There are plenty of worthless Westerns. But few can match this combination of two -count 'em- hilariously lousy films in one. Director Bill "One-Shot" Beaudine managed to capture the worst elements of both dumb Westerns and cheesy monster movies and roll them into a single film.
JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER
Starring Narda Onyx, John Lupton, Cal Bolder, Estelita, Jim Davis, and Steven Geray. Directed by William Beaudine.
Background: William Beaudine was a film pioneer who began working for legendary director D.W. Griffith in 1909. During the golden age of silent films, he became a director himself and churned out some of Hollywood's biggest hits. But he specialized in Westerns. In Incredibly Strange Films, Jim Morton writes:
Beaudine hit his stride during the early days of Hollywood when studios were less devoted to big-budget productions and were more interested in getting as many films as possible out to the American public. In those days, a Western had an immediate audience. If it was a Western, it couldn't fail. They took anywhere from two days to two weeks to make. Beaudine dutifully churned them out, rarely lavishing much attention on any of them... One of the ways Beaudine kept his costs down (and his speed up) was by avoiding retakes whenever possible. He became so notorious for his refusal to reshoot a scene that he earned the nickname "One-Shot Beaudine." If a boom mike dipped into the frame, if a cowboy started to fall before he was shot -oh well.
Once, when told that he was behind schedule with a film, he responded: "You mean someone's actually waiting for this c--p?"
During the latter part of his career, Beaudine directed mostly TV shows -including more than 70 episodes of Lassie. But in 1965, he directed two last films (both flicks in a drive-in double feature). The first was called Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. This second, and worst, was Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.
Beaudine, who wound up directing over 150 films, died in 1970. At age 78, he was Hollywood's oldest working director ...and he has the unusual distinction, for a B-film meister, of having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He certainly didn't get it for this movie.
The Plot: Dr. Maria Frankenstein and her brother Rudolf have settled in a small town in the Southwest. It's the perfect location- there's plenty of lightning to power her experiments, there are plenty of fresh young boys to experiment on, and the Austrian police will never find her there. (Seems she's been experimenting in Europe, too.)
As the film opens, all the Mexican peasants are leaving town- mostly to get away from Maria. Only one family remains, waiting for their son -who works at the Frankenstein hacienda- to get over the "sickness." Actually, Maria has operated on the boy, giving him the artificial brain her grandfather (she's really Frankenstein's granddaughter) created.
Rudolf is spooked by all this mad scientist stuff; he gives the boy poison rather than letting Maria succeed. Maria doesn't know what's going on, so she decides the boy was too weak; she needs a big, strong man to experiment on.
Well, it just so happens that Jesse James is riding around the countryside with a hulking doofus named Hank ...and Hank has been shot during a robbery. He needs a doctor... so he and Jesse conveniently wind up at Frankenstein's hacienda.
To make a long story mercifully short: Maria gives Hank a new brain and calls him -what else?- Igor. She then gets Igor to kill her brother. Then Igor kills Maria. Then Juanita, Jesse's girlfriend, kills Igor. Then the sheriff takes Jesse away. The end.
* The Frankenstein "hacienda" overlooking town. Viewed from Main Street, it's obviously a 20-foot high painting. You've got to see this one to appreciate it.
* The generic poison bottle. Rudolf poisons the boy with a beaker full of red water labelled POISON. What kind of poison? Who knows? Who cares?
* The Indians riding by. Blissfully pointless footage cut in from some other B-film.
* The helmet. Maria uses it to activate the artificial brain. But it looks like a Rastafarian chemistry experiment, topped with a wire fence. Should win some sort of prize for low-budget props.
* Juanita. Played by actress Estelita Rodriguez, supposed to be a beautiful young girl... "even though she looks every one of her thirty-eight years."
Maria: "What a fool I've been! I've allowed the duo-thermal impulsator to be attached only to the body! Let's see what Grandfather's notation says... You see? The duo-thermal impulsator must also be attached to a living brain, to transmit living vibrations to the artificial brain!"
Rudolf: "But such a powerful electric impulse might prove fatal to the brain of a living person!"
Maria: "That chance I am willing to take!"
Maria: "It's because we've been forced to use the brains of children that we've failed. What we need is a man -a powerful man- a giant! Then we will succeed!"
Rudolf: "But what -what good will it do to succeed?"
Maria: "Imagine! We'll have someone to do our bidding who can't be put to death! Just as we have given it life, only we can take its life away!"
Rudolf: "Maria, we've already caused the deaths of three children, and violated the graves of others, just to make the experiments!"
Maria: "My, you're a humanitarian! You should have stayed in Europe and given pink pills to sweet old ladies!"
Maria: "This is the last artificial brain Grandfather Frankenstein made. The secret of how to make them died with him. If I fail in this last attempt, I too am willing to die!"
Rudolf: "Is it too terrible to fail?"
Maria: "You're a fool Rudolf! We hold the secret of life in our hands!"
Rudolf: "Maria, Maria! This has already cost Grandfather his life!"
(Okay, you've waited long enough. Here's the movie in its entirety.)
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
_________________________The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader.
This special edition book covers the three "lost" Bathroom Readers - Uncle John's 5th, 6th and 7th book all in one. The huge (and hugely entertaining) volume covers neat stories like the Strange Fate of the Dodo Bird, the Secrets of Mona Lisa, and more ...
Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. Check out their website here: Bathroom Reader Institute