The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973)

Director: Jess Franco

Cos we need some Franco in there if we’re going to be spending this month doing horror, and this is one of a number of unwatched Franco titles on my list… and Jesus fuck, what a film it is. This could be, in many ways, the most bizarre Franco film I’ve seen yet, not just in the inherent strangeness of the story—a rather singular take on the Frankenstein story that’s actually nearer in its way to Bride of Frankenstein, except in colour, in widescreen, and rather more fucked—but in the telling of it, too, from the baffling camera angles which reminded me of Sergei Urusevsky to some extent (the credited cinematographer is Raul Artigot, who also shot The Pyjama Girl Mystery among a bunch of other stuff I don’t recognise, but Tim Lucas reckons in his DVD commentary Franco himself actually shot some of it at least) to the somewhat casual manner in which it approaches some of its more ludicrous moments, like the reanimation(s) of Frankenstein… and that’s before we even think about the extraordinary Anne Libert’s bird-woman. Lucas refers to the influence of the adult-oriented European comics of the period, of which Franco was apparently a fan, and the “comic book” comparison is perhaps the key to understanding a film which is even less realistic than usual for uncle Jess. Plot, well, the wizard Cagliostro wants Frankenstein’s monster to, er, assist him in his own project at creating a new race. Simple enough, and yet so many of the details make it just… something other (some of the more out-there stuff was apparently suggested by star Howard Vernon, who plays Cagliostro in a manner as bug-eyed as the rest of the film). And in many ways I suppose it is the sheer strangeness of the film that carries it along more than anything; Franco gets good value from his Portuguese locations, particularly that castle exterior, and from Artigot’s perplexing camerawork, but the overall oddity of the thing makes it weirdly compelling.


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