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Assignment Terror (1969)

aka … Los Monstruos Del Terror …  aka … Dracula jagt Frankenstein …  aka … Dracula contra Frankenstein …  aka … Abbott and Costello Meet Michael Rennie and the Universal Monsters.

O.K. that last one was phony but if we dropped Bud and Lou from the title it could work.

Thanks to a sparkling blu ray transfer from the fine folks at Scorpion Releasing I’ve finally been able to sit back and watch this monster mashup from the pen of Jacinto Molina. Horror fans know him best as Paul Naschy. The Spanish actor/writer returns to the screen for the third time here as the lycanthropy cursed Waldemar Daninsky. Joining in the fun, Molina/Naschy has added a very Count Dracula like vampire, a mummy and a straight legged monster wearing what looks like a poor rendition of Jack Pierce’s iconic makeup job that he bestowed upon Boris Karloff back in 1931.

Yes it’s as if Naschy has written the third segment of the House of Frankenstein/Dracula saga that Universal Studios released to a horror hungry audience in 1944 and 45. So let’s unofficially dub this one House of the Wolfman. Yeah I know. The Mummy never gets any respect but on the other hand at least he’s included here in this zany plot of alien beings looking to bring the classic monsters of black and white cinema back to life in order to achieve world domination!

“The passion and weaknesses from which our race is immune are the very ones to which the Earth creatures are plagued. Love and sex.”

So says our Alien leader, Michael Rennie, following a funky soundtrack over the opening credits that on the English language print have forgotten to include Paul Naschy among them though we do see Jacinto Molina as the credited writer. Rennie follows up that quote with another that gives us a further clue as to how he’ll conquer the world.

“Beautiful women are like powerful magnets. We shall use them to attract scientists, generals and statesmen with their vital secrets.” I guess he’s not overly interested in high paid athletes. I say this knowing you’ll never see a professional athlete without a good looking woman on his arm when not playing his chosen sport.

Rennie’s alien is disguised as Dr. Warnoff who along with others of his kind have assumed the bodies of good looking Earthlings in the form of ex-Bond girl Karin Dor and blonde babe, Diana Sorel. Perhaps walking through a carnival changes his mind on how best to conquer mankind. Like Lampini’s House of Horrors in the House of Frankenstein, this carnival has a coffin with a skeleton in it. Protruding from the chest cavity is a stake. Yes it’s the remains of a vampire and no when it’s removed it doesn’t come back as John Carradine though I’m sure if John had been approached he’d have gladly donned the cape once again. No it’s Manuel de Blas as the vampire King.

Enter Craig Hill as a police inspector investigating murders and for what ever reason has determined that ancient monsters from Universal Studios are behind a rash of killings. Plot being secondary to getting this monstrous foursome together I suppose. Next up Rennie is seen graverobbing and removing the silver bullet from the heart of Naschy’s wolfman.

Back to more of that groovy music and swinging hips. Again for no apparent reason.

Now for a Mummy hunt. It’s off to Egypt (?) to bring back the sarcophagus of Tao-Tet. We’ll see that this Mummy moves a bit quicker than Chaney’s Kharis. Actually he looks as if he’s ready to strike a karate pose at any given moment. While Rennie may be collecting the monsters he’s quick to realize they are not to be trusted. Our vampire is eyeing up Miss Dor while Naschy’s werewolf is hunting by the light of the full moon and by day has the alien inside that blonde haired beauty falling in love with him. To Rennie’s dismay those human weaknesses of love and sex seem to be overtaking the aliens within those good looking bodies.

Next thing we know The Frankenstein Monster is in Rennie’s lab with the bubbling beakers. Let the electronics show begin as Rennie brings the lumbering killer back to life. With the four Universal Studio’s favorites accounted for, we can be sure that we’re headed for a monster sized showdown in the tradition of those 1940’s classics.

Silly? You bet but you’ll be quick to ignore all the jumps in plot narrative. After all, if you’ve seen the old classics this one’s telegraphed from the start. It’s a formula picture but if you love this sort of thing then you’ll get that warm nostalgic feeling picking out all the nods to the Universal classics that Molina/Naschy has inserted. Even some of the characters name are a clear line to the earlier films. Miss Dor plays Maleva and that should immediately conjure up an image of Maria Ouspenskaya to you fans of Lawrence Talbot. Then there’s Rennie’s Dr. Warnoff. Is it a stretch to wonder aloud if that’s a tip of the hat to Bela Lugosi’s Dr. Varnoff from Bride of the Monster? After all both men had it in their plans to …. in your best Bela voice …. “conquer the Vorld.”

Brings to mind Edward D. Wood Jr.? Had he been able to scrape up an extra hundred grand I could see him attempting a film of this nature. If not Wood then definitely Al Adamson who did give us the “unforgettable” Dracula VS. Frankenstein of 1971.

Sadly this was the final film for Michael Rennie who would pass away from emphysema in 1971. While Rennie may not be remembered by the masses for this monster mashup he will always be identified with the sci-fi genre for his appearance in the Robert Wise classic, The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Apparently Assignment Terror was a troubled production with both budget and monster cuts. Supposedly The Golem was to appear, and a total of three directors were needed to get the film in the can. Hugo Fregonese (Man in the Attic), Antonio Isasi and Tulio Demicheli who actually landed the screen credit. According to the liner notes and excellent commentary from an informative Troy Howarth in Scorpion’s blu ray release, Robert Taylor, was also approached to play the Rennie role. Yes I did say MGM’s Man With the Perfect Face, Robert Taylor! That came as a big surprise to me, a life long fan of Taylor’s if indeed it’s to be believed.

Paul Naschy would continue turning out horror films featuring the “classic” monsters in the ensuing years. He’d add Dracula to his stable of portrayals alongside numerous returns to his Waldemar Daninsky wolfman character. I would suggest with the advent of blu ray releases the Naschy cult has grown with North American fans thanks to his many films being given proper releases in uncut prints wherever possible by companies like Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome and her from Scorpion.

Whacky to be sure but a welcome addition to the monster section found in the movie vault at Mike’s Take.

 

7 Comments »

  1. Oh Mike…how the mighty have fallen!
    I saw this years back on a double bill with Pete Walker’s DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE and must admit ASSIGNMENT TERROR
    came off pretty well against the Walker epic.
    Good to hear the Scorpion release looks good-I had heard Code Red were releasing it several years ago.
    It’s mainly Masochism that compels me to track this release down,plus the fact I have happy memories of the film!
    A commentary is an added bonus especially considering the films bizarre production history.
    I too heard Fregonese had directed a huge chunk of the film and jumped ship when the producers due to budget concerns axed
    The Golem and flying saucers from the mix. Around the same time Fregonese had directed Taylor in SAVAGE PAMPAS so his
    involvement makes sense as well;furthermore at the same time Taylor appeared in THE GLASS SPHINX reputedly terrible by all
    accounts.
    Tulio Demicheli,I guess,is best known for the Harry Joe Brown production SON OF CAPTAIN BLOOD with Sean Flynn.
    His Euro Western GUNMEN OF RIO GRANDE (Duel At Rio Bravo) with Guy Madison as Wyatt Earp is quiet good as well,at least
    it looks more like the “real thing” than most Euro efforts.
    ASSIGNMENT TERROR is my sole introduction to Mr Naschy, my cinematic Masochism almost compels me to (but not quiet)
    endure FURY OF THE WOLFMAN featuring iconic Noir actor Mark Stevens….like I said How The Mighty Have Fallen!

    • I have to say I’m glad that Taylor never appeared in this one. Somehow it would tarnish the image and the career in my opinion. With all due respect to Rennie. I’ve never seen that Sean Flynn film though I’m aware of it and his tragic disappearance. Naschy films are an odd mix but one can’t say he didn’t keep them coming and was a passionate lover of the classic horror monsters.

  2. I’ve never even heard of this one…what a strange, goofy idea for a film, especially for the late-1960s! And I love that poster; the four Universal monsters are the main characters, but hey, let’s put this hot blonde front and center! And every time I see Paul Naschy, he ALWAYS reminds me of John Belushi!

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