Thursday, March 23, 2017

Movie from Another Universe #1: Frankenstein's Mobster (1964)

(Note: The film described below does not exist in your universe. However, it does exist in my universe, Universe-Prime. For another movie from another universe, check out Ed Wood's Bride of Peeping Tom from 1960.)

A low-budget, 70-minute black and white movie from 1964, Frankenstein's Mobster tells the story of a low-level gangster whose luck changes when he finds the body of the titular creature.

The film begins in an unnamed city, where down-on-their-luck friends Joe and Vinnie meet with mob boss Mr. Sunday in his funeral parlor, out of which he runs the city's gambling and extortion rackets. Mr. Sunday says he will consider Joe and Vinnie for positions in his organization if they act as enforcers while an operative named Monk shakes down the local gin joint for protection money. Vinnie signs on enthusiastically, but Joe has misgivings, though he needs to make money to help the grandmother who raised him make her house payment.

Ill-advisedly, Vinnie convinces Joe to double-cross Monk and Sunday by arriving at the bar early and tricking the owner into paying them half the extortion money in advance. The scheme fails, as Monk is hiding in the back room of the bar and watching everything through a peephole. Vinnie plays dumb and convinces Monk that the deception was all Joe’s idea.

Monk drives Joe and Vinnie to a deep quarry. He explains that double-crossing the mob is not a smart way to get started in the business. After he makes it clear he believes Vinnie is an asset to the organization, Monk and Vinnie tie Joe’s hands and feet, cram him into a burlap sack, and then toss him over the edge of the quarry. The bag splashes into the water below.

When Monk and Vinnie see nothing moving below, they drive away, unaware that the walls of the quarry are swiss-cheesed with small caves. Joe manages to roll into a cave at water level and free himself using a pocket knife. The cave is bigger than it seemed from the water. When Joe’s eyes grow accustomed to the dimness, he sees what appears to be a large body in the corner of the cave. When he gets his lighter working, he sees that the body is that of the Frankenstein monster!

At first frightened, Joe realizes the body is lifeless, but he also realizes that this must be the creature that rampaged through the area and caused a great deal of damage a few years ago. As he builds a fire, he starts speaking to the inert monster. He doesn’t know the name Frankenstein, so he calls it Tiny. He tells the creature that it will be Joe’s ticket to the good life. People will line up to see the monster that terrorized a city.

In the morning, Joe hears a truck pulling up across the quarry. He sees a man loading rocks (for some reason) onto a pickup truck. He also notices that there is a ledge around the quarry that leads to the flat ground where the man is working. Joe sneaks up on the man and knocks him unconscious. Using a cart in the back of the pickup truck, Joe is able to wheel the Frankenstein monster to the truck, hide the creature in the bed of the truck under some canvas, and steal the truck.

Driving along back roads, Joe comes to a small farming town and stops to eat at the local diner. A local waitress named Betty serves him. When her shift ends, they get to talking, and she admits she sees something in him that she didn’t notice at first, something charming. Joe finds out that Betty lives on a farm with her father, Bill, who is a retired electrical engineer. Joe, manipulating her but feeling a little bad about it, accepts her invitation to stay at the farm for a few days.

During his stay at the farm, Joe hides Tiny in the barn, where Bill has stored large quantities of electrical equipment. Bill discovers Joe’s secret, but, somewhat surprisingly, he wants to help Joe reanimate the notorious monster for scientific purposes. They keep their work secret from Betty.

Meanwhile, Joe and Betty grow closer. He tells her the truth about his past as a lowly gangster, but he also tells her always dreamed about making a lot of money so he could buy a plot of land and live on his own, far away from the mob and the city.

A stormy night approaches, and Joe and Bill successfully reanimate the Frankenstein monster in the old barn. Bill notices some marks from the lightning on the monster's skull and is worried that the lightning has damaged the monster's brain.


Joe uses a torch to control Tiny, who has no memory of earlier events. Bill wants to give the monster a medical checkup to record everything for the sake of science, but Joe reveals he only wants the monster to extract revenge on the mobsters and Vinnie.

Suddenly, Betty opens the barn door and sees what is going on. She feels pity for the monster and attempts to comfort him and move him so he can rest, but her appearance causes confusion for both the monster and Joe. The monster stumbles and falls, which knocks over some equipment, accidentally setting fire to the barn.

Appearing to care only about getting revenge on the mob, Joe uses a makeshift torch to force the monster into the bed of the pickup. Joe drives out of the barn and into the night, leaving Bill and Betty behind to take care of the fire.

On the way back to the city, Joe stops at a gas station that, unbeknownst to him, is run by Mr. Sunday’s gang. The gas station attendant calls Monk to let them know Joe is alive and returning to the city.

After the barn fire is extinguished with help from the community, Betty convinces Bill that Joe is really not a bad man, and that they must stop him from committing murder in the name of revenge. Bill relents and the two of them set out for the city to find Joe, but they happen to stop at the same gas station run by the mob and ask if anyone has seen Joe.

The climax of the film occurs on the waterfront, where Joe tracks down Mr. Sunday, who is overseeing a shipment of illegal weapons. Monk and Vinnie are helping their boss. Joe plans to use fire to force the Frankenstein monster to rampage through the warehouse, but Mr. Sunday’s gangsters are waiting for him. They surround Joe and the monster. Mr. Sunday is particularly interested in the monster, and in Joe’s ability to control him with a torch. He believes the monster will make a terrifying enforcer for his gang. He makes a speech, saying that controlling the monster will finally allow him to take over all the rackets in the entire city.

Joe is captured by the thugs. Mr. Sunday surprises Joe by having more of his men bring in Betty and Bill at gunpoint. Monk uses the torch to force the monster to attack the three captives, but the monster, at the sight of Betty, rebels against the mobsters. In the fracas, the monster sets the warehouse ablaze.

Joe manages to get free. He unties Betty and Bill and the three of them run out of the warehouse. They look back to see the monster aflame, stumbling around the waterfront and finally falling off a dock.

Joe, Betty, and Bill drive away from the city, back to the quiet of the farm.