Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jess Franco: Sleazy Frankenstein

Director: Jess Franco

Cast: Howard Vernon, Beatriz Savón, Britt Nichols, Anne Libert, Alberto Dalbés

Redemption Films / Region A / Unrated / 2.35:1 widescreen (1080p) / 2.0 French and English / English subtitles / 74 minutes

Extras: Commentary by editor of "Video Watchdog" magazine, Tim Lucas / Trailer


If you know anything about Jesus "Jess" Franco, you know that his spin on classic horror characters and tropes is a little out there. Not only does he have an interesting view of the sometimes mundane, but it usually involves nudity and sadistic sexual violence of some sort. His perverted take on Mary Shelley's much traveled road "Frankenstein" is no different and is definitely signature Uncle Jess. Like Shelley's masterpiece, Dr. Frankenstein works in a gothic castle creating a soulless monster from the pieces of dead bodies, reanimating them through mad science. But that's about where the similarities end and the fun begins! In Franco's demented version, Frankenstein's monster is a metallic-looking, silver monstrosity instead of the boring old green oaf.

After giving the creature life, Dr. Frankenstein is attacked by the evil mind-controlling Cagliostro's toadies (including squawking bird-woman Melissa) so that they can bring the monster back to their master. Before dying, Frankenstein tells Dr. Seward about the monster and the attack. Oddly, after dying, he is brought back to life long enough to tell his daughter Vera about everything as well (actually he is brought back throughout to dole out clues). Cagliostro's plans are to use the monster to kidnap virgins from the area so he can cobble together a suitable mate for Frankenstein's creature and create a super race of mind-controlled monsters!

So you have Seward hot on the trail of Frankenstein's killer and vigilant daughter Vera decides to go undercover and get kidnapped on purpose. From there she (and the viewer) witnesses Cagliostro, his harpy Melissa and the monster torturing naked people in the dungeons of the castle, usually with a crowd of undead zombies and corpses huddled around in various stages of decomposition. See, I told you this version of the classic story was a little... demented. Franco's trademark weirdness and camerawork is here and he brings along some of his favorites from his stable of actors, like Howard Vernon who is super creepy as the stone-faced Cagliostro. Anne Libert (A Virgin Among the Living Dead) plays the constantly naked (save a few green feathers here and there) and savage bird-lady Melissa.

Long time Jess Franco champion Redemption Films has brought yet another (along with classics like Female Vampire and The Awful Dr. Orlof) to high-definition Blu-ray completely remastered from the original 35mm negative. Like those other transfers, this one looks very good considering the questionable cinematography that often goes out of focus or is very soft. The colors don't really pop but are equalized throughout and look very nice overall. The contrast, which was a problem in older releases, is much better, especially in the night scenes and in the dimly lit castle. This 1080p upgrade of a very good Jess Franco movie is yet another feather in the cap of Redemption and their partnership with Kino Lorber. Also, don't forget to check out the always informative Tim Lucas from "Video Watchdog" in the audio commentary track!

1 comment:

  1. Bless your heart if you can enjoy any of franco's movies. I failed to find the love. If the dubbing was funny, or he spent money on effects, or maybe a cheap blood squirt, or an over the top performance, any decent scares, some awesome porno, cool music. If there was just one of those things I wouldn't have to put him right next to the guy that I frequently mistaken him for Jean Rollin. Otherwise I could watch their movies any day before most new horror flicks.


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