The 1950s were a hell of a time for aspiring filmmakers. Seemingly anyone with a few dollars in their pocket, access to a generic laboratory set, and mediocre make-up skills could make a sci-fi horror movie and cash in on the wave of atomic age hysteria sweeping the United States. In 1958, “seemingly anyone” was B-movie director Richard Cunha and his cash-in was teen horror movie Frankenstein’s Daughter. In 2021, classic film distributor The Film Detective has gifted us with Frankenstein’s Daughter on blu-ray and DVD. Did The Film Detective create life or is this disc dead on arrival? Read on and find out.
Pop quiz! Did Victor Frankenstein have any children? If you answered “no, of course not, unless you count his monster which of course you should because parenthood is just one of many themes you could infer into Mary Shelley’s original work,” you’d be wrong. Victor Frankenstein not only had a child but his children had children and in the oddly misnamed Frankenstein’s Daughter we meet not his daughter, but his grandson Oliver Frankenstein, a mad scientist hell-bent on recreating his family legacy with the help of his loyal aide Ig— er, I mean Elsu.
Living under the impregnable alias “Oliver Frank” and working as assistant to noted scientist Carter Morgan, Frankenstein inserts himself into the lives of Morgan’s teen niece Trudy and her impeccably 1950s named friends Suzie, Johnny, and Don. Starting with spiking Trudy’s fruit punch with an immortality serum, causing her to transform at night into an Edward Hyde-esque beast, and eventually working his way up to full-blown attempted rape and murder of Suzie in order to get an obedient female brain for his home-sewn monster, Oliver spends the film’s 85 minute runtime living up to the family name.
There’s also a seven minute long nightclub scene in the middle of the movie featuring the singing talents of Harold Lloyd Jr., so there’s that.
Frankenstein’s Daughter is a time-capsule of a time and place in American horror. Much like other films of the time to their varying successes, Frankenstein’s Daughter was produced as little more than a vehicle to put teens in theater seats and bring in whatever profits it could for its distributors. This movie wears its $60,000 budget and week-long production schedule on its sleeve and you’ll either love it or hate it for that.
Picture and Audio
Frankenstein’s Daughter features a brand new 4K restoration from the original film negative. The resulting image is strong with consistent tone and rich contrast throughout. The 16-bit DTS-HD dual-mono audio is clean and in my viewing never produced any distortion or muffled sounds.
Extras and Packaging
Frankenstein’s Daughter lands on the lighter side of bonus features, although what’s present is rather decent quality. In its standard blu-ray case you’ll find a booklet with a short making-of essay by historian Tom Weaver. On disc you’ll find a commentary by Weaver as well as two short documentaries. Weaver’s commentary is excellent. The man comes prepared and over the course of the film’s runtime you’ll feel like you’re sitting in on a film history class as taught by a guest lecturer. His remarks are well thought out, appropriately paced, and supplemented by pre-recorded remarks sourced from his peers (including B-movie aficionado and director of the parody/homage Lost Skeleton of Cadavara, Larry Blamire). This commentary track is well worth a listen.
John Ashley: Man From the B’s is a ten-minute long career retrospective on the film’s leading man, tracking his career from B-movie actor to producer with credits ranging from Apocalypse Now to Walker, Texas Ranger.
The stand-out feature on this disc is Richard E Cunha: Filmmaker of the Unknown, a thirty minute long piece on the life and work of the film’s director. What sets this bit apart from other career recaps is the incredible footage shot by Cunha himself as in the 1980s he received a bit of fan-mail with a list of questions that he decided to respond to by shooting an interview piece with himself full of wit, anecdotes, and a personal tour of the video store he owned and operated. Cut together with archival footage by producers of this disc, Filmmaker of the Unknown is a must-watch bonus on this release.
We are currently living in a renaissance of under appreciated genre movies getting their due in the form of boutique home media releases and the fact that The Film Detective has put together a decent release of a public domain movie currently floating around on any number of websites, let alone YouTube, is a testament to that fact. Can I recommend this movie? Depends on your personal tastes. If you can laugh at the cringe idea that the biggest failure of Victor Frankenstein was not making his monster submissively feminine enough, call over some friends and pour the stiffest drinks you can and enjoy a trip down the weird side roads of so bad-it’s-good independent cinema.