The 60's were the golden years for TOHO kaiju films. It gave us some of the all-stars, such as Mothra vs. Godzilla, MONSTER ZERO, and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. One slightly overlooked film in that era is Frankenstein vs. Baragon. (Known in the US as 'Frankenstein Conquers the World.') Directed by one of the best directors of kaiju films, Ishiro Honda, this vs. movie is a truly unique one. It grabbed an American monster, much like what they did with King Kong Escapes, and turned his story into a Japanese giant monster movie. Its sequel, War of the Gargantuas. is much more well known. This film however is superior in a few ways. It features a great cast, compelling story, and some fantastic monster action.
The story has quite a unique start, with the prologue taking place in Nazi Germany back in 1945, World War II. The heart of Frankenstein, (technically Frankenstein's monster but like always we'll refer to the creature as such) is transported to Japanese hands. It is lost however in the midst of the Hiroshima attack. The heart later grows into a being and as the movie progresses he grows at such an amazing rate, to the point where he himself is nearly the size of Godzilla! It's a necessary thing, because he's going to have to battle an underground monster called Baragon. What I found interesting about the beginning of this movie was the very tiny use of monster scenes. Baragon gets a very small appearance in the first 50 minutes, besides that it's all about Frankenstein's story. In fact, before the climax hits, you're going to think Baragon was just put in to say the movie has a giant monster with no real relation to the story. The final fantastic half hour will change that mentality. The film does such a great job establishing Frankenstein's story that when Baragon shows up it's all the more satisfying. The primary reason why that was so well done is thanks to the cast.
Nick Adams is the main star, portraying Dr. James Bowen. You'll know him from his fan favorite portrayal of Glenn in MONSTER ZERO. Kumi Mizuno also stars, as Dr. Sueko Togami. You'll know her as Miss Namikawa also in MONSTER ZERO. They have such great chemistry together, it's very natural. Interestingly, all this time I thought this movie came out after Monster Zero, but this actually predates it. They must have done such a great job that TOHO wanted them back for the next Godzilla movie. Adams is by far one of the greatest actors of that era. He has sense of likability, authority, and plain cool demeanor throughout. The only line that bothered me was in the final scene when he said, "Perhaps, the best thing would be for him to die. After all, he's only a monster." After Frankenstein delivered Dr. Ken'ichiro Kawaji to him and Miss Togami, you would think he would have said something nicer about him. Mizuno appears to be such a veteran when it comes to acting her role to her best ability. Her motherly nature to Frankenstein was great, it's a shame she wasn't in much kaiju films post Monster Zero.
Baragon is what makes this a kaiju film, and he doesn't disappoint. The simple design is very effective, and I'm not sure making him 'cute' was intended, but it's a nice touch. One of the best scenes is when it focused on a group of chickens then the next scene it shows feathers coming from Baragon's mouth. It's rare that we see kaiju eating other creatures, so that was pretty neat. Overall Baragon is one of TOHO's best classics, it's truly a shame he didn't get to do anything in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.The climax of the film makes up for Baragon's lack of appearing, The fight is fun and satisfying. It's also unique, since it's basically a giant human battling a dinosaur. All of this is accompanied by Akira Ifukube's wonderful soundtrack.
Overall, Frankenstein vs. Baragon is definitely one of TOHO's best. The story is nicely developed with one of the best climaxes from any giant monster movie. The team of Nick Adams and Kumi Mizuno act beautifully on screen. The International version is the one to watch, only cause of the completely random ending with the giant octopus. This is a definite must-see for any kaiju fan.