stereotypes) in an early post on the film The Monster Walks starring Willie Best (cast sometimes as Sleep-n-Eat, perhaps the worst name ever for a black actor) and I would like to touch on the topic a bit more but I will save that for the end of the post I guess. I will say that a connection exists between Best and Moreland and in that they both wound up buried in Valhalla cemetery in Hollywood. I don’t think Mantan’s grave was unmarked like Willie Best’s but I understand they are situated near one another.
The movie would really be forgettable to most everybody except fans of cheese cinema and zombie films enthusiasts and historians. Some people have noted correctly that the film is a stepping off point in some respects in the evolution of zombie movies from people being controlled by some sort of voodoo spell to the flesh eating monsters we have come to know and love since Romero’s 1967 ghoul-fest Night of the Living Dead. One new addition to the then zombie theme that does not appear to have existed prior to King of the Zombies is that the zombies are actual reanimated corpses. They are still controlled by a voodoo priest though in this case the voodoo priest is a white, Nazi, albeit his political ties are only hinted at in the barely pre-war film. Monogram did not want to offend the Germans or limit the film’s potential market and even made the bad guy, played by Henry Victor, an Austrian. I guess offending Austrians was okay. Another element that comes into the film that appears, again, to new to the zombie film formula is the idea that the zombies could be flesh eaters. The zombies never cannibalize anybody and the concept remains confined to the nervous jokes of manservant Jefferson Jackson (Moreland). I am not a zombie expert and while I do own the exhaustive ZOMBIE MOVIES: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE there is no real mention of these historically crucial matters in their review of the film.
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The story takes place on a small island somewhere near the Bahamas where our heroes Bill Summers and ‘Mac’ McCarthy (Purcell and Archer) are forced to crash land their plane after a storm has blown it off course. It is a jungle island but as in the rule in any jungle movie where a plane has to crash land –even at night in a raging storm- the pilot will locate a clear stretch of land long enough and wide enough to land the plane with minimal damage to the craft. Also in the plane is the jittery and bug-eyed Birmingham Brown (Moreland) who stays in a terminal state of terror and unrest while the other two remain calm and collected at all times. Even when they realize they have crash landed in a graveyard it is only the nervous, superstitious manservant who feels any sense of dread. That dread is compounded when they have to stay in the house of Dr. Miklos Sangre –perhaps the most un-Austrian sounding name ever put to film- where poor Brown seems to be the only aware of the danger lurking around every corner. He soon becomes aware that zombies are being kept in the basement servent’s area where he has been trying to make some time with maid Samantha (Marguerite Whitten). Zombies often appear to the sound of voodoo drums and lack any real makeup. Birmingham Brown himself believes he is a zombie –even though he can talk and make decisions on his own- and Moreland turns in some truly comedic moments. Also in the mix is the spooky manservant of Sangre’s named Momba, a witch (Madame Sul-Te-Wan, also buried in Valhalla cemetery near best and Moreland) who spends her time stirring up potions in a huge black kettle and mumbling incantations, Barbara Sangre who is under her evil husband’s spell and Sangre’s niece Alyce who wants to help our heroes escape the island and twart her uncle’s sinister plan of using his voodoo magic to gain secret military information from a captive US Admiral. I guess the film is maybe the first or one of the first to mix zombieism with Nazism which would become a strange sub-genre of zombie films later on.
I did not dislike the movie and while some of the roles by the black actors can seen as demeaning I really can’t say I was shocked or offended by anything. This is not the case for everybody and I read over some forums about the film where there was definitely some pent up aggression from all sides being vented. I guess I just don’t take it on that deep a level. Maybe I should but I don’t. I read angry reviews of the film that attack Mantan Moreland himself and call into question his dignity and self-respect. He did what he had to do at the time and you can watch the film and enjoy it for what is or you can get all angry at the injustices and inequities of life. And if you don’t know how you stand on the matter then I will post the entire film here, from the Internet Archives, and you can judge for yourself. Is the film a nightmare of ignorant racial stereotyping or simply Saturday afternoon Matinee fodder from an other time when life was not so perfect, like it is nowadays.
1958/Director: Richard E. Cunha/Writers: Richard E. Cunha, H.E. Barrie
Cast: Irish McCalla, Tod Griffin, Victor Sen Yung, Rudolph Anders, Gene Roth, Leni Tana, Charles Opunui
In some ways 1958’s She Demons is like a story that would appear in the sweaty men’s magazines of the sixties where overly viral white guys rescued, or tried to anyway, captive white girls from the clutches of Nazis, Imperial Japanese soldiers, commies, pirates or wild animals of various sorts. The story is one of the most outlandish ideas ever and so it lands a place here at the Uranium Cafe. The plot is the tried and true group pf travelers stranded on a desert island one with some sort of menace lurking in the jungles. This story line, along with the car breaking down in the countryside with a dark mansion or castle nearby, is simply one that will never disappear from the hack script writer’s box of two or three tricks. The story involves a small group of boaters who was washed ashore after their small boat is destroyed in a hurricane, in the Caribbean I am assuming, and they find themselves pitted against a group of well dressed and well supplied Nazis some thirteen years after the war has ended. I reviewed The Flesh Eaters here and that film also had a similar story, of a group of travelers who land off a small island in the Atlantic and find there a brilliant but mad Nazi who is continuing experiments from the war period in hopes of selling the results to the highest bidder. He did not walk around the island in black Nazi regalia not was he supposedly still be supplied by the defunct fascist Nazi regime, by secret submarines yet, as the goose stompers in this flick are. Well before we explore this unbelievable film in detail lets have a look at some of the people involved in its creation and production.
The film is directed by the man who brought to us, in the same year of 1958, what is considered to be his greatest contribution to the world of cheese cinema Frankenstein’s Daughter (a review on that wonder will be here at the Cafe eventually, do not fear) Richard E. Cunha. He was born in Hawaii and served in the Army where he learned his trade by making training films and newsreels related to WWII. He would later work as cinematographer for various TV shows (Branded and Death Valley Days among them) and direct some strange low budget cult horror and sci-f- classics, mostly from the late fifties and early sixties. He seems to speak with pride about how his films averaged $65,000 and no more than six days to make. His other films include Missile to the Moon and Giant from the Unknown. When I sad above that the lurid and macho cover art for the men’s action mags of the sixties usually depicted overly virile men I did not mean to infer that this film’s lead man was some such heroic he man. In fact Fred Malkin (Tod griffin) is really an odd character who gets a regular tongue lashing from spoiled rich girl Jerrie Turner (played by the original Sheena, Irish McCalla) and can barely hold his own in a fist fight with a fight Nazi named Igor. He is simply never convincing as a tough guy even though his shirt is opened up at the chest and his sleeves are rolled up. Also along on the shipwrecked crew are the To his credit Fred somehow as convinced Jerrie’s rich daddy to finance the whole trip which is to find an island where animal like humans exist like something out of Dr. Moreau. And that brings us to Jerrie who is simply one spoiled rich brat and we have to wonder why she even came along on the trip. When everyone is washed upon the beach after their ship sinks in the storm she can’t stop complaining that Fred did not salvage enough of her wardrobe. She whines on and on and refuses to spend even one night on the beach and never seems concerned about starving to death or dying of dehydration. While Fred seems to act tough with her and flings some insults back we all know who the boss is here, Jerrie and her daddy’s money.
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The last two members of the castaways (neither is a professor or millionaire) are two nervous looking ethnic stereotypes who are both wondering which one is going to die off first. The boat’s black captain is Kris Kamana and he really looks more like a struggling alcoholic to me than someone who would be manning the yacht of a millionaire. He seems superstitious and senses some bad mojo on this seemingly uncharted island. Though uncharted and basically unknown it is home to the band of Nazis and is used by the US Air Force in fly over bombing tests. Finally is the wise cracking Asian Sammy Ching (Victor Sen Yung) who is doing all he can to make sure he does not wind up the dead non-white guy and survives to be the comic relief providing side kick. And if you have to choose between sour pussed Kris and always ready with a one liner Sammy who would you choose? Victor Sen Yung is noted as sharing many of the Number One Son roles in the Charlie Chan movie series when they weren’t being played by Keye Luke (Master Po in the Kung Fu TV series)
The only other noteworthy character in the film (we will exclude introducing the henchman Igor) is the lead bad guy, since all Nazis are bad, is one Colonel Karl Osler (Rudolph Anders) and this guy must have been the inspiration for the character of Col. Klink in the Hogan’s Heroes TV series. Actor Anders has a long list of film credits and most of them all seem to be commanders or doctors with pompous sounding German sounding names. I will then assume that this guy’s accent may be for real and if so why is he not considered the Teutonic version of Steppin’ Fetchit or Sleep n’ Eat? He sports a monocle and black SS type uniform that looks extremely sharp and neatly pressed at all times, I mean considering he is on a desert island and it is 1958 and the Third Reich was all but destroyed thirteen years before. I love explanation sequences in old horror and sci-fi films. You know the scenes where the scientist starts giving a long winded and jargon filled break down of the situation according to all the laws of modern science, or even better, the scene where the mad doctor or villain discloses his plans and aspirations to his captives. Well this film has simply one of the best scenes ever of Col. Osler rambling on and on about the nature of his experiments on the islands and how they are connected to his old research with the krauts in some concentration camp back in the good ol’ days. It all has to do with something skin graft experiments and he uses the jungle girls (more on them shortly) as guinea pigs and hopes to perfect the technique to restore the once lovely fact of his wife, Mona, who was horribly disfigured in a lab accident. When I say disfigured I am trying to be nice here. Her friggin’ face is gone! He supplies his captive guests with all the details of his evil monolog since he feels they will never leave the island and I guess he just had to let I all out since he has been cooped up for way too long with the same old jungle girls who don’t speak English or Naziese, his freaky looking wife and his crew of lackies who are a lot of obsequious yes men if ever there were. So, lets discuss the story in a general fashion and see just why the hell I love this strange film so much.
The story, as I have already disclosed, is about a small yacht that is being charted by Fred Malkin for the purpose of finding an island that, according to legend and drunken sea tales, is home to a race of half animal, half human creatures. I cannot figure out if Jerrie is his girlfriend or not since they never seem to have a kind word for one another, but somehow Fred manages to talk her dad into financing the “expedition”. Why exactly Jerrie decides to come along is a total mystery since she is miserable from the word go. The rest of the “seasoned” crew is the sorry excuse, but most likely affordable, for a sea captain Kris Kamana and an Asian Hop Sing style tag along if ever there was one named Sammy Ching. Actually the Asian guy here does not descend into as many stereotyped mannerisms and dialog as one might expect form the period and is, s far I am concerned, the most likeable character in the film. And while Kamana appears to be a black man it is also likely he is a Samoan but I am not sure any of that matters because I think is obvious from the get go that what this guy is is dead meat. They run into a hurricane and I wonder if they had bothered to check the weather forecast before setting sail since hurricanes don’t usually appear out of nowhere. The storm looks like a bad one according to all the stock footage we are treated to. The ship goes down but as is usually the case everyone is washed upon the shore of a tropical island. How does that happen? I would think even with life jackets you are going to drown in hurricane waters strong enough to sink your ship. However Sammy somehow manages to save the blasted radio, the heaviest piece of equipment there is. Jerrie is at it in no time and Fred is yapping back at her for being the spoiled rich brat she is and the two ethnic minority members stare at each other wondering who will go first. Luckily it is the worst actor in the cast Kris who goes down first.
They see a formation of stock footage jets fly over head and receive a transmission that they will return later and perform a bombing run on the island. They find him later after exploring around a bit, searching for the sources of foot prints they found in the sand, with spears in his body and the radio smashed to pieces. This all bodes poorly. They head back into the jungle and after a few confusing adventures, such as Sammy finding his own college fraternity pin and the trio finding a freakish girl face down in a river, they are drawn to some primitive bongo and congo drums playing the type of untamed drum rhythms you heard at Ricky Ricardo’s club on the Lucy Show and find a group of robust white girls doing a “native” dance in a jungle clearing. It seems to be more like dance you would find on one of those burlesque Super 8 movie reels and I simply have to wonder what the origins of this tribe of sexy, white are. Are there really lost tribes of women like this on uncharted Caribbean islands? What is more amazing is what happens next. A squad of Nazis show up and recapture the girls as it seems they had all just escaped from their holding pins where they are kept for Col. Osler’s experiments. That is correct. These girls all just escaped from Nazis performing freakish experiments on them and what do they do? Do they high tail it to the furthest reaches of the island and hide quietly in the jungle? No, they start doing a loud Las Vegas show girl routine a hundred feet from the Nazi camp.
The girls are taken back and one is whipped to death by Igor as an example to the others and our trio of castaways decide to sneak into the camp and find out what is going on. The movie then becomes a series of the group’s attempts at breaking into the Nazi compound then getting captured and then escaping again and yet getting recaptured. Anders is great as the jeering and unethical Nazi madman and in one the most memorable scenes of the film he actually tries to seduce cold fish Jerrie by dressing her up in a black gown owned by his disfigured wife and plying her with alcohol. While Anders seems to be playing the scene for fun McCalla’s lack of acting ability is totally apparent. Nicholas Carras’ music score is decent enough and the cinematography by Meredith Nicholson is pretty good as well after the scenes begin to take place in the jungles and in the secret laboratory and compound. I felt his camera work on Cunha’s Missile to the Moon and Daughter of Frankentstein was far better however though She Demons displays plenty of his skill within the low budget 50’s and 60’s horror films genre. The She Demons themselves are interesting works and the scene where one turns her head after being transformed by Col. Osler’s experiments actually made my wife jump and cream a little. The make up is obviously pretty low budget with the long, gangly teeth really being the weak point but in a way the creatures are actually a little freaky. The scene where Osler’s wife’s face is revealed is pretty well done and reminiscent of Karloff in The Mummy, except that Mona’s rotted face is far uglier. Through it all Sammy keeps the wise cracks coming and Fred is simply a wuss in my opinion. Maybe one of the wimpiest action heroes to appear in film.
The film ends strangely, as if things haven’t been strange enough. Of course Osler’s wife get upset because of his interest in Jerrie and set them all free after they have been imprisoned yet again by sneaking them the key to the door lock. She never seemed to have a problem with Osler experimenting on the native girls with experiments that were usually fatal but she suddenly has an attack of conscience when he sees him trying to put the move on Jerrie in her black dress. While She Demons are running amok and our trio are making their escape the US Air Force starts a bombing run on the island and the laboratory is blown up and the lava that Osler harassed for his experiments is set loose and fries him. Was this not a major issue in the past? These bombing runs and why in the world did it just happen that this was the one to blow the lab to bits? We will never know I suppose. Fred, Jerrie and Sammy make it to the beach where finally Jerrie seems to have fallen for Fred but I have no idea why. She is still a shrew and he is a sissy boy. Of course I poke fun but this is a pretty good low budget film that draws on some classic traditions such as doctors driven to restore their disfigured wives, strange experiments gone awry on a desert island and shipwrecked survivors who find themselves in the middle of all the madness. Usually considered Cunha’s second best film compared to Daughter of Frankenstein but I think Missile to the Moon is often overlooked and a review of that film, and Daughter of Frankenstein, are coming eventually.