TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN
Directed by: Donald F Glut
Starring: John Blyth Barrymore, Buddy Daniels Friedman, Jim Tavare, Tatiana DeKhtyar, Mel Novak, TJ Storm
Based on four short stories by director Donald F Glut, Tales of Frankenstein deals with tales surrounding the descendants of Baron Victor Frankenstein.
Tales of Frankenstein has a wraparound segment where "the monster" searches through the burnt out wreckage of Frankenstein's home and ponders over a portrait, which appears in each segment. It is a bit unfortunate that the film begins with this as it is the worst aspect of the film, the monster looking more tame than Herman Munster. The four tales themselves, although a bit too long for their own good, are actually quite enjoyable.
"My Creation, My Beloved" is classic Frankentstein fare, as a deformed descendant looks to carry on his predecessor's work and bring back to life his dead love, by transferring her brain into a new, younger body. Biding his time for the right body, he strikes lucky when a local finishing school catches fire and a number of women are killed. The experiment is a success, but his lover has ideas of her own when she comes to realise what he has done.
"Crawler from the Grave" sees one of Frankenstein's descendants dead and buried, having succumbed to plague. His avaricious neighbour covets one of Frankenstein's rings, and is horrified to learn from his widow, Lenore, that Frankenstein was wearing it when he was buried. He takes it upon himself to dig up the corpse and steal the ring for himself, but makes a horrific discovery.
"Madhouse of Death" sees a hardboiled detective stumble into the house of Dr Mortality, who has plans to experiment on him…and an ape.
Finally, "Karnstein's Creation" sees Dr Karnstein buy the old castle and rekindle his ancestor's experiments, with the help of a young local man. However his activities stir the local villagers…
Even though this is a low budget film, it looks for the most part great - the costumes and sets are really good and evocative of the time and places the tales are set. There are one or two idiosyncrasies such as actress Tatiana DeKhtyar's makeup, which looks too modern (beautiful actress though).
The film does its best to overcome its budget limitations. The fire at the boarding school for example is conveyed mostly in the reaction of the women and some sound fx. Instead of the grandiose Gothic machinery from James Whale's original film, we have to make do with a set of four differently coloured light-bulbs - but despite the simplicity of it, it works.
There are one or two unintentional laughs during the film. One actor screams in pain before we hear the sound effect of his foot being chopped off. And, in the first tale, Frankenstein can't help but shake and swish around the jar holding his dead love's brain - the one he intends to transplant into a new body. Surely that jar needs a "handle with care" sticker!
Th first two stories aren't paced particularly well, but get better as they unfold and each has a decent ending. The third installment, Madhouse of Death, is the most colourful story, which is ironic because it's filmed in (colour-corrected) black and white! It's a bizarre tale straight out of an obscure drive-in movie and has a classic neo-noir voice-over from the detective, which gives the story's finale an extra twist. This installment also stars Mel Novak (An Hour to Kill) as Dr Mortality, and T J Storm (Betrayed) as his native assistant.
For once though, an anthology film saves its best story for last. This one goes full Hammer Horror, with an excellent looking creature and characters such as Dr Karnstein (which was the name of Dracula's castle in some of the Hammer movies). Again on a limited budget, this part of the film really managed to evoke the look and feel of those gothic classics.
Although filming within budget constraints, Tales of Frankenstein manages to present some very good production values, with costumes and sets which give the film a real sense of time and place in each story. Additionally, each story manages to use the basic concept of Frankenstein's experiments with the laws of nature and produce a new idea each time. This isn't a film which will scare you, but will satisfy fans of drive-in-movies and Hammer Studios. And I thought the gorilla suit was fantastic.
TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON DVD IN THE USA THROUGH ALL GOOD STOCKISTS AND TO RENT/OWN FROM STREAMING SERVICES.