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Frankenstein’s Monster as the Father of a Superhuman Race

by Tony Nash

(Euro Witches & Madmen #2)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(This review is of the French language, Erotic version)

(Author’s Note: Due to the French language version being abundant with nudity, some of the stills will be of the alternate Spanish clothed version)

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La Maldicion de Frankenstein (Les Experiences Erotiques de Frankenstein/Le Malediction de Frankenstein/The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein/The Erotic Experiences of Frankenstein/The Rites of Frankenstein/The Curse of Frankenstein) **** (1973) R

Howard Vernon: Count Cagliostro

Alberto Dalbes: Dr. Jonathan Seward

Beatriz Savon: Dr. Vera Frankenstein

Anne Libert: Melisa, the Blind Bird Woman

Dennis Price: Dr. Rainer Frankenstein (as Denis Price)

Daniel White: Inspector Tanner

Fernando Bilbao: The Monster

Lina Romay: Esmerelda the Gypsy (in Spanish language version only)

Luis Barboo: Caronte

Carmen Yazalde: Madame Orloff/The Female Mate (as Britt Nichols)

Written & Directed by Jesus Franco (as Jess Franco) (loosely inspired by the work of Mary Shelley)

Synopsis: The evil Hypnotist Magician Cagliostro has Dr. Frankenstein and his henchman killed by his Bird Woman assassin and steals his newly risen Creature for his own nefarious purposes. The doctor’s estranged daughter Vera teams with Dr. Seward to stop Cagliostro from creating a second monster, a woman, so it and the Frankenstein Creature can create a new power race dedicated to a deity called Pantos.

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In a pseudo in name only sequel for Dracula Contra Frankenstein, Jess Franco presents the “Not-so-Good” doctor getting killed off by his immortal rival Cagliostro so the sorcerer can command a new race of superhumans spawned from the Monster and a Mate still to be created. Taking cues from both the old Gothic style of films made by Universal Films, and the recent trend of bizarre Pop Art (laced with Erotica and violence) comics called Fumetti that was popular throughout Continental Europe in the 60’s and 70’, Franco once again takes his audience on a delirious journey that will see living corpses, unconventional science, and black magic. Much like its predecessor, the film is a kind of throw back to the old school Horror movies, but with more emphasis on originality, including an ageless wizard looking to rule the world.

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Franco does a complete 180 degree turn here, and instead of using his traditional locations and atmosphere, instead goes for trippy camera angles and lighting, mimicking the style of the Fumetti. Now the Fumetti was a bizarre comic strip in Europe that focused either on intense sexual scenes or extreme violence, a few even choosing to combine both. Many of the drawings today are considered pieces of art as some well recognized artists got their start with that subgenre of comics.

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Howard Vernon, one of the most underrated character actors of the 40’s to the 80’s, gets the role of a lifetime with the character of Cagliostro. A true harkening back of the super evil genius of 1940’s serials, Cagliostro is an uber powerful wizard and hypnotist with ambitions to make the world his plaything. Vernon gets to deliver very eloquent and occasional philosophical dialogue, all while hamming it up when his adversaries go through his inventive methods of torture. Even when he is hamming it up, Vernon isn’t going to a level that would border on the laughable taking audiences out of the moments he’s on screen, and in fact evokes a true kind of menace and evil. Anne Libert, a French actress who went between serious films, genre films, and even softcore films, also delivers an exceptional, even if a little on the laughable hammy side, as Melisa the Blind Bird Woman. One of Cagliostro’s early efforts at a superhuman race by means of injecting human DNA into a bird’s egg, Melisa was the only result as he discovered she was blind upon coming to life. Like Vernon, Libert gets to deliver some pretty eloquent and philosophical dialogue, acting as a messenger and voice for the creator she’s absolutely devoted to, all while bobbing back and forth to feel the vibrations of the world around her. She also acts as an assassin of sorts, biting the necks of those who would attempt to go against her creator, and has an equal sexual appetite, enjoying both pain and pleasure.

(Author’s Note: In the original French version, Cagliostro created Melisa specifically as his servant to aid him, while the English dub presents her as his aborted attempt at a daughter who, because she was blind, became his servant. The French version makes more sense in this regard because Cagliostro has a certain affection and respect for Melisa, something he wouldn’t have if he disowned her as a daughter.)

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While Alberto Dalbes, Beatriz Savon, and Dennis Price, do offer some pretty interesting performances, they’re not as exceptional or unique as Howard Vernon and Anne Libert. Dalbes and Savon particularly look like they’re going through the motions just to complete the project, and offer little in the way of changing facial expressions, though Savon shows off some genuine fear as she and one of Cagliostro’s defrocked aids are chained together and whipped by the Monster.

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Looking more like a Tajuana Bible (a fancy term for Hispanic porn comics) come to life than a traditional Horror/Sci-Fi hybrid, this take on Frankenstein and other Horror tales still offers the chills and thrills one would expect from the genre. While low on budget, the acting and use of locations and cinematography make the film more enjoyable. Along with La Comtessa Noire, Maldicion de Frankenstein is one of Franco’s better efforts in the wake of the death of Muse Soledad Miranda, and showed he still could do a fine feature film when he was in the right frame of mind, and liked the subject matter at hand.

(Believe it or not, this one of Franco’s crazier works that I actually can recommend to people. While there is an abundance of nudity, it’s really just mainly women, and a single man, standing, laying, or reclining in the all-together, no sex whatsoever are present, save for two sequences in which Anne Libert’s Bird Woman is shown eating two victims in a fashion that borders on sex. Done on improvisation like many of his 70’s films, this one has the most coherent and continuity sound structure of any of what to be Franco’s more audience friendly fare. If anything Howard Vernon’s performance alone is worth checking it out. The Blu Rays of Redemption/Kino and Nucleus Films both offer sound restorations and audio quality of the film, the Nucleus Films edition being the slightly preferable one as it contains both the French original and the alternate Spanish version, offering viewers the chance to compare the versions.)

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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