Here's a bit of Star Trek trivia: what film co-starring Trek alum DeForest Kelley was partially shot at southern Arizona's Colossal Cave? Only the greatest giant rabbit movie since...well, giant rabbit movies are kind of one-of-a-kind and this is the one. It was Night of the Lepus (1972) and, for some reason, Colossal Cave has hosted several of these triple bill programmers. The Outlaw Cats of Colossal Cave was a 1975 Disney nature entry, and then there was director Jerry Warren's monumental 1981 comeback Frankenstein Island.
Yes, an island movie filmed in a cave. Believe me, the Colossal Cave tour guides will fill you in on the details, but Loft-raised Tucson cineastes are a pretty informed bunch, so you may have heard of it. This was Warren's last film and he's no longer with us. But writer Tom Weaver managed to interview the director in his waning days--check out Weaver's Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers. Warren's career was primarily sandwiched between the mid-1950s and late 1960s, with The Wild World of Batwoman (1966) arguably his ""greatest achievement""--and I put that in double quotes for a reason.
After retiring to a California ranch for much of the '70s, Warren was convinced by his Batwoman star, Katherine Victor, that the kind of Z-grade hoots that the filmmaker specialized in were a hot item in the early '80s, what with VCRs and straight-to-video and other advances that Warren had barely kept up with. So they came to Arizona and shot Frankenstein. The Colossal Cave parts, anyway, which add a hint of production value to this dollar-and-change cheapie. Warren brought back some of his former stars--Robert Clarke, Steve Brodie--and with Cameron Mitchell and a few phantasmagoric appearances by never-say-die John Carradine, got it in the can. (Victor, who later became an animation coordinator for Disney, played "Sheila Frankenstein von Helsing." You gotta love that name.)
It is, as author and fellow movie maker Fred Olen Ray said, "an ordeal to sit though." The kicker is that Frankenstein Island was not even the first time Warren had filmed at Colossal Cave! In 1959 (or 1960, depending on the source), Warren released The Incredible Petrified World, where the very desert-y cave doubled as an "underwater cavern." In Weaver's "Interviews" book, Robert Clarke mis-identifies the location as "Colossal Cave in New Mexico," where the crew stayed "in some sleazy motel" and ate hamburgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "It was hard--very hard--work."
After Frankenstein Island, Warren reportedly was able to pay the print lab with his meager profits, but that was about it. DVD and tape copies exist, of varying quality, and it's been uploaded to YouTube--legally or not, I don't know. If you would like to support copyright, in whatever form Warren's mash-ups reside in, try the Jerry Warren Collection #1 by VCI Entertainment.
I'll leave the last word on Jerry Warren to Fred Olen Ray: If Warren was anything he was a salesman, par excellence. He had absolutely no regard for the quality of his films, or the satisfaction of his audience, but did know, down deep, what his customers wanted. He just would not give it to them.