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AKA Mars Invades Puerto Rico, Duel of the Space Monsters, Frankenstein Meets the Space Men, Operation San Juan
DIRECTED BY: Robert Gaffney
FEATURING: Marilyn Hanold, James Karen, Lou Cutell, Nancy Marshall, Robert Reilly
PLOT: An invading alien force plans to kidnap Earth’s women to repopulate their species; to preserve the secrecy of their plan, they shoot down a series of American rockets, but the last is crewed by a cyborg who turns into a brainless killing machine upon crash landing in Puerto Rico.
COMMENTS: Sometimes a movie is just silly. There’s no other level, no hidden agenda, no subversive reading that allows you to view the movie from a completely different perspective. No, sometimes the movie is just goofy as hell, and everyone knows it, and no one tries to be ironic or campy; they just keep doing what they’re doing, and you get a movie that’s silly.
If the highly misleading title didn’t tip you off, we get a proper taste of the kind of movie Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is going to be early on. Opening with a car taking a group of military bigwigs to the Kennedy Space Center, the movie launches into an extended montage of the vehicle slowly motoring past every conceivable landmark on the Space Coast to the accompaniment of a hyperactive percussionist. After the car stops and one of the generals asks how far away lies their destination. “Another five minutes, sir,” he is told, and both car and drummer ramp it right back up for another driving sequence. It couldn’t be more obvious if the word “padding” was superimposed on the screen. It’s played as straight as an arrow, it’s undeniably hilarious, and with this moment in the books, the Good Ship Silliness has set sail.
It’s startling how much competence FMTSM has going for it. Director Gaffney was an acclaimed documentarian and friend of. Perennial That-Guy James Karen gets a rare leading role. Lou Cutell will later earn notoriety for playing an appropriately named proctologist on Seinfeld. That’s Bond villain (and Crispin’s dad) Bruce Glover as an uncredited alien lackey. Martian princess Marilyn Hanold brings her experience as a Playboy Playmate to the role of the second-most-clothed woman in the film. And maybe they play those two pop songs produced by Hall of Fame music mastermind Bob Crewe way too many times, but darn it if they’re not catchy tunes.
On the other hand, the most skilled filmmaker would have struggled to assemble something logical our of the pieces here. Aliens with bald caps and hazmat suits. An android whose encounter with an extraterrestrial death ray turns him into killing machine whose face is half-lasagna. A plot to shanghai every bikini-clad (and white) young woman in Puerto Rico into a Martian repopulation program by placing them on a conveyor belt. It seems impossible to think that anybody thought the movie would be anything other than ridiculous, but there they are, sometimes hammy but always committed.
You have to admire the film’s scatterbrained approach to its own ridiculous plot. When our heroes, Adam and Karen, have to pursue the homicidal robot that was once their creation, they spring into action… by hopping on a Vespa and taking a leisurely drive through the streets of San Juan, as if they had just jumped into a Puerto Rican Roman Holiday. You may ask whether the movie is a schlocky exploitation film or a disguised travelogue; why not both?
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster doesn’t have the advantages of sustained oddness that usually catapult the worst movies ever made into the weird pantheon. It lacks the earnestness of a Plan 9 From Outer Space, the flat-out jaw-dropping surprise of a Godmonster of Indian Flats, the sheer ineptitude of Manos: The Hands of Fate. This movie has to vie for the title purely on its own merits. Ultimately, it’s not the most entertaining bad movie out there, but it sure does make a solid go of it.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by Bob Gorelick. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)