Frankenstein Vs. Baragon (Japan 1965)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Frankenstein Conquers The World (US title)
Review Date: 8/19/19
Director: Ishiro Honda
Music: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Tadao Takashima, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno

Towards the end of World War II, Frankenstein's monster's heart was transferred from Germany to Japan. The undying organ survived the bombing of Hiroshima and radiation caused it to grow into a human-like child. Then the child grew to a height of 100 feet and escaped into the mountains, where he was blamed for damage caused by the subterranean monster, Baragon. Frankenstein and Baragon duke it out in a burning forest and then a giant octopus appears out of nowhere and drags Frankenstein to a watery grave. The lack of any sequels implies the permanence of his demise, although his cursed heart will beat forever.

Of course, the film is completely ridiculous, but like most of Ishiro Honda's films, it has an innocent charm and wholesome appeal. Nick Adams plays an American doctor who works in Japan to study the effects of radiation poisoning in order to find a cure for it, while the lovely Kumi Mizuno is the head of the hospital research team and plays an innocent love interest as well. While the gender politics are dated, it's quite socially responsible and forward thinking to feature two international scientists working together across cultural boundaries, and for a woman to have such a high-ranking position. The topics of radiation and war orphans are handled with a light touch, and the well-meaning scientists are the heroes of the show. They are opposed by a cynical and sensationalist media, uncooperative law enforcers, unsympathetic public opinion, hospital budget constraints, and slimy and unscrupulous lawyers.

The film moves at an unbearably slow pace and the action scenes are woefully weak. Many of the fight scenes between Frankenstein and Baragon are undercranked, which creates an odd effect and ruins the illusion of scale. On the other hand, the miniature work is excellent, apart from a handful of laughably terrible shots. The blue screen composites don't work very well, but they thankfully don't overuse that technique. It's hard to recommend the film as anything other than a cult classic curiosity, and there are much better ways to satisfy a giant monster craving.