I love Universal’s series of Frankenstein films. The original “Frankenstein” is an absolute classic. Many say the sequel, “Bride of Frankenstein,” is even better. When I got around to watching “Son of Frankenstein,” I figured this would be where the series began its decline. But Son is a fantastic movie, as well, fueled by Bela Lugosi’s amazing performance as Ygor. So if there was a son, what of the daughter? Well, today’s film may be called “Frankenstein’s Daughter,” but this 1958 film, thankfully, is not related to the classic Universal series.
As the film opens, the beautiful young Susie Lawler (Sally Todd) is saying goodnight to her boyfriend, Don (Harold Lloyd Jr…yep he was the silent film comedian’s son). But after Don leaves, Susie encounters a woman with a monstrous face running through the streets. The next day, Susie tells her friend Trudy (Sandra Knight), and the rest of the gang, about her strange encounter. Trudy is shocked since she had a very similar dream. She tells her boyfriend Johnny (John Ashley), but he’s not too worried about it.
Now, Trudy lives with her uncle Carter (Felix Lochner), a scientist with a heavy accent who is working on an experiment to create a serum that rebuilds cells. It’s not going well, and he’s resorted to stealing chemicals from a local lab, his former employer, to continue…but he’s not the one we need to worry about. His assistant is one Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy). Oliver despises Carter and uses his laboratory when the old man is not around to carry out his own experiments. You see, Oliver Frank is really Oliver Frankenstein. Along with his lackey, he is working to build a creature from the remains of automobile accident victims. All he lacks now is the head. At the same time, Oliver, has been slipping doses of Carter’s formula to Trudy…who Oliver also happens to have the hots for. He thinks the serum will help him regenerate the cells of his creature. These tests, however, have not had the desired effect as they temporarily transform the young beauty into a monster.
One night, after Oliver tries to put the moves on Trudy, she slaps him in the face and tells him he needs a cold shower. She then dons her swimsuit and goes for a dip. Makes sense…guy tries to force himself on you, so strip down and give him his own private swimsuit issue. Winner strategy, there. Anyhow, when Trudy gets out of the pool, Oliver is all smiles and she gladly accepts a drink from him. Of course, it’s some of her uncle’s serum, which transforms her into a monster, once again. So now, the police start getting reports of a monster woman in a bathing suit running around town. Somehow, Oliver manages to get her the antidote before she attracts too much police attention.
The next day, Susie comes to visit Trudy, armed with the newspaper headlines about the monster woman. Trudy is sure she was somehow the monster, but Susie thinks she’s trying to steal her story from the previous day. On the way out, Susie stops to flirt a bit with Oliver. The two end up setting up a date for that night. The date turns bad quickly, though, when Oliver gets a bit too gropey. Susie tries to run away, but Oliver runs her down with his car…giving him the head and brain he needs for his creature.
Oliver manages to finish his creation and though it looks a bit like Rondo Hatton, he refers to it as a “she.” The creature is actually played by a man, Harry Wilson. Now, Oliver becomes obsessed with having a creature that obeys his bidding, including his orders to kill. Now, it’s up to Trudy and the other “meddling kids” (yes, Oliver actually uses that phrase) to stop the crazed doctor and his creature.
“Frankenstein’s Daughter” is kind of an odd mix between a B-horror movie and a 50’s teen romp. At one point, the film even takes a break from the monster action for a pool party scene, complete with musical numbers. This is ultra-low budget with bad makeup, bad acting, bad script…but it’s lots of fun!
In a strange way, I completely loved Donald Murphy’s crazy performance as the Frankenstein family’s new hope for greatness. He chews up the scenery with great delight, making a wonderfully crazy villain. There’s also a certain sweetness to Sandra Knight’s performance as Trudy and Sally Todd’s over-the-top vamping as Susie is a lot of fun, as well. There’s even a strange charm to Felix Lochner as he struggles his way through that heavy accent. It’s a really bad performance that you can’t help but love.
Adding to the fun are the bizarre, bargain-basement, makeup effects. Apparently, the makeup artists believed that the monster version of Trudy would be scariest with massive over-grown eyebrows. These same folks decided that they could make a female Frankenstein’s monster by just smearing some lipstick on a burly man. But the makeup highlight has to be the very brief shot of Oliver’s icky demise.
“Frankenstein’s Daughter” is not the healthiest branch of the Frankenstein family tree. It is a truly bad movie, but for those who love that sort of thing, it’s a must see!