Tuesday, July 4, 2006

FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE CREATURE FROM BLOOD COVE

It takes a lot of cajones to put your name into the title of your movie. Still, while William Winckler may have a hell of an ego, his heart's in the right place.

While flawed, WILLIAM WINCKLER'S FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE CREATURE FROM BLOOD COVE (2005) is a fun and funny attempt to craft a U-I or AIP-styled monster mash for a modern audience, and while it stumbles occasionally, it's still pretty damned entertaining.

Three mad scientists create an amphibious monster with the intention of using it to assassinate terrorist leaders ("In the war on terror, the ultimate terror wins."). But when it escapes from the lead scientist' seaside home/laboratory and flees into the ocean, the mad doctor is undeterred. If they've lost one monster, they'll simply get another one. So he and his colleagues set out for "Shellvania" (somewhere East of Transylvania) to dig up the original Frankenstein Monster. They find the brute pretty easily, and after a brief encounter with a roaming werewolf, they haul the carcass back to California.

Meanwhile, a photographer for a girlie mag (played by writer/producer/director Winckler – I guess if you do all that, it's okay to put your name in the movie's title) is shooting a nude model on the beach at Blood Cove when they're attacked by the scientists' original creature. They take shelter at the Doctor's house, but soon find themselves prisoners of the scientists and unwilling witnesses to the ultimate battle between Monster and Creature.

Shot entirely in black & white on digital video, with a cool musical score by Mel Lewis that frequently incorporates the familiar strains of "Swan Lake," (a melodic nod to Universal horror classics like DRACULA and THE MUMMY) FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE CREATURE is played pretty straight. There's a lot of humor – some intentional, and some derived from the corny script – but it's not an outright comedy spoof.

Winckler, frankly, isn't a very visual director. As we watched the movie, my wife and I kept coming up with ways that various scenes and even specific shots could have been improved (without costing a cent more). For example, while the monster make-ups and creature suits by Rich Knight are quite nicely designed, Winckler rarely shoots them effectively. Everything is too brightly lit and the movie lacks "atmosphere."

But – while the acting in the film tends to be either wooden or hammy, it's appropriate to the genre and it works. Knight's monsters are pretty cool. The various cult actor cameos are cute. And while Winckler's filmmaking isn't particularly stylish, he's certainly ambitious. In one movie, he's got an amphibious manfish, the Frankenstein Monster, the ghost of Victor Frankenstein, a werewolf, a trio of mad scientists, and a Ron Jeremy cameo. You gotta admire that!

For the most part, FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE CREATURE a fairly successful attempt to recreate the monster flicks of the late Forties and early Fifties. In fact, the only way this movie differs from those he's paying homage to (exempting the modern settting, of course) is in the area of nudity. There are three T&A scenes in the film that, while fairly tasteful, go further than any of those old creature features would have gone. It didn't bother me particularly – we all know how much I love naked girls – but it might be a problem for others.

The DVD (available from Amazon and other online retailers) includes not only a full-frame presentation of the feature, but a plethora of bonus material as well. Aside from the audio commentary track by Winckler and Director of Photography Matthias Schubert, there's a blooper reel, audition tapes, deleted scenes, a trailer, and two "Making Of" documentaries, one focusing on the movie's composer. There's also a brief clip of the Frankenstein Monster getting a lap dance from porn star Selena Silver at the flick's strip club location. It's cute, and would have made a great "Easter Egg," if the disc's producers had thought of it.

My only complaint about the disc (and it’s a very minor one) is that the main menu is slow to load and the type is small and difficult to read on my TV screen. Maybe if they had put the special features on their own sub-menu, it would have been easier to read and navigate.

Ultimately, for fans of the genre, it's worth picking up. I'd like to see Winckler and other filmmakers keep doing these kinds of retro B-films, and I think it's worth supporting.

BUY: William Winckler's Frankenstein vs. The Creature from Blood Cove