B&W, 1958, 85 mins. 3 secs.
Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Starring John Ashley, Sandra Knight, Sally Todd, Donald Murphy, Harold Lloyd Jr., Felix Maurice Locher
The Film Detective (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
A year after the teen monster movie craze gave us I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, cheapjack director Richard E. Cunha (Giant from the Unknown, Missile to the Moon) delivered his own gender-swapped variation here with a teens vs. mad scientist wonder shot in less than a week.
When a disfigured monster is seen running around the neighborhood at night in a blue negligee, Suzie (Todd) relates the horrible details the next day at school to best friend Trudy (Knight) and her boyfriend, Johnny (Ashley). Little does anyone suspect that Trudy is unwittingly part of the creepy events thanks to her scientist uncle, Carter (Locher), and his unscrupulous assistant, Oliver (Murphy), who has one heck of a family secret you'd never, ever guess from the title. As it turns out, some diabolical experiments are afoot in suburbia that will affect all of these kids, one of them with monstrously life-changing results.
Though obviously constrained by the Production Code at the time, Frankenstein's Daughter manages to suggest some pretty seedy material with Murphy playing one of the sleaziest, slimiest mad doctors of the era. There's also a little more blood than usual for this kind of fare, and it moves along at a solid clip with Ashley and Knight making for appealingly wholesome-ish leads. In what seems to be a make or break element for many viewers, it also does a major gear shift with its titular monster(s), starting off as a kind of Frankenstein variation on lycanthropy before abruptly turning another character into a shuffling reanimated monstrosity... clearly designed as a man and looking nothing like its prior actor, because the makeup artist was reportedly never informed it was supposed to be a woman. The film gets especially delirious in its final act, which features not only a big lab showdown but a backyard pool party complete with swingin' songs performed at the house of silent comedy legend Harold Lloyd (because his son got a secondary role here). Hey, that' showbiz.
Part of the Wade Williams library for decades following its independent run from Astor Pictures, Frankenstein's Daughter did the rounds on DVD and VHS circa 2000 from Image Entertainment with a very good transfer for the time, hampered only by the fact that it was presented completely open matte. In this case the film (apart from the main titles) was framed to be matted entirely from the top, so here that means the image is top heavy with dead space and looks very unbalanced. That DVD also includes the theatrical trailer and an image gallery. The composition issues are thankfully fixed in the 2021 Blu-ray and DVD editions from The Film Detective, which also looks brighter and more detailed throughout. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 English mono track is also in great shape, with a lossy Dolby Digital track thrown on as well (along with English and Spanish subtitles options). A new audio commentary by Tom Weaver (credited to Jason A Ney on the menu for some reason) follows his standard template of incorporating soundbites from the likes of Ashley and monster kids Larry Blamire and Steve Cronenberg, placing it all in context within the context of Cunha's fast-paced career around this time, Astor's releasing methods, backgrounds on the actors, and the origins of the project. Weaver also provides the Cunha-tastic liner notes essay, too. "Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker of the Unknown" (36m) features some great archival VHS footage of Cunha in his '80s Oceanside video store, chatting about his life from his enlisting in the Air Corps while living in Hawaii and going through his drive-in movie career during the atomic monster golden age, including memories of the "difficult" Irish McCalla. "John Ashley: Man from the B's" (10m15s) is an appraisal of the teen movie star by C. Courtney Joyner, covering the transition from AIP teen star to legend of Filipino horror and fantasy films and successful TV producer including The A-Team.
The Film Detective (Blu-ray)
Image Entertainment (DVD)
Reviewed on November 12, 2021.