On 10 April, 1966, Embassy Pictures released one of the most amazingly ludicrous double features in the history of crappy movies: not one but two horror/Western hybrids directed by William Beaudine, among the most prolific directors in the history of the medium. Alphabetically (I don't know which was the A-picture and which the B-picture - but spiritually they are both, of course, B-pictures of the first water), the first of these was Billy the Kid Versus Dracula, which was so bad that it was the one film out of his legendarily slipshod career that John Carradine declared to be his most embarrassing. We are not, sadly, here to talk about that movie; "sadly", because its sibling is pretty much a dog too, and lacks the reliable hammy charm of Carradine in a movie he knew was going to hell all around him. I give you - and Lord knows you don't need to give it back - Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. And as much as that makes it sound like the kind of movie that you could already have three-quarters written in your head, they didn't even get that right: Dr. Maria Frankenstein (Narda Onyx) is in point of fact the famous mad scientist's granddaughter.

Maria and her simpering assistant/brother Rudolph (Stephen Geray) have left Europe altogether when we meet them: the American Southwest, it seems, has much better weather conditions to follow granddad's experiments in re-animating corpses through lightning storms. Or whatever exactly Maria is up to in an old mission; it's never exactly specified and it's also not really consistent. But it involves murdering locals and placing the artificial brains the siblings retrieved from the family collection, in the hopes of making a superman, or a slave, or God knows what. Terrified of his sister's insane schemes, Rudolph has been surreptitiously poisoning the creations before they have a chance to revive, as he does with the latest victim; and it so happens that following this victim's disappearance, his family, including the beautiful Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez), are preparing to get the hell away from the town and whatever secret nastiness the Frankensteins are perpetrating under the guise of trying to heal the sick young men of the town. Consulting her grandfather's journals, Maria decides that the issue has been with her test subjects: she needs a strong, muscular hunk of man meat to experiment with.

Sensibly realising that this was all going nowhere, JJMFD now restarts. Legendary outlaw Jesse James (John Lupton), thought to be dead, has actually escaped his stomping grounds in the Midwest to try his hand as a gunslinger and thief here in the Southwestern desert. Along with his friend Hank Tracy (Cal Bolder), Jesse has been hustling and conning his way through small towns, or so it would seem from the pair's introduction, with Jesse taking bets on whether the strong, muscular Hank can win fights. That's enough to bring them to the attention of Butch Curry (Roger Creed), the leader of a local gang who recruits Jesse and Hank to help hold up a stagecoach. Butch's hotheaded brother, Lonny (Rayford Barnes) bristles at the thought, and goes to Marshal MacPhee (Jim Davis) to turn Jesse in. A shootout ensues, in which Hank is badly wounded, and the two men barely escape; as it is, Hank is practically dead when Jesse finally crosses paths with the other movie: Juanita and her family, who take the outlaws in. It's Juanita's grand idea to take Hank to the Frankensteins for the only treatment that can possibly save his life, and Maria only needs to take one look at him to know that she's found her perfect subject.

That gets us a decent chunk into the movie: the remainder is a power struggle between Maria and Jesse over Hank, and a slow-burning romance between Jesse and Juanita, and it is paced like the slow bloating of a dead rat on the highway. For a movie that's rather busy with story details, JJMFD is appallingly light on anything that resembles narrative momentum: whole scenes go by without the characters doing much of anything but milling around and batting a single plot point around limply. It is the kind of movie where after about an hour, one checks the time to find that it's 28 minutes in; an hour later, it's only gotten up to 44 minutes. The thing is, most of the storytelling is already long done by that point; even having watched the movie, I can't actually tell you what's going on in the back half, only that there's precious fucking little of it and it's doled out jealously by Carl K. Hittleman's incrementalist screenplay.

Something called Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter should, at the very least, be batshit crazy and outlandishly stupid and therefore enjoyable campy, but it's too boring for any of that to hold. This is the worst kind of bad movie, slackly directed from a shambling and aimless script, with actors who stiffly plow through their scenes, leaving nothing that's silly enough to be funny. There is one solitary exception: Narda Onyx, about whose name I was prepared to say something snarky, but why pick on her? She's the closest thing this movie has to a saving grace, and she deserved better than to have this turn out to be her final credit in a decade-long, TV-dominated career. It's not good acting she's up to, Lord knows: she's channeling a bit of that John Carradine energy herself, attempting to inoculate herself against the problems of the script by going as big as she can, and there's not a fragment of reflection or inner life to her Maria Frankenstein, the kind of mustache-twirling villain who can literally get away with talking about how proud she is to be evil. It's a stupid part that gets to the film's best solely because the bad guy is always the best part of awful low-grade horror; but Onyx goes all-in and makes it her own. The way she massacres "R"s is pure camp divinity; her big, hungry expressions of power and lust give her more personality than any other human onscreen, which takes barely any effort, understand. But Onyx is the only one putting in even that much effort: not a single one of her castmates who isn't playing a big loud Mexican stereotype makes any sort of impression, with Lupton's Jesse James the flattest of them all, a bland smile and shitty mustache where there needs to be a charismatic firebrand who could win the hearts and minds of half a nation.

The complete blank riding in the slot marked for the protagonist merely serves to compound the rest of JJMFD's crippling flaws: this is a movie where nothing goes right, and it comes to saying things like, "given the non-existent budget and schedule, Beaudine sure did a great job of preventing any sets from falling over or actors from staring into the camera". Which is to say, the film isn't inept, and that's not a little thing to say about these desperately impoverished B-movies. At the same time, ineptitude would possibly give the film some pizzazz, some trashy energy, anything besides Onyx's shameless, sensational hamming that doesn't result in your eyes gliding right off the screen. There is probably no greater sin a movie can commit than to be boring, and this is, with all due restraint, as boring as any other 88 consecutive minutes of cinema I have ever encountered.

Body Count: 6 or 7? My attention wandered.