Richard Raaphorst set out to make his art come to life on film. His twisted, Nazi created half-man/half-robot monsters are visually interesting and impressive. The problem is that visual effects simply cannot carry a film. Such is the case with Frankenstein’s Army.
The main problem with Frankenstein’s Army is that it is a found footage film. There is simply no need for it. The fact that it is supposed to be shot during World War II on 8mm film is completely implausible. The amount of film needed, first of all, to encompass to the entire movie would be multiple reels. Also, the audio? Where are they getting this? Who is recording the audio to go with it? Wait, did I mention that it is color film? Even if I attempt to suspend disbelief, I’m still having trouble with a found footage film from the 40’s looking like a digital print from today.
Had Frankenstein’s Army abstained from this point of view shot, I still wouldn’t have been able to fully buy into the plot of the movie. A Russian team has been brought to a castle after receiving a distress signal. I actually couldn’t pick up on this exact detail until I watched the making of featurette. The signal has been sent by another group of Russian soldiers on the premise, and soon the rescue team begins to encounter multiple robot monster men. Now, this is where Frankenstein’s Army works on a video game movie mentality level. The visual of these creatures is pretty wicked. They go after the soldiers, attacking them and we end up with a big chase movie for an hour.
After this chase, an hour in, we finally get what resembles a plot. The camera operator has received instruction to find a Dr. Frankenstein and bring him back to the base. From there we end up finding the doctor, we see a bunch of gruesome dissections as he explains his need for making these creatures and the movie more or less just ends. Again, this works on a video game movie level (this could’ve been Castle Wolfenstein!). However, there are too many things this movie could have been for it to work for me.
These days, the majority of the population view Nazis as insane while a tiny portion view them as brilliant. The sad fact is they were probably both. The amount of medical advancement from the sick experiments performed by these men is highly overlooked, as it is definitely taboo to credit them with any good. The fact, though, that they ran experiments that could have produced something vaguely resembling the monsters in Frankenstein’s Army is what makes the film most discouraging for me. As a fan of WWII history, mostly in the National Socialist Party department, the execution of taking Raaphorst’s artistic creations and throwing them into a movie that is so lacking in explanation is highly disappointing.
Despite my lack of interest in the film itself, I have to give Raaphorst and the entire crew of the film, mostly the Unreal FX Team, major kudos for their work. The blu-ray contains a making of featurette that shows the process of bringing the artwork to life. Seeing the designs of the creatures on paper, and having them become real three dimensional objects is very interesting. Practical effects are no longer around in the capacity they once were. Seeing these drawings come to life is actually more entertaining than the movie itself. And these effects are incredible. The FX prosthesis of actors’ heads are more lifelike than most films I’ve watched these types of the behind the scenes features on. It is simply a shame that the film housing these creatures and effects isn’t more substantial. The quality of the picture is as stated above: a digital print that has some effects added here and there to show age, but really, it’s clear and fine. Sound is the same quality you would find on any common present day blu-ray release. The disc includes somewhat informative interviews with the director, cinematographer and others. There are also ten second long spots for each of the creatures in the film.
We’ve come to a point in film where storytelling no longer matters. As long as there are visuals to produce ooo’s and aaa’s, the majority of filmgoers could care less about a film being plausible. View Frankenstein’s Army simply as an experiment of bringing art to life, and you may be mildly entertained.