I'm a big fan of Japanese monster movies. I grew up on them and I'm constantly
trying to see as many of the old ones as I can. When I saw that Frankenstein
Conquers the World was going to be on TV one night, I decided I'd better
watch it. I had fond memories of watching it while I was growing up and
thought it might be nice to go down memory lane and revisit this classic.
Whoa-boy! I should have watched something else and kept those fond memories
intact. This is a real stinker. And for me to say that about a Japanese
monster movie, it's really got to stink.
Conquers the World
Starring: Nick Adams, Tadao Takashima, and
Late in World War II, the German
army captures the still-beating heart of the Frankenstein monster and
takes it to Japan via submarine. (One thing
that really irks me about this movie is that they refer to the monster
as Frankenstein. Everyone knows that Frankenstein wasn't the monster, he
was the scientist. The monster was always "the monster" or "Frankenstein's
Monster.") Anyway, the heart refuses to die. As luck would have it,
the heart is brought to Hiroshima just before the atomic bomb is dropped.
Shortly thereafter, a small boy is seen living among the rubble. Apparently,
the heart has grown into a boy thanks to the radiation from the bomb.
Fifteen years later, Dr. James Bowen (Nick Adams) and Dr. Sueko Togami
(Kumi Mizuno) are doing research on the effects of radiation on humans.
(Remember, this film was made twenty years after the Hiroshima bombing.)
A teenage boy is accused of killing dogs and small animals and eating them.
Dr. Bowen and Dr. Togami capture the boy and find that he is growing at
an alarming rate. Soon, he becomes so big, he has to be kept in a jail
cell for his own safety. One of the men who saw the Frankenstein heart
at the end of the war comes forward and tells the doctors that he believes
the boy may be the Frankenstein monster. Before they can confirm it, the
boy breaks loose and runs into the Japanese countryside.
The story sounds a lot better than it ends up on-screen. The acting is,
in a word, horrible. The dialogue is ridiculous and those trademark bad
special effects are even more atrocious than usual. Still, the movie wouldn't
be as bad as it is if it didn't try to do so much with the story. It's
bad enough that the viewer has to accept the Frankenstein monster's heart
is brought to Japan for no apparent reason. The viewer is also asked to
accept that the monster will fight a giant, underground-dwelling reptilian
creature. On top of that, there's the seemingly never-ending debate on
whether or not Frankenstein's monster should be allowed to live.
It's campy to an extent, but it's not good camp because it takes itself
too seriously and comes off as nothing more than a bad movie with a bad
script, bad acting and bad special effects. However, it did spawn a sequel
of sorts -- the much improved War of the Gargantuas. See that one instead
and skip this.
Adams was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 1963's Twilight
of Honor. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)