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JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER
Joe Bob Briggs Presents

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Lupton, Estrelita, Narda Onyx, Steven Geray, Cal Bolder, Jim Davis, Rayford Barnes
Director:  William Beaudine
Audio:  Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Elite Entertainment
Features:  Theatrical Trailer, Joe Bob Briggs Commentary
Length:  88 Minutes
Release Date:  August 19, 2003

“William Beaudine completed more than 500 films in his career, and I can definitely say that this is one of them.”Joe Bob Briggs

Film *1/2 (with commentary ***1/2)

Elite Entertainment is becoming the company that’s putting the fun back into the DVD experience.  Consider two of their new series: the Drive-In Discs collection (which recreates the experience of a drive-in theatre down to the concession stand promos, interstitials, cartoon shorts and the sounds of activity all around in addition to the double features’ movie soundtracks), and their new Joe Bob Briggs Presents titles, which has been launched with the inimitable Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.  If these aren’t enough to put a smile on your face for movie night, it may be time for you to take up stamp collecting instead.

The latter is what we want to talk about today, because it’s a prime example of how Elite makes DVD fun.  The movie itself is nothing special…I’m sure there’s some audience out there for it, but it probably doesn’t include most of us.  However, the presence of Joe Bob Briggs as a commentator makes this a release more worthy of your entertainment dollar.  By itself, I probably would have never bought JJMFD (do you mind if I call it that from now on?), but Mr. Briggs instantly elevated this title to one I’d very much want in my collection.

I’m breaching my normal review etiquette here by talking about the features of a disc during the movie review segment, but this is a case where it’s warranted.  After all, the title of JJMFD pretty much says it all.  But for the sake of plot clarification, here’s a little exposition for you:

The story takes place in an old western village where the peasants have been fleeing in droves because they believe the presence of one Frau Frankenstein (Onyx) has brought death and a curse on their town.  The granddaughter (NOT daughter) of the famed mad scientist is bent on recreating his infamous work, not so much for the science, but to create a race of slave beings for herself.  Hey, why not?

But legendary outlaw Jesse James (Lupton) enters the picture when an attempted stagecoach heist is thwarted by a traitor in his group.  With his lunkhead partner (Bolder) wounded and with the help of a lovely villager (Estrelita), they end up taking refuge you-know-where.  And Jesse is faced with an eminent career change from bandit to brain dead servant when Frankenstein’s…er, granddaughter, decides to make him her next experiment!

Wow…though watching the movie itself didn’t do a whole lot for me, I have to confess I was sitting here grinning as I outlined the plot for you.  Still, as mentioned, it’s not the movie that’s the attraction here.

Joe Bob Briggs, as you may recall, offered his first Elite commentary track for their release of the controversial I Spit On Your Grave.  It was a fresh, funny, informative and thoroughly entertaining listen that won our DMC Award for Best Commentary Track for 2002.  And Elite obviously realized they had gold, because this film marks the beginning of a whole new series of films featuring Briggs as host and commentator.

Briggs is America’s foremost expert on the good, the bad and the ugly of cult cinema, and as a commentator, his wealth of knowledge about these films, their stars and creators right down to obscure titles, dates and history is matched only by how funny he is when he talks about the absurdity of this movie and its plot.  I laughed hard and often, but I also learned a great deal…maybe more than I ever really cared to know, but movie knowledge is movie knowledge, and as such, this commentary track is indispensable.

I can only summarize how good it is by calling your attention to the above rating…yes, the movie rating goes up a FULL two stars if you listen with the Briggs commentary in place of the movie soundtrack.  You can easily do it, too…Briggs keeps you apprised of the story even better than the dialogue does, and face it, you’re not exactly missing out on Oscar Wilde scripting if you forgo the original audio.

Frankly, almost all of us DVD fans have bought discs just for their audio and/or video quality, so why not treat ourselves to one that excels because of an extra?  Even those who say they don’t always listen to the commentary tracks on DVDs are bound to find this one a treat.

Video *

I commend Elite for giving this strange B list title the benefit of an anamorphic transfer, but there’s not much else going for this presentation.  I can’t say that I blame them fully…had they announced they were going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on restoring JJMFD I would have screamed, “Have you gone MAD??”  Thankfully, as mentioned repeatedly, the movie itself is not the entertainment value here.  This aged looking, murky, soft and drab presentation is decidedly poor.  Some of the darker scenes are virtually indiscernible (as Briggs amusingly points out).  Just take this one for what it is, which isn’t a whole lot.

Audio *

Likewise, the audio sounds its age, with dialogue frequently unclear and music and effects sounding muddled.  Listen to the commentary instead…it not only sounds better than the film soundtrack, it IS better.

Features ***

Again, the commentary merits a little higher rating in this department.  In addition to it, there’s an original trailer.

Summary:

The movie is far from great, but the participation of Joe Bob Briggs makes it wholly entertaining.  For the price, this disc is an amusing and enjoyable steal.  Try it yourself and see if you don’t like it.