“Frankenstein Conquers the World” – Dom Coccaro

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must face reality. The grim reality is, I have seen every kaiju film that there is to see. Sure, there are a few that haven’t even been released on video, much less DVD. But I’m referring to the default creature features that any self-respecting B-freak could produce by merely extending a hand to the nearest storage unit. I’m all out of Godzillas, Gameras, and Daimajins. Up until last night, however, I had not seen Ishiro Honda’s Frankenstein Conquers the World (a.k.a. Frankenstein vs. Baragon). I’m not sure why I unconsciously pardoned this flick in my punctilious drudgery of nabbing every kaiju spectacle known to man. NOTE TO SELF: Make drudgery more punctilious.

This is a unique Toho production. The story begins with a team of scientists transporting Frankenstein’s heart from Nazi Germany to Japan. Just as experiments are underway, an atomic bomb is dropped by pesky American soldiers. These details are always omitted from middle school textbooks. At any rate, twenty years pass without a peep from any monsters. This peaceful, yet scorched post-Hiroshima landscape is pretermitted by a grungy waif who has eaten Frankenstein’s nuked heart. Uh, oh! Apparently, “waif” is one of the first words Japanese infants learn. Everyone who spots our Frankenoaf cries, “Waif!” Even children suspend their gleeful fraternization to point and yell, “It’s a waif!”

It isn’t long before Frankenoafwaifcaveman grows to alarming heights. Coincidentally, Baragon chooses this moment to erupt from the ground. Frankenstein Conquers the World marks Baragon’s debut in the Toho universe. Now you know. The production values are relatively crisp. I wasn’t expecting a groomed affair, but I have to hand it to the resourceful crew. The cinematography is abstergent, the green screen action is well-staged, and the miniatures are circumstantially detailed. The fight choreography is unusually fast-paced. Frankenstein jumps around like a zygote on a pogo stick (I’m assuming zygotes are nimble critters). The third act is impressive. The towering brutes joust with a flaming forest as the backdrop. The visuals are stirring, even if the skirmish itself is nothing new.

I have to say that looking at a soiled, unsightly teenaged boy for 90 minutes wasn’t an absolute joy. Couldn’t they design a more fearsome Frankie? I understand that we’re supposed to sympathize with the tiny ruffian, but…I didn’t. There are three versions of Frankenstein Conquers the World on the Media Blasters disc that serves as the definitive release of this city stomper. Don’t bother with the American version. The theatrical Japanese version will cloy your ghoulish gluttony, but I recommend viewing the international version. It contains an additional ending involving a giant octopus that appears out of NOWHERE. It creeps onto the mountainside, mind you. Fucking delicious.

This kaiju collation doesn’t stack up to the better Gojira entries. It doesn’t top War of the Gargantuas either. Gargantuas is the quasi-sequel to Frankenstein, although the two films aren’t related in any way. Still, it’s an energetic chunk of camp that doesn’t suffer from the leaden subplots that bog down most Godzilla episodes. Frankenstein Conquers the World is a must-see for fans of Ishiro Honda, Toho, Nazi Germany, radioactive cavemen, and Asian people.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Dom Coccaro

Dom is a freelance writer/graphic designer. He has contributed articles to Associated Content, Terror Tube, the Hickory Daily Record (print), and Arrow in the Head.

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