B MOVIES: LIVE | FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER
By Maria Dunne
The 1960s: a time where the world was becoming increasingly suspicious. Rumours of Area 51 circulated around the world, the Cold War entered its coldest years, and B movies gained an increasing momentum in the box office.
You might be wondering what a B movie is. B movies were made by movie studios on a low budget to make money without having to spend as much. The acting was cheesy, the lines were generic and the special effects were low budget. Popular B movies include Rocketship X-M, The Blob and The Raven. B movies would normally play at drive-in cinemas as the second film in a double feature.
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster follows Col. Frank Saunders, a cyborg created by scientist Dr. Adam Steele. Saunders, after making his first mission to space, is attacked by Martians. Saunders lands in Puerto Rico. The Martians follow him there, looking to abduct women to repopulate their community. His encounter with the Martians leaves him disfigured, but that doesn’t stop him from helping his creator defeat the evil Princess Marcuzan and her Martian warriors.
Kristian Fletcher, director and creator of B Movies: Live, set out to recreate the B movie genre with classic slapstick, cheesy miniature UFOs and aluminium costume designs. Fletcher did an amazing job throughout the night: he guided his audience to a battle between good and evil, where American fighter pilots connected to coat hangers attacked Puerto Rico, which was also where Frankenstein’s Monster battled it out against the Space Monster. Fletcher was able to give his commentary throughout the play, discussing Karen Grant’s first appearance and the blissful look she gives to the audience. It is obvious when seeing this performance that he has an immense knowledge of the B movie genre.
The acting space was very intimate and personal, allowing the actors to break the fourth wall easily. The play also let the audience participate, and they had lots of fun booing, hissing, screaming and applauding. It also had the leading part (Col. Frank Saunders) to be played by an audience member. Actors such as Sam Young (Dr. Adam Steele) really brought energy to the performance. His chemistry with his fellow actors, especially in the scenes with Karen Grant, was undeniable.
In some other aspects, however, the dialogue between actors fell flat. This was specifically seen at the beginning of the performance. This made the play difficult to get into at first. Perhaps if the actors were more engaged with the original style of the script, the acting would have picked up better in some parts, such as taking on American accents or overreacting to things. Nevertheless, the energy did pick up after a short interval.
The music was outstanding and established the mood of each scene carefully. Chris Richards, a Brisbane composer, composed it specifically for the show. This composition delightfully played with the original sound effects from the 1960s, and it added a lot to the performance.
This production pays tribute to this cult B movie in many ways. With cheap special effects, “stock footage” and convoluted dialogue, the play set up a friendly and fun environment that is both respectful and satirical to its predecessor.
Quirky, fun and a look into a small fragment of cinema’s Golden Age – what is not to love?
Maria Dunne is a writer from North Coburg. Before writing for the Northsider she wrote freelance for The Big Issue and Buzzcuts.
NOTE: Reviewer attended July 1st performance. There are currently no Melbourne shows, but you can keep up with any B Movies: Live updates on Kristian’s website.