Frankenstein Island (1981) poster

Frankenstein Island (1981)


USA. 1981.


Director/Producer – Jerry Warren, Screenplay – Jaques Lacouter, Photography – Murray De Ately. Production Company – Chriswar.


Robert Clarke (Dr Paul Hadley), Kathrin [Katherine] Victor (Sheila Frankenstein von Helsing), Cameron Mitchell (Clay Jayson), Robert Christopher (Mark Eden), Patrick O’Neal (Dino), Sieve Brodie (Jocko), Tain Bodkin (Curtis Ryan), John Carradine (Dr Frankenstein), George Mitchell (Dr von Helsing), Andrew Duggan (The Colonel)


Four balloonists stranded at sea wash up on the shores of an island. They discover that this is inhabited by Amazons and other shipwreckees. They then encounter Sheila von Helsing, the great-granddaughter of Dr Frankenstein, who is engaged in a series of experiments and has created a loyal army of zombified servants. Using the blood of the Amazons and the captured sea captain Jayson, she hopes to complete her experiments to revive her 200-year old husband Dr von Helsing.

Jerry Warren (1925-88) is a director you can easily mention in the same breath as Edward D. Wood Jr. Warren and Wood were contemporaries and, although Wood has the higher profile, both made equally terrible films. After some small uncredited bit parts as an actor, Warren became a producer/director beginning with Man-Beast (1956) and went on to make eleven films between the 1950s and 1980s. These include The Incredible Petrified World (1960), Teenage Zombies (1960), Terror of the Blood Hunters (1962) and The Wild World of Batwoman (1966). This also includes four films – Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964), Curse of the Stone Hand (1964), Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964) and Creature of the Walking Dead (1965) – which, though Warren is credited as director, he has merely edited together out of a bunch of different films from Mexico and other South American countries.

Frankenstein Island would be Jerry Warren’s last film before his death seven years later in 1988. He gathers together an eccentric cast of actors towards the dreg end of their careers – B movie actor Robert Clarke as the hero; Cameron Mitchell playing a Poe-quoting schooner captain locked in a jail cell; Andrew Duggan in an almost respectable role as a sceptical naval officer at the end; Warren regular Kathrin/Katherine Victor as the Frankenstein descendent; and veteran B movie actor John Carradine as Frankenstein himself in a performance where Carradine only appears in a series of what seem to be either holograms or psychic projections delivering a series of rambling lines that do not appear to be connected to anything else.

Frankenstein Island is a Bad Movie, as are all of Jerry Warren’s films. Not even in an enjoyably bad way. Warren stirs a series of tropes and plot elements that feel as though they are left over from a dozen B movies that were dated in the 1940s and 50s. There’s the balloonists washed on a desert island – an opening taken from Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island (1875) and various film versions of it; there are about a dozen Amazons who are all outfitted in leopard skin bikinis that feel like they have strayed in from a 1940s South Seas adventure B-movie.

Katherine Victor Sheila von Helsing in Frankenstein Island (1981)
Katherine Victor Sheila von Helsing, Frankenstein’s great-granddaughter

Overlording everything is Kathrin/Katherine Victor who is a great-granddaughter of Dr Frankenstein but in a weird crossover has married Dr von Helsing, who apparently was not the main nemesis of Count Dracula he traditionally is but here is actually Dr Frankenstein’s lab assistant. She is engaged in a series of experiments of none too clear purpose and has to wit:- created an army of zombies that wear beanies and sunglasses and have no blood; is trying to revive her 200-year old husband who is still alive in a hospital bed; while the laboratory operations are controlled by a brain in a tank (with an apparent backup brain in case of failure – although we never find out whose brains these are). At the end of the show, the actual Frankenstein monster is raised from where he has been buried in a cave lagoon and joins forces with the zombie men to trash the laboratory.

As might be expected of Warren, the film dredges the bottom of the barrel. It is cheaply made – you can see boom shadows in shots at various points. It looks as though it was shot on a ranch rather than a desert island. The actors maintain a passable professionalism but the whole production is weighed against them. It is quite possible out of the dozens of Frankenstein Films made that this is the worst of them all.

Trailer here

Full film available here

Actors: , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , , , , ,