Saturday, July 6, 2013

#1,055. Monstrosity (1963)

Directed By: Joseph V. Mascelli

Starring: Marjorie Eaton, Frank Gerstle, Frank Fowler

Tag line: "WANTED: Youth and Beauty. Will Pay Millions. Only Beautiful and Shapely Girls Need Apply. No References Required. Appointments After Dark Only."

Trivia: This movie was shot in 1958, but not released until 1963

Monstrosity begins with a bit of narration, solemnly delivered by Bradford Dillman (who years later would star in Joe Dante’s Piranha): “Can death be outwitted? Is the secret of eternal life just around the corner? Today, medical science patches up mutilated bodies, transplanting human eyes, limbs, even vital organs. Is the next step the transplantation of the human brain?” - it’s a very somber opening to what’s basically a silly, yet not uninteresting motion picture.

Also released as The Atomic Brain, Monstrosity stars Marjorie Eaton as Hetty March, an elderly millionaire who wishes she were young again. But unlike most who’ve reached the twilight of their years, she's found a way to make her wish a reality. With the help of nuclear scientist Dr. Otto Frank (Frank Gerstle) and her boyfriend/servant Victor (Frank Fowler), Mrs. March will undergo an operation that will transplant her brain into the body of a younger woman, thus giving the old girl a new lease on life. To find the perfect “donor”, Mrs. March lures three young beauties; Nina (Erika Peters), Bea (Judy Bamber), and Anita (Lisa Lang), to her vast estate, promising them employment as domestic housemaids. When the three arrive, however, they’re immediately locked inside the house and paraded in front of their new employer, with no idea of the danger they face.

Monstrosity is more science fiction than horror; it features only a single jump scare, when one of Dr. Frank’s failed experiments, a half man/half animal, jumps from the shadows to attack a night watchman. Yet while Monstrosity didn't give me goosebumps, it qualifies as one of the weirdest mad scientist movies I’ve ever seen. The moment Mrs. March makes her selection, choosing which of the girl's bodies she wants, the other two become immediately expendable. To further test his procedure, Dr. Frank transplants the brain of his beloved cat into one of the remaining girls, who then spends the remainder of the picture crawling on all fours, drinking milk from a bowl, and eating the odd laboratory rat.

Even at 65 minutes, Monstrosity could have used a little tightening up; some scenes drag on far too long, and an early sequence, where Dr. Frank and his “monster” swipe a freshly-deceased body from the local mausoleum, proves completely unnecessary. And while I won’t go so far as to say the film’s three young actresses deliver poor performances, none of them could do a foreign accent to save their lives (Judy Bamber’s character was supposedly from England, but sounded as if she just stepped off the bus from South Carolina). Yet, despite all this, and even taking into account its ludicrous storyline, Monstrosity is a low-budget schlock-fest that could’ve been much worse than it is. Warts and all, I have to say I kinda liked it.

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