12 March, 2022


LUST FOR FRANKENSTEIN/Lady Frankenstein (1998)
Written, Produced and Directed by Jess Franco, US/Spain.
With Lina Romay, Analia Ivars, Carlos Subterfuge, Michelle Bauer, Amber Newman, Robert King.
93min. A One Shot Production.

Franco's first Frankenstein was emodied by the gigantic
Spanish character actor, familiar from Spanish-Italian Eurowesterns, Fernando Bilbao (DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN (1971).

Astounding, obsessively personal, ultra-bizarre, morbid, perverse and maddening are terms which come immediately to mind while or just after watching this most recent entry into the Frankenstein file of Jess Franco. Earlier drafts include such grade Z mixes of horror, sexploitation and experimentation as THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN -1972 ) and DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN filmed with the same cast, crew and sets the same year. The monsters in those films, played by Fernando Bilbao as a silver skinned, moronic killing machine, have nothing on Michelle Bauer in this new version. Casting the American scream queen in this legendary role was a stroke of genius, as her always nude (except for combat boots!) creature is a riveting, pathetic creation as the lover-slave of sex-starved scientist Moira (Lina Romay), the frustrated daughter of Dr. Frankenstein. 

American filmmakers were also having fun with Frankenstein in the 1970s after Mel Brooks YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN hit it big.....

Jess Franco would tell me when I interviewed him in 2005 that THE CURSE (EROTIC RITES) OF FRANKENSTEIN was his personal favorite in his Frankenstein series ("the erotic version," he specified) and one can see why. It's tone is one of transgressive glee, as if he were giggling at the silver skinned creature in that penniless presentation. The tone here is one of more morbid humor with a touch of primal fear.

Jess Franco would have approved of this 1965 William Beaudine-directed Frankenstein mash-up featuring cowboys vs. the vengeance seeking daughter of Baron Frankenstein.

The plot is minimal, as usual in Franco's post 1980's work, narrative elements are pushed to very edges of what can best be described as a nonstop barrage of digital delirium delivered at full metal intensity to the eye, ear and libido. The violent nightmares of Moira include bloodly visions of Dr. Frankenstein and his female composite. The monster (whom may or may not be Moira's erotic fantasy) shows up, becomes her lover and her instrument of revenge, killing everyone else in the cast. They end up in bed together at the end, as Moira wonders if it all really happened. The action (or non-action) begins and ends with a famous quote from Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940), an Academy Award winning classic and one of the numerous direct and indirect references to films made by others as well as Franco's own previous work (Romay is seen wearing T-Shirts with logos from SUCCUBUS and THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA- late 1960's thrillers featuring - respectively - Janine Reynaud and Soledad Miranda, two legendary and hypnotic sex stars the likes of which we will probably never again experience).

The lack of a sustained/coherent plot is likely to deny many access to the visual/aural delights which abound as is the obsessive focus on sex (nothing new for Franco). What is new here is the fact that the production was shot at least partially on video and is layered with what seems like miles of digital effects courtesy of the director's collaboration with the technicians at the Centro de Tecnologia de la Imagen-University of Malaga, Spain. Imagine the "Beyond the Infinite" final passage of Kubrick's 2001... redone by Salvador Dali, Charles Manson and the Marquis de Sade and you get some kind of idea what is in store. The digital imaging appears in virtually every scene and many shots have numerous layers of highly saturated colors, incongruent form, jarring structures and other visual noise playing over the erotic encounters between the scientist, the monster, a dominatrix from hell (the white-hot Analia Ivars) and everyone else in sight.

The return of Frankenstein in the Franco-verse. And this time it's a woman played by an American Scream Queen.
Pink Floyd, one of Jess Franco's favorite prog-rock groups, joins in the madness....

Add to all this a throbbing, jacked-up neo-heavy metal score by Mikel Sagues and Franco himself and you have the ingredients for a mind reeling spiral which forever seems on the verge of spinning out of control and sometimes does. Sex and more sex at a thousand miles high, but somehow seeming to occur at the rate of events at the bottom of the ocean floor. Sound impossible? Welcome to the parallel universe called Jess Franco. Why has it taken you so long to get here?

04 March, 2022


  Odile, a beautiful but naive young woman vacationing in Spain, attracts the attentions of a voyeuristic couple who live across from her hotel. The couple spy on her as she lounges around naked, and when they invite her over for a session of grou sex, Odile gives in immediately.

After spending days enjoying this
menage a trois, the couple take Odile to the villa of the wealthy Wanda Von Karlstein, where the sex continues. Wanda's perverted husband drugs Odile's drink and rapes her. When she awakens, Odile is chained to a bed, and her captors have sado-erotic torture and death in mind. One of her abductors has a sudden attack of remorse after finding her mutilated body, murders the Von Karlsteins, and walks into the ocean carrying Odile's dead body.

HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is quite a bit more immersive than some of Franco's more tedious sex-a-thons of the 1980s. The florid, tropical locations and gorgeous cinematography offers a counterpoint to the downbeat melodrama. A melancholy female vocal sets a sombre tone throughout, which Franco maintains until the very last shot of the blazing sun beating down on the aftermath of violence and death. The character of Odile immediately resonates and she might be compared to Henry James' Daisy Miller, although the milieu here is a century, a culture and miles removed. The locations here are familiar from other Franco Golden Films Internacional productions. Franco's concentration of multi-colored flowers makes this one of his most visually gorgeous films of that period.

There are many effective visual and aural touches throughout, which amplify the theme of corrupted innocence. For instance, the victim is first seen wandering in an idyllic garden reading excepts from Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead," foreshadowing her own fate literally. It is also significant that her abductors use Beethoven's famous Ode to Joy from his Ninth Symphony to seduce her attention, underscoring the theme of Old World decadence preying on Odile's gullibility.

As Odile Alicia Principe offers sensuality a la 1981 tourist quality, with a tragic ignorance of the brutal ways of the world, at least the world according to sexual hipsters in post Francisco Franco Spain.

Exotic looking Carmen Carrion and the gaunt, sinister Daniel Katz are well-cast as the wealthy tormentors. Katz's impotent freak-out while raping Odile is especially blood-curdling. There is also a subtle sociological subtext similar to the situation in Franco's 1973 THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, wherein upper caste villains use a financially struggling lower-class couple to provide victims for their blood lust. This inequity creates a scene in which a henchman turns on his vicious employers.

The scene in which the only survivor of the massacre carries Odile's body into the water is also lifted from the end of THE PERVERSE COUNTESS. The long, excruciating sequence detailing Odile's torture and death is painful to watch, as chains, whips, and studded medieval-style weapons are used to strip away her flesh. Franco encourages us to become emotionally engaged with Odile, which ratchets the level of intensity even higher. The fact that it's shot in soft focus with hallucinatory, multi-colored light emanations decorating the sado-erotic action makes it all the more disturbing.

The stuff of nightmares, HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is highly recommended and has been released on DVD by Severin Films. That 2007 DVD includes an interview with the director
, finding Jess in an unusually self- critical state of mind we learn that the production was more than modest, "two cents" rather than usual two dollars and that Franco was less than pleased with Principe (whom he terms "stupid") and Mauro Rivera (BLACK CANDLES). He saves his praise for Carmen Carrion and Daniel Katz, noting the latter actor simply disappeared after acting in a few of his films. He also manages to wave off Just Jaeckin's STORY OF O, suggesting the director is more of a high fashion photographer than a real director. More to the point he notes that Sade, rather than Pauline Reage, was his real influence here and encourages critics to actually "read" the oft condemned author rather than moralize about him. Even more fascinating is his discussion of his use of water symbolism as a kind of portal to another reality.   It is hoped that an updated, HD release will appear asap.

Sadean, but not Sade, or an official Sade adaptation. The film was certainly heavily inspired by the writings of  "The Divine Marquis", as are many of Franco's films, whether Women in Prison, horror, crime-noir, or whatever genre he is working. Nor is it an official adaptation of the Pauline Reage novel. It is closer to such earlier Franco Sade adaptations as EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION or LE COMTESSE PERVERSE. It's very much in the Sade wheelhouse, a modality which Franco continually returned to throughout his long, busy career.

Robert Monell   2022

Video Resources

Historia Sexual de O