I Was a Teenage Frankenstein is a horror film famous for a number of reasons including the exceptional makeup sported by the creature within and for the merging of two different genres that had rarely been done before, that of the teen drama and the aforementioned horror. This was not the first film to do as such, that honour belonging to its predecessor which was released the same year and made by the same people – I Was a Teenage Werewolf, but this movie would end up being the more memorable of the two and though some would debate it, the better one as well.
The picture would feature some of the more familiar elements of the Frankenstein mythos, adapted of course for the modern time and setting. Professor Frankenstein would be played by Whit Bissell, a man who would do both a decent and ridiculous job of it and be prone to a little over-acting at times while not being the slightest bit British of which his character was supposed to be. Like the original Henry Frankenstein that Bissell would be based upon, the further his experiments would take him, the more unstable he would become to the point in this film where he would cause the murder of his own fiancé. The man is no Colin Clive, perhaps the farthest away he could possibly be, but he is so average and at times, most congenial, that you would never expect the man to be assembling a patchwork man in his laboratory or be the type to murder you without hesitation.
As for the creature, the movie does a good job representing the horror of its situation. The main body is that of a teenager from a recent car crash and after it is animated and become self-aware, you have to feel bad for the poor thing. For all he knows, he is just a normal boy and when he discovers otherwise, it is not only a horrific moment, but a tragic one too. This at least, the film was able to portray with some competency as most of the movie was filled with hokey dialogue and a few cheesy moments. Even better were the special effects that included numerous body parts which got destroyed courtesy of some alligators and the creature’s makeup. His face was so mangled; it looked as if he fell into the blades of a lawnmower and did not resemble anything a mother could love. Played by Gary Conway, he was a truly scary looking monster and it is quite surprising due to the minimal budget the film had. It was good to see that this particular monster would stand apart from those already portrayed on film and those that would soon come to be.
As good and as bad as it was, the movie did manage to deliver a couple of moments that made you sit back in a bit of shock, namely the reveal of the monster and if there was one thing you could say, it was never boring and kept you glued to your seat. Overall, the filmmakers did the best with what they had and director Herbert L. Strock along with writer Kenneth Langtry did a great and truly effective job at using the creature where needed without overdoing it. It would have been interesting to see what the makers of this film could have done with a more money, but as far as B movies tend to go, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein has a lot going for it and is easily a classic of the genre.
4 out of 5