After the Fall of the Hammer:
Frankenstein films from the early 1970s to the 1990s
1960s and 1970s were not particularly successful decades for Victor Frankenstein and his
Monster. After the end of Hammer's own Frankenstein series with the
final entry Frankenstein and the Monster from
Hell, cinemas were flooded with mostly Italian and Spanish low-budget
that tried to exploit
Mary Shelley's story and the popular Frankenstein "brand". Most
of these titles hardly contributed anything new to the
Frankenstein myth and ended up as being crude mixtures of sex, violence
and bad screenwriting. However, despite their lack of any
serious cinematic merit, many of these movies have since become
"cult classics". They are still favorites at midnight screenings and cult
film festivals, mostly due to their low-budget origins and
ridiculous plots and dialogue.
This seemingly endless list of movies contains forgettable
fare such as trash king Jess Franco's Dracula
Prisoner of Frankenstein (Spain, 1972) and The Erotic Rites of
Les Expériences érotiques de Frankenstein
(Spain, 1972). The convoluted plot of Erotic Rites of
Frankenstein revolves around evil sorcerer Cagliostro and his
aide Melissa the bird-woman (!), who murder Dr. Frankenstein, steal
his creature (a Karloff-look-a-like with funky silver-painted skin)
and plan to create a race of super-humans. Considered absolute rubbish
even among many Jess Franco devotees, the film is memorable for
scenes such as the silvery Monster whipping a scantily clad couple.
Erotic Rites of Frankenstein makes absolutely no sense and
ranks among the worst films the author of these pages has ever had
the misfortune to watch.
One might argue that it has some sort of dream-like atmosphere
completely removed from reality, but after all this no-budget
production is only dull and stuffed with bad acting, laughable
effects and terrible, mostly out-of-focus camera work.
Both this and the equally bad Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein
should be avoided at any cost.
Compared to Jess Franco's
rubbish, the Afro-American Frankenstein version
(USA, 1972; dir: William A. Levey), in which a black Vietnam veteran is
turned into a blood-thirsty monster by one Dr. Stein, the
sexploitation comedy Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks
(Italy, 1973; dir: Ramiro Oliveros) and Al Adamson's Dracula Vs.
Frankenstein (USA, 1970) might seem like cinematic masterpieces,
although in fact they are also better left unwatched.
di Frankenstein aka Lady Frankenstein (Italy,
1971, dir: Mel Welles), is another typical product of that period. Taking elements
from Hammer's series, this Italian-American low-budget production
adds a female Frankenstein figure, Tania (Rosalba Neri), to continue
her father's work, after he is killed by his Monster. The movie ends
up as a crude mixture of Hammer-style horror, spiced up with sex and
nudity and pointless violence, but is ultimately ruined by bad
acting, laughable special effects and ridiculous plot-twists and
dialogue, albeit none as bad as in Erotic Rites.
Building on their successful Gojira monster series, Japanese studio
Toho released two movies with references to Frankenstein in the
1960s, directed by Ishiro Honda: In 1965s Furankenshutain
tai chitei kaijû Baragon (Frankenstein Conquers the World) the
immortal heart of Frankenstein's monster is brought to Japan, where
it is revived by nuclear radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima.
The heart mutates into a boy who then grows and finally develops into
a giant monster, which battles Baragon, a dinosaur released during an
earthquake. The sequel Furankenshutain no kaiju:
Sanda tai Gaira (1966) has only loose connections to the
Frankenstein story, which were completely edited out in the US-distributed
version entitled War of the Gargantuas. Basically, the plot
revolves around two hairy giant monsters spawned from cells of the
Frankenstein monster, which end up battling each other. Both movies
are notable for the fact that the name Frankenstein refers to the
monsters rather than the creator.
© 1999-2005 Andreas Rohrmoser