Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Donald F. Glut – Bones of Frankenstein

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Donald F. Glut – Bones of Frankenstein ( NEL, July 1977)

Bones Of Frankenstein

“The powers that throb within me!”

Rogaro and Morley live in an ominous castle in the tiny Central European country of Crovakia – so tiny in fact, that it seems to consist of just one town whose inhabitants are referred to only as “villagers”.

Rogaro is a sorcerer with a “skull-like visage”, a “satanic” beard, and mouldy teeth. Morley, his mute, pock-marked and dim-witted manservant (“Don’t worry about Morley… He is stupid,”)

Their blissful master and servant existence of largely unprovoked physical and verbal abuse is interrupted by the arrival of the General and the advanced forces of his invading army. It’s not stated which country this invading army originates from but we’re given to understand they’re an expansionist power, eager for Crovakia and the rest of Central Europe to submit to their political philosophies, and who like to address each other as “Comrade”.

The General has a plan for Crovakian domination (and maybe more) and needs the help of Rogaro, “The only sorcerer in the area”, to realise his fiendish ends. The 150 year old skeleton of Victor Frankenstein having been acquired, Rogaro must now restore the archetypal misguided scientist to life by means of an “ectoplasmic transfer”. What for, General? “It is simple. We want our army to be made from the parts of dead men – you will perform an operation which our science calls a lobotomy… these soldiers will be nothing more than docile vegetables… but still with the instinct to fight.”

So, with the Baron duly resurrected, six corpses (“Not too decayed!”) are sent out for so that he can set about his ungodly task of creating an army of hastily-assembled fighting vegetables. If he collaborates, he gets to return to the Land of the Dead. Should he refuse to co-operate – an ectoplasmic eternity of wandering around feeling really, really guilty about his past. In short, not unlike his own unfortunate handiwork, the Baron has been well and truly stitched up.

Meanwhile, former farmer and staunch Crovakian patriot, Wilhelm “Don’t call me comrade!” Warren is languishing in the town prison, incarcerated following a brave but futile show of resistance against the invaders. Deliverance is at hand however, in the form of a makeshift Crovakian Popular Front who blast him out of jail Spaghetti Western-style. Not a bad plan if anyone had thought to bring some horses along. As it is, all three plucky but simple members of the CPF are killed during the attempted getaway and only Wilhelm manages to escape to the safety of the forest.

While Wilhelm is wandering about wondering what’s happened to his beautiful sister, Katherine, we learn that Crovakia has a coastline, and not only that but some quite nice beaches as well. As Wilhelm sits deep in thought on some rocky outcrop he is surprised by the sudden appearance of a sea monster. No, wait a minute, Wilhelm! It’s not some prehistoric creature returned from the murky depths, it’s OGRE nuclear submarine Tylosaur and on board; the heavily-bandaged Captain James Judson and the tall, groaning, heavily-booted figure of the Frankenstein monster.

Captain Judson and the monster, it seems, are on the lam following a bit of unfortunate business in the previous book. Adrift in the Tylosaur, they’ve fetched up in war-ravaged but picturesque Crovakia, the apparent source of some peculiar “emanations” being picked up by the monster (who, despite being a monster, is still a creature of some sensitivity).

Back in town, villagers Johann and Gustav are drinking foaming beer and eagerly dissecting reports of ghoulish goings-on in the local graveyard. Johann proves to be the more astute and less superstitious of the locals, opining; “I think there’s some scientific experimenting going on… that isn’t on the up and up, if you know what I mean.” Oh, I do, Johann. I do.

With suspicion rife, imagine the reception waiting for Captain Judson – a stranger in those parts, done up like The Invisible Man and flashing his gold pieces about – when he goes into town to pick up some supplies. They’re itching for their pitchforks. “Probably a doctor who turned bad,” surmises Johann.

Following Judson back to the cave where he’s hiding with the monster, the locals’ suspicions are apparently confirmed; “A monster?”, “Yes, a monster!” And before you can say “angry mob of torch-wielding villagers”, they’re off down to the beach to administer a bit of arbitrary justice.

After a bit of boulder-hurling, Judson and the monster escape and make their way to a nearby farmhouse where they encounter Katherine (the beautiful sister, you may remember, of Wilhelm – of whom we’ve heard nothing for the last couple of chapters). And guess what? She’s blind, so she doesn’t judge them on appearances and offers them food and shelter instead of running off screaming or trying to set fire to them.

“We all have our afflictions, Jim.”
Captain Judson’s soul enflamed with spiritual warmth. He had almost forgotten what it was like to be called Jim, especially by a beautiful woman.

There now follows a really quite touching sequence in which Katherine teaches the monster to talk accompanied by lots of group hugs. This is probably the best written part of the whole book. But never mind all that! We’re soon back at Rogaro’s castle where the old alchemist’s erstwhile smoky and sulphurous workshop has been transformed into a modern, fully-equipped scientific laboratory complete with random coils, crackling electricity and tanks brimming with preserving fluid.

Despite grave misgivings, Comrade Frankenstein has already managed to knock up half a dozen flatpack supermen but there’s a problem. One of the brains appears to have been dropped by a cack-handed lackey and you know what that means – he’s one brain short of a filthy creation! Supplies from all the local cemeteries, gibbets and medical schools have been completely exhausted so what’s an undead mad genius to do? Against his better judgement, Frankenstein agrees to let the dribbling, pock-marked Morley go out and procure fresh supplies. So fresh in fact, that they’re still warm and dripping when he returns…

Meanwhile back at the farmhouse, as the storm clouds gather, there’s just time for a quick romantic interlude between Captain Judson and the beautiful Katherine, and Judson is experiencing some regrets about his own OGREish past. Katherine isn’t bothered though and has his bandages off in no time. It’s all going rather well in fact, until their innocent world of carefree horrible disfigurement is rent asunder by the sudden reappearance of brother Wilhelm with Johann and the villagers in tow. Tempers flare and before you know it, two locals have been sliced in half with an axe and Judson and the monster are trapped in the blazing farmhouse!

How will it all end? The Baron’s blasphemous work nears completion. The first peals of thunder echo across a heavy sky charged with life-giving electricity. Will the dead walk once more? Will Judson and the monster escape and be reunited with Katherine and creator respectively. Will they regain consciousness in the ruins of a Crovakian castle and flee the locals in their nuclear submarine? Will they meet Dracula? Who knows?

Bones of Frankenstein is dedicated to Peter Cushing, “The distinguished Baron Frankenstein of Hammer Films”, but this is less Hammer Horror than a kind of Gothic pantomime (“He’s behind you!”). Glut’s writing style may sometimes be as lumbering and ungainly as his monstrous subject matter, but it’s impossible not to be caught up and carried along by the obvious enthusiasm he displays. It’s alive, I tell you! It’s alive!

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