Saturday, October 08, 2011

31 Days of Frankenstein: Kiss Me, Herman!

Kiss Me Quick! (1964)

I have no idea what the Frankenstein Monster is doing in Kiss Me Quick!, even after reading an extensive article about it on Images Journal. Like House on Bare Mountain, it's a nudie flick with the primary purpose of providing a showcase for naked women. In Kiss Me Quick!, this takes the form of the experiments of a mad scientist named Dr. Breedlove who's working to turn women into "insatiable love machines." He's visited by an alien named Sterilox, a sexual ambassador from the Buttless Galaxy who's come to Earth looking for women to mate with. It's apparently not hardcore porn, but while no mating occurs in the movie, there's lots of naked dancing as Dr. Breedlove helpfully shows his experiments to the alien.

Apparently, the Frankenstein Monster comes in at some point, played by the same actor who plays Sterilox. And as the movie's very NSFW trailer shows, Dracula too. Maybe they're supposed to be more of Breedlove's experiments? I don't know how long they're in the movie, but since neither Images nor Wikipedia nor IMDB mention them in their plot summaries, it sounds like maybe they're just throwaway gags. Whatever the case, the Monster is obviously a rip-off of Universal's version and the Images article provides some insight to how the filmmakers got away with it:
These movies rarely played theaters that booked traditional Hollywood fare. Instead, [they] existed in an alternate cinematic universe that typically used grindhouses and (occasionally) art houses as exhibition venues. Hollywood studios apparently paid little attention to this environment.

As evidence, on the audio commentary track of [...] Kiss Me Quick!, Mike Vraney asks producer Harry Novak how he got away with using the Frankenstein monster (complete with flat-top head, forehead clamps, and neck bolts) - a licensed character that Universal Pictures has vigorously protected for many decades. The Frankenstein monster even appeared on the movie's posters and newspaper ads. "Didn't they ever call you?" asks Vraney. "What for?" retorts Novak, with his customary bravado. "We had tits and ass. They didn't have tits and ass."
So in some cases, people got away with it just by slipping under Universal's radar. But that obviously wasn't the case for this next one.

The Munsters (1964)

Herman Munster got away with looking exactly like Universal's Frankenstein because The Munsters was produced by Universal. Hammer had re-invigorated the horror craze in the '50s, but not single-handedly. Thanks to films like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Universal and other US studios had kept monster movies going and the fad lasted well into the '60s.

The Munsters wasn't an original idea. The show premiered only a week after The Addams Family, but it was based on a concept even older than that. As early as the late-'40s, Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett pitched Universal a series of cartoons about a family of monsters. The idea was kicked and passed around for a decade or so until MCA (Universal's parent company) decided to run with it as a live-action show. I couldn't find an original source for this, but according to an Addams Family fan site, word got out that ABC had locked down a series based on Charles Addams' popular strip and that's what got MCA moving (and CBS buying). Both shows ran for the same two years and were cancelled within a month of each other due to the popularity of Batman and color TV in general.

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