(Feed That Frankenstein focuses on the many pictures that use variants on the themes that the underappreciated Mary Shelley began writing about all those thunderstruck evenings ago.)
Estimating that the evilest of scientists are from a European descent, the creators of Goldengirl naturally went full Neo-Nazi with Curt Jurgens’ experimenting Dr. Serafin. Or did they?
Focusing on the Olympic ascension of the magnificent Goldine (Susan Anton), Serafin’s stepdaughter, this 1979 science fiction piece replaces Mary Shelley’s elegantly stitched together monster with a sporty, statuesque blonde. Of course, being beautiful is a curse here. Goldine is treated to electroshock therapy to increase her speed and those pesky injections (administered by her father) may increase her stature and stamina, but they also leave her diabetic and predisposed to a twisted, violent streak. Meanwhile, a series of backers wanting a payoff means that she has to achieve an unheard of three gold medals in track and field. Add in the fact that her fledgling romance with legendary sports agent Jack Dryden (James Coburn) appears as if it will never get past the tentative stage…and a girl could just go completely bonkers!
…and she does…a little bit. Goldine subjugates Jack to a bit of humiliation, here and there, and she has a diva meltdown on a fellow Olympian, but there are no huge monstrous altercations in this fun celluloid jumble. Instead, the powers-that-be decide to concentrate on the almost nonexistent romantic elements of the plotline. Thus, revealing, at the fadeout, that the worst thing that can happen to a chemically and socially manipulated femme fatale is… heartbreak.
The lack of oomph in the production is most likely attributed to the fact that the producers had a change of heart during its troubled genesis. All original allegations of Dr. Serafin’s master plan and deviant ties to the Third Reich were stripped from the narrative. Instead he is portrayed as a flawed (and slightly crazed) humanist who wants to increase the possibilities of the biological form. Therefore, a whistle blowing associate, played by the always intriguing Jessica Walter, is totally cut from the proceedings. (Although, she is briefly glimpsed in a scene in which Goldine’s benefactors first arrive to check out their potential client.)It’s a strange move that leaves the film in a never world. It’s a bit sports movie and a bit Jekyll and Hyde monster flick. There are glimpses of a science fiction thriller and a smidge of tepid May-December romance. All in all, it’s a gelatin take on celluloid intrigue – slightly shimmering with nothing too caloric to stick to the viewer’s senses at the end mark.
Anton, meanwhile, in her major motion picture debut, does her damnedest to register assuredly. She manages it at times, always appearing physically magnificent, but sometimes the pure awkwardness of the setups causes her to strain a bit unconvincingly. She might have been helped a bit if she had been paired against someone other than Coburn. Always a master of low key manliness, he is just too cool a cucumber to truly sell the more seductive elements of the plot.
Still, this hodge podge affair has its charms. Particularly, it is nice to experience a feminine focus point in a variation on a narrative that Mary Shelley, a young woman herself, created all those many dark and stormy nights ago.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!