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?

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