Twas a greyish, winter morning of late when The Doctor and Tuesday Night Cigar Club president Matthew Cade pondered via phone exchange what movie I should next review. As usual, boredom and frustration led to us perusing the titles of grade-B (and C and D) shark movies, the kind of fare that would have been televised at midnight on the SyFy channel in the days prior to streaming content. I believe they are now known as Days of Yore. Cade mentioned that he was toying with the idea of smoking The Bride of Frankenstein cigar and thus we settled on Sharkenstein, a 2016 movie from Wildeye Releasing and directed by Mark Polonia.* The plot scenario, such as it is, mentions Nazi experiments involving the weaponization of sharks that goes undiscovered until the present day, or something like that. “What do you say, Doc? History and shark movies, this is combining two of your favorite things!” Cade had said. In theory, it sounded like a potential lark… in theory.
A German U-boat surfaces somewhere on the high seas of the North Atlantic around 1942 and I missed an opportunity to bail out early. I knew going in that Sharkenstein was “low-budget” in every possible connotation of that term, but the CGI U-boat was so terribly cartoonish that it is hard to imagine that almost any American middle school student couldn’t have produced something better over the course of a rainy weekend. Honestly, it resembled something from a 1980’s video game. The next scene raised even more questions, all of which were overwhelmed by this one: Did Nazis wear Adidas? This was never mentioned in any of the books I’ve read on The Third Reich or World War II but, sure enough, a group of supposed stormtroopers are witnessed going up a staircase and I’ll be damned if a couple of them weren’t wearing modern day athletic sneakers. Maybe that is why so many of them froze to death on the Eastern Front. These Nazis steal something from a German doctor – what exactly is unclear – before absconding in the video game U-boat. It was at this point that I started drinking. Ah, who am I kidding, I had already started.
Sharkenstein then jumps to a lakeside retreat in the modern day. A trio of grown adults who look and behave as if they have escaped from a home for people who are too stupid to be allowed to mingle with the rest of modern society are on their way to the lake for a day of fun in the sun. Although it is never explicitly stated, I got the feeling that these three imbeciles were supposed to be college students, even though one of them is clearly well into his forties and almost certainly had experienced severe brain trauma at some point in his life.
While the dipshits rent a boat and head out onto the lake, the local harbor patrol are busy investigating a series of disappearances that have occurred. Can the blonde mullet-sporting harbor cop named Duke discover the source of this foul play before anyone is harmed? Duke’s mullet may have a pristine quality about it, but Dog the Bounty Hunter he is not. More’s the pity. Which begs a sidebar: why don’t more filmmakers cast Duane Chapman in their films? He certainly has the look and the screen presence. Granted, I doubt that the money existed in the Sharkenstein budget to get Dog away from Hawaii but I can’t help but think he would have raised this turkey at least a notch or too.
Frank – er, Shark – is controlled somehow by a mad German scientist who appears to have stolen a pair of my glasses. We know that he is a mad scientist because he keeps a brain in a jar of fluid resting on a shelf in his laboratory. The Frankenstein stitches in the shark’s fin are visible when it surfaces from the depths below, and this was a nice touch that I admittedly couldn’t help but laugh at. The cinematography is noteworthy but the CGI special effects are simply too ghastly to overcome.
Eventually Dr. Mengele and the recreational morons run afoul of each other, but Christ if I knew what in the hell was going on anymore by that point. We are treated to such gemstones of dialogue like “Sharkenstein won’t give up!” as well as the thought-provoking lines “Think back to the movies. Maybe there’s a clue there.” The shark develops the ability to eventually go landward leading to a hideous approximation of some type of stop-motion atrocity that resembles, quite literally, a crime against science, nature, and filmmaking.
Sharkenstein tries to be “bad-funny” but, with the exception of a couple scenes, it’s just bad. Mary Shelley passed away in 1851 so she likely wouldn’t know what to make of any moving picture, much less Sharkenstein. Suffice it to say that James Whale would be rolling over in his grave and the ghost of Ed Wood would be insanely jealous. Still, if it is your custom to be drunk at midnight on Saturday – and if you read my reviews, then I assume it is – then Sharkenstein is not entirely without merit. I realize that statement is confusing. So is Sharkenstein. What a tangled web we weave. As always, my good friends, The Doctor wishes you all a clean bill of health.
* Mark Polonia has apparently made a career out of directing low-budget schlock. According to IMDB, as of this writing he has fifty (50!) director credits, including such titles as Peter Rottentail, Halloween Night, Chainsaw Killer, Revolt of the Empire of the Apes, Frozen Sasquatch, and dozens of others. He deserves his due for this prolific output and his success at bringing his films to market. Perhaps Cade will have more to say about the filmography of Mark Polonia. I will not.
SIZE: 7 1/8 x 49
WRAPPER: Connecticut Broadleaf Rosado
As I believe I’ve mentioned before in one of these collaborative film/cigar reviews, I am nowhere near as well versed in the classic Universal Monsters as The Doctor is so both Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein are somewhat unfamiliar to me as a cinephile beyond the basics. But what I can confidently say that I AM knowledgeable in is the MONSTER SERIES of cigars by Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje and I’m stoked that there is one more up for review so Doc and I can tag team once again! And I highly encourage you to search our TNCC website for our other Monster cigar/film team-ups (Jason and Chucky were some of my personal favorites), they’re a lot of fun and they bring our two favorite worlds crashing together beautifully…
The Bride features a slightly oily wrapper that delivers a nice earthy aroma, while the foot reveals a hint of sweetness. That sweetness, while faint, is also present on the cold draw. Upon setting the cigar on fire, there’s mild black pepper through the nose with the predominate flavors of cedar and earth on the draw. It’s a beautifully burning cigar with thick white smoke traveling up from the foot and swirling around the broadleaf body of The Bride. So, was the actual Bride of Frankenstein beautiful in her own special way? I suppose much like cigars, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…
Towards the end of the first third a sweetness begins to make itself known and it’s joined by a French Roast coffee note that overtakes (ok, totally eliminates) the cedar. That combination of coffee and earth with mild spice on the retrohale would continue to be the dominating profile throughout the first half of the smoke. Construction is flawless with a smooth draw and a solid ash that hung on forever. Was the Bride of Frankenstein herself constructed flawlessly? Horny ol’ Frank certainly seemed to think so…
In the second half, the earthy mineral component is now coming through on the retrohale exclusively (the pepper has vanished) while coffee and, to a lesser extent, cedar are the forefront flavors on the draw with just a tinge of sweetness to compliment them. I’m pairing this cigar with water, which is essentially unheard of for me, but I can’t help to think The Bride would be crazy good with a Cabernet or a scotch that was heavy on the vanilla side.
And, dammit, just when I was thinking how this cigar had taken some unexpected turns from my initial impressions a really nice creaminess developed in the final third. I fucking love a complex cigar. Was the Bride of Frankenstein a complex character onscreen? I think that answer is obvious, no?
Well tonight I learned something about a creature called Sharkenstein and I learned a hell of a lot about The Bride cigar (most importantly that it’s a complex, highly enjoyable smoking experience and quite possibly one of the best in the Monster series). And check out this shit – the running time in the original Bride of Frankenstein movie is 1 hour 15 minutes and that’s almost damn near exactly how long the cigar took to smoke. Bravo Pete Johnson you maniacal mad blending scientist! This is why we do this, folks, it’s all a fun playful journey in this vast world of smokes and film.