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The Curse Of Frankenstein
cast: Albert Dalbes, Denis Price, Howard Vernon, Beatriz Saron, and Anne Libert

director: Jesus Franco

82 minutes (18) 1972
Tartan Grindhouse DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
I have often confessed my dislike for Jess Franco but, periodically, I like to confirm it. His indomitable need to make films ever contrary to his limited imagination, or at least his under-explored talent, should be applauded... for some reason... but the unending glut of rotten movies that he has provided us with would in all be too torturous for most ordinary mortals to sit through. Between Jesus Franco and Fred Olen Ray, I got completism out of my system. I had forgotten just how bad a Franco film could be. The Curse Of Frankenstein (aka: La Maladicion de Frankenstein) is particularly shabby. It reeks of Andy Milligan and Sexandroide. It is corny rubbish, insultingly taking up the original Hammer film title. Despite that cribbing from a classic you never once think to compare it to the classier British film. It is a hodgepodge of horror motifs, reeling in characters from Frankenstein, Stoker and even the Orloff name.

The film opens on the Frankenstein laboratory, which is dressed like the set for a Crackerjack monster sketch, only without the altered lyrics version of Another One Bites The Dust. A complete bleached skeleton is suspended in the centre of the room and the equipment is more painted-silver-washing-machine than Kenneth Strickfaden. They reanimate the regulation monster, the usual jigsaw bulk of a man with a flat skull top, only with, imagination alert, skin of silver, going for the robot or onion look. The suicidal looking Denis Price plays the doctor, and Jesus Franco fills a gap as the squat sidekick, Morpho. The experiment is a success because if their new world order is to fully function, his homunculi are going to have to be able to speak and think. The monster indeed speaks and in volumes with the words, 'my brain hurts.' That was a slight lie.

Intruders make for a celebration short-lived, Caronte (Luis Barboo) stabbing Morpho to death, and Melisa (Anne Libert) taking chunks out of the Doctor's throat. Melisa is an odd sight, the beautiful actress partially tarred and then green feathered. In disc extras, footage from alternative shoots of the attack, taken from a poorer quality of print, it looks like the girl is wearing blue honey monster mittens. The killer pair were on a mission for their master Cagliostro (Howard Vernon), come to steal the monster for a designated role in Cagliostro's own hellish vision of the future. That would be the Panthos, a new diabolical race of monsters and monstrousness. Doctor Seward (Alberto Dalbes) is unable to save the Doctor's life and shares his opinions on the suspicious deaths with Inspector Tanner (Daniel Gerome). The Doctor's daughter, Vera Frankenstein (Beatriz Saron) collects her inheritance and recommences the work of her father, with a same sex assistant, Abigail (Dorin Tom), reviving dad long enough for him to divulge the identity of his killer. He understanding full well that Cagliostro was behind his demise. Cagliostro is constructing a partner for the monster and needs our Vera to bring his dream to fruition. In her pursuit of the evildoer she plants herself in his path, then his hands and then his eyes, as he mesmerises her into conducting the work for him. It is down to Seward and the Inspector to rescue her and bring the horrors to an end.

Until setting about a synopsis I wasn't honestly aware that there was a plot. What a talent it is that Franco possesses! The image quality is unsettled, wandering left to right and back again. My apologies, no - that was just I, shaking my head in disbelief. It went in the other direction too... as I nodded off more than once and had to return to things you really don't want to go back to. To recompense on my little joke, the image quality is exceedingly good on this DVD and the exteriors and locations are incredibly attractive and well framed with the pick of Barcelona, Alicante, Murcia and neighbouring Lisbon granting the film some great countryside, buildings and shoreline respectively. So why then ruin it with the mishmash of a story that wouldn't fitfully prop up the average hardcore porno spoof? Why spend only spit on costumes and makeup? And why insult your viewer with cock awful dialogue? Franco was never going to invest too greatly any thought into his films. Completing them was the only objective. The basic skills were there but so were the distractions. Who could concentrate with Lina Romay, Soledad Miranda and Anne Libert amongst your regular company of players, and exploitation cinema giving you all the excuse needed to repeatedly disrobe them...

The denizens of hell called to his rituals and shows are boringly masked, or lightly made up with fake ears. It is as if he has been influenced by the demons of The Vij but come away with a substandard Monster Club. The cheapness of the silver monster makeup and simple masks countermanding to the genuine skills that he could use if given to, makes me want to compare him to Michael J. Murphy. Murphy, though, could never be accused of Franco's laziness of thought, and never had the benefits of Franco's breaks. Murphy was working with miniscule budgets. Franco, by this time, had been working with more money on greater regularity, and had worked with Christopher Lee and other top-draw actors. There is no excuse for returning to this sublevel of shoddiness. In one remarkable scene, and by that I do mean only worthy of remark, the revived Frankenstein attacks Seward. He is saved from a slow throttling when the Inspector grabs a bottle of sulphuric acid and throws it in Frankenstein's face. Spot on bit of acid chucking it has to be too, like a super laser blast it completely removes the attacker's head in a millisecond, but leaves Seward untouched. Skill!

A co-production between G Fenix Films of Madrid and Comptoir Francais of Paris, most notoriously, the film was one of those with scenes re-filmed for a naughtier version to cater for each market. Franco era Spain opposed any form of liberality including the sexual, but the amorous Parisians would require a soupcon more titillation. The skin version, Les Experiences erotiques de Frankenstein (aka: The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein) has scenes that run longer with added nakedness and other sequences roughly replicated only with full nudity for some of the better looking specimens on set. This material is collected elsewhere on the disc by Brad Stevens in a 21-minute chronological clump. The image is variably fuzzy and the colour is off. Though I can't complain as it saves me a job of having to sit through it again, would it not have been better for the fans, no matter how baffling their existence, to have thrown in the complete alternative feature as an extra. The film is presented in the original Spanish with subtitles optional. Hopefully, this periodical reminder of the awfulness of Jess Franco will serve me in good stead of curiosity for the next ten years.
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