Director: Herbert L. Strock
Writer: Kenneth Langtry
Cast: Whit Bissell, Phyllis Coates, Robert Burton, Gary Conway, George Lynn, John Cliff, Marshall Bradford, Claudia Bryar, Angela Blake, and Russ Whiteman
Composer: Paul Dunlap
Release Date: 11/23/1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Intent on creating a superhuman monster, Professor Frankenstein (Whit Bissell)—a descendant of the original Dr. Frankenstein—steals the body of a dead teenager, returns him to life, and endows him with an athletic body. Depressed over his broken face, the Teenage Monster (Gary Conway) goes on a killing spree before rebelling against his master.
Depicting Frankenstein’s monster as a helpless young victim, this film provides a unique twist on the classic tale by Mary Shelley. In spite of its imaginative concept, however, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein suffers from dated production elements, Z-grade makeup effects, and more plot contrivances than one would expect of a typical J. J. Abrams offering.
Similar to John Merrick in The Elephant Man, the Teenage Monster craves acceptance and belonging from a society that fears, shuns, and torments him for his physical disfigurement. Viewers may therefore sympathize with Frankenstein’s creature, who, despite committing murder when prompted by his evil master, embodies the tragic pathos of a conflicted monster.
I Was a Teenage Frankenstein deserves criticism for its convenient narrative aspects, which often border on the absurd. Early in the film, for example, Prof. Frankenstein states his desire to find a young, healthy specimen upon whom he can conduct his vile experiments. Before finishing his sentence, the professor hears a car crash occurring right outside his home, locates a deceased teenager among the wreckage, and carries said teenager into his private laboratory without raising suspicion from a crowd of onlookers—an exceedingly farfetched premise, even for a sci-fi/horror B movie produced in the 1950s.
Reminiscent of Hammer Productions’ The Curse of Frankenstein (also released in 1957), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein features the eponymous mad doctor in a villain role while presenting the monster, though totally without conscience, as an object of pity rather than contempt—another clever update on the source novel by Shelley.
Combining monster mayhem, mad scientists, and an alligator with a palate for human flesh, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein is a ridiculous and mediocre creature feature. Nevertheless, this film benefits from the performances of Gary Conway, Phyllis Coates, and Whit Bissell—also a main player in I Was a Teenage Werewolf starring Michael Landon.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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