It is amazing, some of the things you find when you channel-surf late at night.
Amazing, and occasionally frightening.
A couple of nights ago, I had just finished watching “Capote” (fabulous film, by the way…you should see it if you haven’t), and wasn’t quite ready to go to bed yet, so I started flipping through the channels, looking for something interesting.
I landed on a secondary cable version of one of our local TV stations, where there was a movie that looked oldish and like something that used to show up on Creature Features, which I loved when I was growing up. Because my father taught me from a young age to appreciate truly bad movies, I decided to watch for awhile.
It took a few minutes to find out that it was a little thing from 1966 called “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein”.
Yeah. I know. Still, with a line like, “You should have stayed in Europe and given pink pills to little old ladies”, I just couldn’t resist spending a little time with it.
But, it was getting late and I was getting cold, so I went to bed instead of watching to the end.
When I got up the next morning, however, I was still curious about the film. This was mostly because I thought I recognized the rocks I saw in several scenes. Well, not the exact rocks, but they looked like the rocks in the hills around where I grew up. That was in Southern California, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that I did know those rocks.
So, I clicked over to IMDb and looked the film up, half expecting that I had heard the title of the film wrong.
But there it was, so I checked the list of filming locations and, sure enough, the movie had been filmed at Corriganville, a movie ranch a few miles from where I grew up.
Discovering that piqued my interest further, and I did a little more research.
I found out that the movie had been made in 8 days (which is six days longer than Hollywood legend claims it took to make the original, Roger Corman-directed production of “Little Shop of Horrors”). Based on the general quality of the acting, among other things. I also discovered that the lab equipment in the film was the same equipment used in the original Frankenstein films, made years earlier by Universal. The equipment was also used later on, in “Young Frankenstein”. Which almost gives “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter” a little legitimacy. A little.
The acting was so bad…really stinky, in fact…I looked to see if any of the cast ever worked again.
Well, yes, as it turned out. The marshal was played by Jim Davis, who became better known for his portrayal of the Ewing family patriarch, Jock, in the prime-time soap opera “Dallas”. And the title role of Jesse James was played by John Lupton, a name that was familiar but that I couldn’t quite place.
Lupton, it turns out, might possibly have been in every TV series ever made. Well, maybe not every one, but the list of shows he did parts on was quite long. And before this movie, he had been in, among other productions, the 1953 version of “Julius Caesar”, the one in which Marlon Brando played Mark Antony and James Mason played Brutus. Lupton only had a small part in that, but he had been in it. One of the interesting things (to me) was that “Julius Caesar” was partly filmed at the Iversosn Ranch, another movie ranch that was at the other end of Santa Susana Pass Road from Corriganville.
Lupton is also an August 23rd person, which means nothing to any of you. But my birthday is also August 23rd, so I get to add him to the list of people who share my birthday, something I’ve been putting together for a long time and is probably far more interesting to me than it should be.
And then there was Narda Onyx, who played Frankenstein’s daughter, Dr. Maria Frankenstein, who was looking to recreate her father’s experiments in the Old West. According to IMDb, this was her last film.
And so you see how easily amused I am, that I can write over 700 words about a B-movie (well, maybe a D-movie, when you get down to it) after actually taking the time to do research on it.
All because I recognized those rocks.