THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972) Redemption Blu-ray: Reflections and Images
After abducting the monster from the laboratory of Doctor Frankenstein (Dennis Price) Cagliostro (Howard Vernon) and his bird woman creation, Melissa (Anne Libert) work tirelessly within the chambers of Barna Castle to create a female mate for the silver skinned creature created by Dr. Frankenstein.
A wild ride deep into Jess Franco terrain. This is an unhinged, no-budget attempt to redo the Universal horror motifs in the style of Italian Erotic Comics. It works, at least in the nude/uncovered version, simply because Franco and his cast immediately go way over-the-top and stay there: ratty looking lab props (Dr. Frankenstein’s equipment looks like battered, discarded factory junk), a silver skinned monster who looks like a confused survivor of a spray painting attack, the nude whipping scene, the mysterious sect led by the perverse, totalitarian Cagliostro, Melissa-the flesh eating human vulture who predicts pleasure and death, are typical “Jess Franco” elements, but this time he stages them with such Sadean glee that those who “get it” will be utterly transfixed while those don’t will cite it as another file in the case against the director. It’s a long way from James Whale…it’s 151 proof Jess Franco!
The version made for Spain contains additional scenes featuring Lina Romay, her first appearance in a Jess Franco film, as a gypsy and omits all of the outrageous nudity which is so essential to Franco’s aesthetic (or anti-aesthetic). The score, credited to Vladimir Cosma, H. Tical and Vincent Geminiani, is an iconoclastic collection of sonic blasts, jarring cues and odd sounds. Daniel J. White, who also appears in a minor role, also contributed cues. Jess Franco has one of his briefest cameos as lab assistant Morpho who gets knifed during the opening attack on Dr. Frankenstein’s lab by Caronte (Luis Barboo) and Melissa.
LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN [Les Experiences Erotiques des Frankenstein; THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN; Rites of Frankenstein] is even more impoverished than DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN, and more focused on Franco-branded Sadisterotica (Horror y Sexo) than the 1971 monster mash, which is pretty much an experimental enterprise disguised as a family friendly monster rally. Unlike the censored Spanish version, which is longer [82m] and “covered”, this one is the nude variant, the director’s cut, the one which Jess Franco termed “erotic” when I asked him which version he preferred during my 2004 interview with him. He hated doing one for the Spanish censors. Released in Spain in 1974 it was only seen by 133,000 viewers in it’s initial run there according to the IMDB, that version can be viewed on the 2005 IMAGE DVD. Much of the outre-satiric-erotic-Sadean impact is lost in that cut. With Howard Vernon on board as the evil scientist/necromancer Cagliostro (Franco told me it was Vernon who came up with the name “Pantos” for the evil sect) it’s like a mad atonal symphony conducted by a crazed sex freak who wants to transform the world into a vast S&M fantasy. We learn at the end that Cagliostro is actually a kind of zombie who will be reborn again in nine months, leaving room open for sequels. Thanks to Tim Lucas for citing myself and this blog in his information-rich commentary which also reveals a surprising literary source for the presentation of Franco’s outrageous monster, 1950s pulp novels written by future Jess Franco (CARTES SUR TABLE, MISS MUERTE) and Luis Bunuel (THE MILKY WAY) scenarist, Jean-Claude Carriere. Lucas also provides a helpful commentary on the trailer, although it’s not listed as an option on the menu. Toggle through the audio options on your remote to active this Easter egg.
* The synopsis at the top is an updating of my 2005 IMDB review, which was unfortunately abducted by another “writer” and placed on a European website under his name with no mention of me. This situation has since been exposed and rectified. My copyright is now renewed, ROBERT MONELL, JUNE 2015.