|Plot Outline: Count Frankenstein is your average middle aged man, when he’s not flirting with women half his age, or riding around in his carriage, he’s in the dungeon with a caveman trying to bring it back to life. That’s the setting for this little tale. After the local mob of villagers left a caveman for dead (played by Boris Lugosi… wait, that’s not a real name!), Frankenstein scooped him up and has been experimenting with the creature. Next thing you know, there’s another caveman walking around, and wouldn’t you know it, the Count recently fired his lab assistant who also happens to be a madman in a dwarves body. Add to this The Count now has his daughter and her best friend coming to visit, can anybody say Body Count?|
The Review: So this is the fourth roundtable review for the Rogue Reviewers I have taken part in thus far, so I would think it unnecessary to really go over an in-depth explanation of what we do, but for those of you reading your first of my Rogue Reviews, it’s like this; The Rogue Reviewers are a stealthy clan of menacing film reviewers bent on reviewing all that is evil in the known universe. Except we don’t actually fight evil, nor are we menacing or do much of anything in stealth. We do write reviews though, and we like to have roundtable reviews ever so often where we choose one particular genre of cinema and all find something to review. A little less exciting, but I would still like to think the idea is rather intriguing. For this April’s roundtable (and I’m writing this in May, super late) it was decided that the clan would be doing Caveman/Prehistoric films. For the site that I run, and with the peculiar tastes in cinema I have, that wasn’t exactly an easy order. After putting some thought into it, I scrambled upon Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks. A film from those bastions of excellent quality “Something Weird Video”, Castle of Freaks was a film I had read about somewhere in the area of two years ago. It was never something that stayed high on my list of films to see, but the idea of Frankstein Meets A Caveman seemed at the very least something entertaining. After Duane from B-Movie Central recommended it to me as a particular favorite of his, I figured what the heck. As much as it pains me to say it, I just didn’t have as much fun with the film as I expected I might. Maybe my B-Movie senses have been dulled down by Italian gore films, or my brain made to mush from the pretentious art-house cinema I ever so love, but Castle of Freaks just wasn’t outrageous enough for me. Midgets (I prefer not to use the term ‘little people’ out of fear people won’t understand what I’m talking about) and mad doctors can only do so much for me these days, although it’s not to say COF isn’t full of it’s fair share of oddities and pure insanity, but I was left wanting more. Kind of weird to say when we’re talking about a film that features a battle between cavemen, but what can I say.
I don’t know exactly what it is with Castle of Freaks that just didn’t seem to do much for me. The lack of excessive weirdness is one excuse, but there’s more to it than that. It was just a rather dull experience for me. I was rarely engaged in the film, even in a comedic manner. The movie has it’s fair share of clustered moments of delightful entertainment, but it’s the minutes that pass in between those where things just seem to lose their footing. I suppose there’s always a chance that I’m just not part
of the audience that a film such as this might call for, but all I can give is a simple reaction. I was
expecting more of a straight b-movie from COF, but was shocked to be delivered a rather average horror
film with splashes of exploitation and insanity layered every now and then. The lack of fun I had with
the film is the root of my review, and god knows it’s hard to come up with words to describe it. There
are plenty of goofs to laugh at in the film, plenty of over the top performances and bits of
ridiculously dubbed in dialogue, but it just didn’t prove to be enough. The pace for the film dragged
on like a suspense film trying to soak up atmosphere, but it never took me as a viewer anywhere. It
never delivered a scare nor many laughs. Believe me, I’m not as harsh on the film as I’m sure by now I
sound, but when coming up with a reasoning for my dislike of the film, I’m almost at a loss. Castle of
Freaks, as much as I felt it lacked, still doesn’t do a whole lot for me to earnestly dislike it. I
could never truly hold contempt for it and am certainly glad I took the time to watch it, if only to
enjoy the small bits and pieces of fun to be had. If someone were to ask me what to prepare themselves
for before watching the film, I would say any older classical European horror film. Particularly stuff
more in the vein of Mario Bava or his like. Not that Castle of Freaks even so much attempts to
actually scare the audience, but it has that stylish classical feel that films like Bay of Blood (Twitch
of the Death Nerve) have working so well for them. I suppose there’s a chance a lot of my grief with
the film comes from having seen Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein around the time I first watched Castle of
Freaks, even though Warhol came second it provided a more clear way for me to judge just what kind of outrageous-ness I was looking for in these ‘modern’ retellings of this classic story. It’s not just
gore I was after, but more of a sense of the bizarre or something a little less serious. For what the
film is though, I’m glad I do own it and strange as it is, something about the film demands for another
viewing. There’s an interesting energy in it, that while it may not make up for the majority of the
film, it’s certainly a nice treat to occasionally watch for a goof.
I suppose the look of Castle of Freaks is most akin to a lot of the color Hammer films out there. The period setting for the film with the mode of dress definitely seems to be inspired by the studio, but it could just be one of those things. If you’re trying to visualize what the film may look like, just think of a Hammer film then remove Peter Cushing and throw in two cavemen, that’s basically it. There is definitely a polish to the film one might not expect, but the sets tend to be obvious and the budget shines through often. This of course isn’t a big deal, because who would expect brilliant staging? The atmosphere that is created in the film is probably the highlight of the more serious technical aspects throughout. It certainly is a rather gloomy picture, even in broad daylight and for that it certainly gets an ounce of respect from me and my ilk. The acting is a bit give and take. There are a few actors who ham things up and keep the film lively, but by and large the cast gives it their best. The most interesting actor/character would be Genz (Michael Dunn) who is a ‘little person’, but perhaps one of the more memorable of performers, not merely for his height. His character is actually complex in a demented sort of way, but the voice of the actor just grinds into my brain and irritates me. I imagine it was part of the character and not the actor’s real voice, which definitely makes him all the more distinguishable from everyone else. The character is at first sympathetic to the audience, almost to the point of being layered on far too thick, but somewhere along the way the guy really starts to show his twisted side with a rape/murder somewhere in the midst of everything. At the very least, the inclusion of the character is applauded by me because it takes the audience in a direction they probably wouldn’t expect to go, and for me that’s always commendable. The rest of cast are made up of relatively talented actors who give the film a theatrical vibe, even though I’m not so sure that would be the best direction for such a film. I sometimes wonder if given the chance a script for Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks might could turn into a rather bizarre freakshow in the right hands. It certainly would make for an interesting sight to see someone else take the oddities of the film and just run with them. The biggest draw for most, at least for anyone as weird as me, is definitely going to be the battle of the cavemen. Well, to go over it would be a spoiler, but I will say there is no huge fight sequence between the two like I might have imagined, but simply having two cavemen in one film is certainly strange enough to arouse my curiosity. See, for me, Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks is broke down into fragments. Some pieces are everything I would have hoped for, some are not. Which is why, even though I do not highly recommend the film, must at least get the point across that a part of me will probably grow to admire this film down the road. Even now I find myself softening up to it’s charms, but not enough to save it from a below average score.
I’m giving the film a 2 out of a 5. That’s a pretty low score, I realize, but it’s the only thing that felt honest to me. It’s not quite as generic to be a 3, and certainly not good enough to be higher, but anything lower would be denying the few things I find that I really like about the film. I imagine I’ve railed on the same issues many times throughout this review so far, but I find few things to really make clear on my position regarding the film. Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks may not have been what I was expecting, and I may not feel a deep passion for it, but I have to admit it has something going on below the surface for those willing to shell out cash for a rather uninteresting film.