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Volume #1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006
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The Thunder Child: Movie Reviews
Review by Reed Andrus

Reviewer Reed Andrus is a long-time fan, collector, and reviewer/interviewer of all things associated with science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery/thriller media, both printed and filmed. For more than three decades, his work has appeared in various locations including the Charlotte Austin Review, Mystery News (www.blackravenpress.com), and now The Thunder Child. He currently resides in Plano, Texas, near completion of a Ph.D in US history at the University of North Texas.

Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove
Written, produced and directed by William Winckler.
See his website at [www.williamwincklerproductions.com] Running time: 90 minutes.
Not Rated: contains profanity, sexual situations and nudity, violence. Country: USA.
DVD Release: October, 2005

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At first blush, a review of any film with Frankenstein in the title might seem a bit out of place on a website devoted to classic science fiction. For nearly two centuries, the vast majority of filmed adaptations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's 1818 fictional creation have been presented primarily as Gothic horror rather than with emphasis on the science-fictional underpinnings of this enduring cultural icon. The battle over sub-genre definition rages to this day.

Recently, science fiction writer, critic, and editor John Clute provided entries in both his Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993, with Peter Nicholls), and Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997, with John Grant) that assert his own belief that Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus is a horror novel even as he concedes the lack of supernatural elements within. However, Clute gives equal space to fellow author Brian Aldiss, who argued in his earlier histories of science fiction Billion Year Spree, 1973; and Trillion Year Spree, 1986,

Stars
William Winckler
G. Larry Butler
Alison Lees-Taylor
Gary Canavello
Dezzirae Ascalon
Rich Knight
Corey Marshall (as the Creature; Werewolf; Ghost of Victor Frankenstein)
Lawrence Furbish (as Frankenstein?s monster)

Cameos:
David Gerrold
Ron Jeremy
Raven De La Croix
Patrick Lilly
Selena Silver

with David Wingrove) that Shelley's production is the first genuine science fiction novel, the first significant rendering of the relations between mankind and science through an image of mankind's dual nature appropriate to the age of science? (Clute, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, p. 1099). Thus, while Jules Verne retains his widely-agreed-upon exaltation as the Father of Science Fiction, Mary Shelley's position as Mother of that genre remains in dispute.

I'm sure that producer, director, and writer William Winckler was unaware of all this literary infighting when he decided to honor science fiction and horror films of the 50s and 60s with his own addition to the Frankenstein canon. Nevertheless, although presented as major components in what is obviously intended to be a traditional horror film, Winckler's eponymous monsters are products of scientific tinkering, rising from laboratory tables rather than from supernatural dictate, programmed (albeit poorly) for use as indestructible weapons in far-flung geo-political conflicts. Score one for Brian Aldiss. But the inclusion of a werewolf, the persistent ghost of Victor Frankenstein, and flashbacks of the Frankenstein monster's partner in an earlier unconsummated marriage, combine to produce a melange of genre tropes in which the whole turns out to be somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

Winckler's film is a kitchen sink production, self-proclaimed by the author on both his website and in a "making of" documentary included on the DVD, as a homage to Universal classic monsters, Hammer Films, and especially the AIP films of Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson. It's a bit ironic that he doesn't mention Roger Corman as part of that august group, because this film is in many ways more reminiscent of Corman's collection of low-budget films than any other segment of the industry.

Winckler's storyline is very linear and straightforward. As the film opens, the Creature from Blood Cove (think Creature from the Black Lagoon) escapes the clutches of mad scientist Dr. Monroe Lazaroff (G. Larry Butler) and his assistant, Dr. Ula Foranti (Alison Lees-Taylor) and returns to the sea. Lazaroff and company have been working on a secret government project to bio-engineer the ultimate fighting machine. There are kinks in the process. Lazaroff, Foranti, and their hideously scarred assistant, Salisbury (Rich Knight) decide to travel to Shellvania to steal the body of the original ultimate fighting machine, the Frankenstein monster. The grave is easy to find, harder to dig up due to the presence of a werewolf. The werewolf is easily dispatched, transforming in death into former child-actor Patrick Lilley, who utters the name "Yvonne" and expires (Winckler explains this rather obscure in-joke in the "making of" documentary; I wouldn't have caught it otherwise, but I suppose there are fans who will).

Lazaroff and company go back to Blood Beach and proceed to revive the monster. Meanwhile, a trio of cheesecake photographers (Winckler, Dezzirae Ascalon, and Gary Canavello) arrive at Blood Cove for a photo shoot. A lot of breasts are exposed. The Creature is still hanging around, and decides to mutilate one of the models after everyone leaves for the day. The photographers return, discover the body and the Creature, make a run for Lazaroff's house/laboratory, and find themselves captured by the mad scientist. The rest of the film deals with Lazaroff's attempts to perfect his monster control mechanism, battles between the Creature and Frankenstein's monster, and the ultimate destruction of just about everyone in the film except the three photographers.

Evaluation of low-budget monster movies is a tricky business; it elicits a curious yin-yang response from this reviewer, particularly when the writer/producer/director expresses his intent to deliver an energetic, good-natured exploitation film. Those like myself who take this intent into consideration will inevitably find some amusement and entertainment, even though the script begs for a re-write, the actors play over-the-top caricatures with complete lack of nuance, and the desired homage to earlier movies requires more extensive references and in-jokes than were offered.

Shot in black and white using digital cameras, this film is bright but flat -- any homage to Universal monsters must employ creative light and shadow techniques -- a factor that negated the otherwise effective cinematography, particularly the underwater shots.

Rich Knight's makeup and appliances are extremely effective for the most part; the furry body of the werewolf left a lot to be desired, but facial makeup across all monsters was well-done. I was tickled by the musical score, a shrill organ/harpsichord rendition of Swan Lake. Unfortunately, the music drowned out certain scenes, which gave rise to criticism of the sound effects. Like at least one other reviewer (MJ Simpson) I was put off by the (excessive) nudity, particularly Selena Silver?s dance sequence before the monster trashes her bar. It simply went on too long, was not necessary other than to give Ron Jeremy a line or two in his cameo appearance. Short, brief throwaway lines such as that accorded to science fiction writer David Gerrold --"I have to go to the desert to look for giant ants" -- were few and far between but added a great deal to the overall production.

Still, what does one expect from an independently-produced film such as this? Should genre fans expect more from William Winckler than we did from Roger Corman's Beast from Haunted Cave or Creature from the Haunted Sea? I don't think so. Corman pumped out films in two or three days; his special effects were laughable and his scripts (when they used dialogue) were erratic. Winckler's film took twenty-one days to shoot; he paid attention to costumes and appliances; his script supports extensive dialogue; his cast is larger than expected, and his actors are certainly no worse than those employed by Corman; his cinematography is generally fine; and his storyline contains flashes of genre insight that will draw smiles from fans of all ages. Frankenstein vs. The Creature from Blood Cove isn't a great film, but is far from the worst low-budget attempt I've had the misfortune to view. If William Winckler - an apparent monster kid at heart - receives support from genre fans, he might return with an even better homage to the science fiction and horror of yesteryear.

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