Review: B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster

Pictured (L to R): Princess Marcuzan (Kylie Stephensons as Marilyn Hanold) and Dr Nadir (Trevor Holland as Lou Cutell). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography. For six nights only, Woolangabba’s Padre Bar is hosting a B-movie science fiction feat that is a must-see for fans of the classic genre. Taking us straight back to the […]

Pictured (L to R): Princess Marcuzan (Kylie Stephensons as Marilyn Hanold) and Dr Nadir (Trevor Holland as Lou Cutell). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

For six nights only, Woolangabba’s Padre Bar is hosting a B-movie science fiction feat that is a must-see for fans of the classic genre. Taking us straight back to the 1960s, we see a one-hour extract of the endeavours of the handful of actors brought together to film an extremely low-budget science-fiction film. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster really did make it to celluloid: screenplay by George Garrett, directed by Robert Gaffney, the trailer is available via You Tube (with over 46,000 views), and DVDs of the original 1965 film  are available from Dark Sky Films. If you read the Imdb plot outline, you’ll realise just how closely the original film followed all the characteristics of the genre: a solo space mission, an experimental android, a crash-landing, fights and a chase, marauding space aliens who are on a mission to “steal bikini-clad young women to re-populate their nuclear-ravaged planet, a pool party, a space monster… But be warned, it might be a better use of funds to see this Live! production than by the original (the original film was apparently #7 in the 2004 DVD documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, and IMDb score is 3.3/10).

The cast and creatives clearly had a lot of fun pulling the whole event together. The props and costumes (props by the cast and crew, costumes by Kristine Von Hilderbrandt) are perfect, thanks in particular to liberal dashes of tinfoil. Kristian Fletcher not only produced and co-directed (with Willem Whitfield) , but also manages to act as an entertaining stage-hand, clapperboard operator,  and audience manipulator (be prepared to boo! scream!! and applaud when prompted). And  I think this is the first time I’ve seen a production where the lighting (Ghoul Shadows) and Music/Audio (Chris Richards) techs also play such important supporting roles. Ghoul Shadows provides a number of different accents in playing some of the ‘off-stage’ roles, and Chris Richards not only produced a fantastic soundtrack of original music and audio, but also voices a great narration.

Pictured: Cast and Creatives at the Opening Night of B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.
Pictured: Cast and Creatives at the Opening Night of B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

The cast hammed up their roles beautifully as B-movie actors—desperate for a drink, forgetting lines, smiling for the camera, handing out autographs. In particular, I loved Kylie Stephenson’s portrayal of the actress Marilyn Hanold, who was playing Princess Marcuzan. Great accents, amusing poses, and demanding leading lady. Arguably she also had the best costume. Her able sidekick, Dr Nadir, was played with great panache and concentration by Trevor Holland (as Lou Cutell). Trevor McMillan’s David Kerman/General Bowers entertained as the slightly bumbling alcoholic general, drawing many laughs with his excellent comic timing.  And Cecile Blackmore (Nancy Marshall/Karen Grant) was a feminist ahead of her time in her interactions with the action-hero James Karen/Adam Steele (Willem Whitfield). Blackmore and Whitfield were a great duo—playing the hero/heroine in true B-movie style.

Being a supporting player was a thankless task in the B-movie genre, but this production does recognise the group of extras. The original film had two uncredited actors, and the B-movies Live! production respects that aspect of the genre up to a point, but does thank a group of ‘supporting players’ as Truly McCandless, and Earth Women Annaliese McGuire and Anna Reynolds.  Well done to them also, for their supporting roles, and a shout out to Dylan Friedland for managing to watch, drink sideways, and participate as Col. Frank Saunders on the night I saw the show.

Cecile Blackmore (Nancy Marshall/ Karen Grant) - the true B-movie style heroine. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.
Cecile Blackmore (Nancy Marshall/ Karen Grant) – the true B-movie style heroine. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

If anyone was going to pull this off, it would be Kristian Fletcher, who certainly has a passion for cult movies. One of the founders of Brisbanes’ cult and classic cinema ‘scene’, Kristian hosts themed events around Brisbane on a regular basis. B-movies Live! has the potential to be a long-running series and not just a one-off (re)production of Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. There is a large pool of B-movies to draw on, so taking this format and applying it to other cult classics could be a fruitful and long-running series.

The show only runs Thursday-Saturday for two weeks during the 2016 Anywhere Festival (until 21 May). You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to attend, but there are references to other films and productions to be found. Just as Rocky Horror parodied kitsch science fiction and horror films, so aficionados will pick up Rocky Horror references in this homage to B-movies. We delight in the narration of Chris Richards (who also provides a fabulous soundtrack of original music and audio), while Princess Macuzan and her assistant Dr Nadir adopt the occasional Magenta and Riff Raff moves, and the white-coated Dr Adam Steele and Karen Grant assume intermittent Brad and Janet poses. I am sure the true B-movie/Rocky Horror fans in the audience were picking up every allusion, and revelling in each nuanced reference. Go along and see how many references you can identify.

Verdict: Cult fun (Cosplay outfits optional)—a must-see for B-movie fans, and a fun evening for couples and groups.

Audience tip: The performance takes place in the downstairs room at the The Padre Bar (and is therefore not wheelchair accessible). Make sure you take your drink downstairs with you, and expect that the room may get a little warm (after all, there are film lights!!).

The reviewer attended the opening night performance of B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster (12 May 2016). B-Movies Live! has a 6-show run (Thursday-Saturday evenings starting 12 May, ending 21 May). Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival Website (ignore any ‘this event is passed’ and scroll down for availability).

 

Catherine Lawrence is a Post-completion Fellow at The University of Queensland School of Communication and Arts.