It’s the late 1980s, and Michael Fenton, editor of Ramboona (a magazine dedicated to forgotten films), is attempting to track down the lost test footage from the 1931 Frankenstein produced by Universal Studios. It’s the holy grail of horror film aficionados: the twenty-minute reel in which Bela Lugosi portrays Frankenstein’s Monster instead of Boris Karloff, who would go on to make cinematic history with his portrayal of Mary Shelley’s creation. In his attempt to locate this fifty-year-old film canister, Mike is led down a labyrinth of blind alleys amidst the topsy-turvy wonderland of Los Angeles and environs.
When we first encounter Mike, he’s making a pilgrimage to Lugosi’s final resting place at Holy Cross Cemetery. This is where he meets Lucy Szilagyi, a struggling young actress who happens to be visiting Sharon Tate’s grave (located only a few tombstones away from Lugosi’s). Lucy, a film buff herself, joins Mike in his quixotic search, helping him track down such curious, real-life characters as Maila Nurmi (an out-of-work actress known more famously as “Vampira”), Bela Lugosi, Jr., science fiction novelist Curt Siodmak, and Manly P. Hall (master hypnotist, mystic, Lugosi confidant, and author of a strange occult encyclopedia entitled The Secret Teachings of All Ages). All of these individuals have valuable pieces of information that could lead Mike to the hidden location of the lost test reel. .