|“||He rolled the seven wonders of the world into one!||„|
— U.S. poster tagline
Frankenstein vs. Baragon (フランケンシュタイン対地底怪獣?, lit. Frankenstein vs. the Subterranean Monster) is a Furankenshutain Tai Chitei Kaijū1965 tokusatsu kaiju film co-produced by Toho Company Ltd. and UPA. This film features a Japanese version of the Frankenstein Monster, who becomes giant-sized to fight the giant subterranean monster, Baragon. It released in Japanese theaters on August 8, 1965, and to American theaters under the title, Frankenstein Conquers the World, on July 8, 1966.
In the prologue set in World War II, circa 1945, Nazis break into the laboratory of Dr. Reisendorf and confiscate the heart of the Frankenstein Monster, on which he is busy experimenting. The Nazis travel by submarine to the Pacific. The Allied Forces then bomb their sub, but not before the Nazis can pass the heart contained in a locked chest to the Imperial Japanese Navy, who take it back to Hiroshima to experiment on it. Just as they are about to begin, the Allied Forces bomb Hiroshima, and the heart is lost.
Fifteen years later, in 1960, American scientist Dr. James Bowen and his assistants, Drs. Sueko Togami and Kenichiro Kawaji, are working to cure the effects of radiation sickness suffered by survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. That night, Sueko encounters a savage boy running rampant in the streets of Hiroshima, catching and devouring small animals such as dogs and rabbits. The following night, while Dr. Bowen and Sueko have dinner in her apartment for her birthday, the feral boy is injured in a hit-and-run in front of the building before he leaves with some food given to him by Sueko. A year later, in 1961, after visiting the grave of their patient, Tazuko Tooi, on the anniversary of her death, Bowen and Sueko find the boy hiding in a cave on a beach, where a mob of outraged villagers has almost caught him. Once Bowen and Sueko coax the boy into accompanying them to the hospital, they discover he is Caucasian, and his body is building a strong resistance to radiation rather than succumbing to it. While the strange boy draws media attention and is taken care of by the scientists, another astounding event evades the public's eye. The former Naval Captain Kawai, who brought the Frankenstein heart to Japan in WWII, is working in an oil factory in Akita Prefecture when a sudden earthquake shakes the factory and collapses a tower, beneath which he saw the ghastly face of a giant dinosaur with a glowing horn.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bowen and the scientists find that the boy is growing at an accelerated rate. Afraid of his increased strength, the scientists lock and chain the boy in a jail cell, and Sueko, who cares for him, continues feeding him food to sustain him. Kawai visits the scientists and explains that the boy could have grown from the heart of the Frankenstein Monster, as the boy was previously often seen in the ruins of Hiroshima. At Dr. Bowen's advice, Dr. Kawaji confers with the aging Dr. Reisendorf in Frankfurt. Reisendorf tells Kawaji of the story of the Frankenstein Monster and its noted virtual immortality, due to feeding on protein. Reisendorf recommends cutting off the monster's arm or leg, speculating that a new one will grow back. When relating this to his fellow scientists upon his return to Japan, Sueko strongly objects to this method, fearing that nothing may grow back. Even when Bowen suggests that they wait a little longer to think it over, Kawaji tenaciously attempts to sever one of the now-gigantic boy's limbs. He is interrupted by a TV crew, whom Kawaji reluctantly allows to film the boy, though they enrage him by shining bright studio lights at his face. The boy breaks loose and goes on the run from the police. He returns to Sueko's apartment and has a tender encounter with her on the balcony before he runs away. Back at the boy's former cell, the scientists discover a giant severed hand moving on its own, confirming the boy to be "Frankenstein." The scientists preserve the hand in a protein solution to continue their studies until they return from Osaka to find it dead but larger from absorbing the protein.
While Frankenstein is on the run, he travels to many places, from Okayama to Mount Ibuki, where his primitive childlike activities such as throwing trees at birds and trying to trap a wild boar end in disaster. However, unbeknownst to Bowen and the scientists, Baragon, the monster Kawai saw earlier, goes on a rampage. Tunneling under the earth, he pops out and ravages villages, eating people and animals, and leaving destruction in his wake. People believe this is Frankenstein's doing, and the misunderstood monster is wrongly hunted down by the military, though not before narrowly escaping. Before Bowen and his assistants have no choice but to dismiss Frankenstein, Kawai returns to tell them that Frankenstein may not be responsible for the disasters and that it could be Baragon, the monster he saw in Akita. He tries to help the scientists convince the authorities but to no avail. Before leaving, Kawai still wishes the scientists luck in finding and aiding Frankenstein.
Bowen, Sueko, and Kawaji eventually figure out where Frankenstein is currently hiding and venture into the forest. Then Kawaji, to the shock of Bowen and Sueko, proceeds to attempt to kill him, believing that Frankenstein could be dangerous by his very nature, and not even Sueko could tame him. He intends to blind him with chemical grenades and capture him to recover his heart and brain. Kawaji presses on to find Frankenstein but, after testing his grenades, lures Baragon to the surface. Kawaji and Bowen try in vain to stop the monster with the grenades, and it's about to eat Sueko until Frankenstein comes to her rescue. The cataclysmic battle between the two giant monsters then begins. Kawaji gets separated from Bowen and Sueko in the chaos. After driving Baragon off, Frankenstein finds the injured Kawaji and returns him to Bowen and Sueko. The scientists proceed to help a nearby village evacuate as Baragon closes in on it. Frankenstein stops Baragon from attacking the town, and the fight continues until Frankenstein snaps Baragon's neck, killing him. Then the area surrounding Frankenstein and Baragon starts to crumble, and both monsters descend into the earth. Kawaji says that Frankenstein's immortal heart will live on so they may see him again someday, but Bowen believes that Frankenstein is probably better off dead.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Reuben Bercovitch, Takeshi Kimura, Mary Shelley, and Jerry Sohl
- Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Reuben Bercovitch, Henry Saperstein, and Samuel Arkoff
- Music by Akira Ifukube
- Cinematography by Hajime Koizumi
- Production design by Takeo Kita
- Special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Teruyoshi Nakano
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Nick Adams as Dr. James Bowen
- Tadao Takashima as Dr. Kenichiro Kawaji
- Kumi Mizuno as Dr. Sueko Togami
- Yoshio Tsuchiya as Kawai
- Yoshifumi Tajima as Murata
- Takashi Shimura as Hiroshima Surgeon
- Peter Mann as Dr. Reisendorf (voice acted by Kazuo Kumakura)
- Keiko Sawai as Tazuko Tooi
- Koji Furuhata as Frankenstein
- Sumio Nakao as Young Frankenstein
- Haruo Nakajima as Baragon
Weapons, Vehicles, and Races
This idea for this film originated with Willis O'Brien, who pitched a film pitting King Kong against a giant version of Frankenstein's Monster. The idea was never adopted by Universal Pictures or RKO Pictures, so independent producer John Beck stole and pitched it to Toho Company Ltd. under the title King Kong vs. Prometheus. Toho agreed to produce a film using Beck's project but decided to replace the Frankenstein/Prometheus creature with their own monster, Godzilla. The project ultimately became King Kong vs. Godzilla after Toho arranged a deal with RKO to use the character of Kong.
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had initially commissioned a film called Frankenstein vs. the Human Vapor (フランケンシュタイン対ガス人間?), with a draft written by Kimura. This film serves as a follow-up to Furankenshutain tai Gasu NingenThe Human Vapor, as Mizuno finds the Frankenstein Monster's body, and revives him, so that he can help him use the Frankenstein formula to restore his beloved girlfriend Fujichiyo (who died at the end of said film). This idea was also supposed to be Toho's co-feature with the Japanese release of the film My Fair Lady.
After scrapping this idea, Toho revived the concept of a giant Frankenstein for a sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla called Frankenstein vs. Godzilla. In this draft, Godzilla would be discovered in an iceberg in the Bering Sea while a giant monster grows from the irradiated heart of Frankenstein's Monster. The J.S.D.F. lures both creatures to the forests near Mount Fuji in the hopes of Godzilla killing Frankenstein before he could begin to eat humans. Toho ultimately thought the idea made little sense and produced Mothra vs. Godzilla instead. However, Toho kept the Frankenstein vs. Godzilla screenplay and replaced Godzilla with the new monster Baragon, ultimately creating Frankenstein vs. Baragon. The finished film shares many similarities with the Frankenstein vs. Godzilla script, including the origin of the giant Frankenstein and the character of Dr. James Bowen.
There are many references to the 1931 Frankenstein film adaptation, an iconic representation of the monster featured in the famous book by Mary Shelley. The monster is generally referred to by his creator's name ("Frankenstein"), rather than "The Frankenstein Monster" (which Dr. Bowen does refer to him as once in this film).
Instead of falling into a fissure in the ground after defeating Baragon, a Giant Octopus attacks Frankenstein. During the fight, Frankenstein is dragged into the sea and presumably drowned and eaten by the Giant Octopus. According to Ishiro Honda, the American backers for the film were astonished by the Giant Octopus scenes from King Kong vs. Godzilla and wanted the Giant Octopus included in the American version of the film. The sequence was shot specifically for the U.S. version, but Henry Saperstein, the lead U.S. producer of the film, felt it was too abrupt and rejected it. This alternate ending is often included in Toho's DVD releases of the film and was previously accidentally aired on Japanese television, confusing many viewers who had seen the movie in theaters. The Giant Octopus would go on to appear in this film's loose sequel, War of the Gargantuas.
Frankenstein vs. Baragon was released theatrically in the United States by American International Pictures under the title, Frankenstein Conquers the World. AIP cut approximately three minutes of footage from the film and dubbed the dialogue to English. While Nick Adams' dialogue had been dubbed over for the Japanese version, the American cut preserved it.
- Main article: War of the Gargantuas.
Toho produced a loose sequel to this film, War of the Gargantuas, the following year in 1966. This film revolves around two monsters, Sanda and Gaira, regenerated from Frankenstein's cells. Sanda, like Frankenstein, was raised by human scientists and became kind and gentle, while Gaira grew up in the wild to become a violent and savage man-eater.
- Supplementary materials for the Millennium series Godzilla films Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. reveal that the events of Frankenstein vs. Baragon took place within the same continuity as those films, along with several other non-Godzilla Showa era films, including Rodan, Varan, Mothra, Gorath, Atragon, Dogora, War of the Gargantuas, King Kong Escapes, and Space Amoeba.
- This film introduced the monster Baragon, who would go on to become a prevalent member of Toho's roster of kaiju, appearing in the films Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.
- This is the second Toho-produced film to feature a monster that had previously appeared in an American movie, the first being King Kong vs. Godzilla.