Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lady Frankenstein (1971)

For most of its running time, the Italian-made horror flick Lady Frankenstein seems like a pointless retelling of the classic Mary Shelley narrative about a mad doctor, Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten), assembling a creature from parts of corpses and then animating the thing with electricity. The only noteworthy wrinkle is the presence in Castle Frankenstein of the doctor’s beautiful daughter, Tania (Rosalba Neri, billed as “Sara Bay”). Yet even her presence doesn’t make much of a difference until about halfway through the running time, when (spoiler alert!) the creature kills the doctor. Then Tania unveils her own special brand of madness by seducing her father’s partner in crime, Charles (Paul Muller), into participating with a grotesque scheme—Tania wants to plant Charles’ brain into the handsome body of a servant, thus creating her perfect man. Had this perversely psychosexual plot been the driving force of the entire movie, Lady Frankenstein might have been more palatable. But then again, the movie has so many rough edges—abrupt editing, bored acting, nonsensical plot twists—that it’s likely nothing could have lifted Lady Frankenstein into the realm of worthwhile cinema. After all, this movie’s version of the Creature (Peter Whiteman) sports silly makeup including an oversized head that looks like a mushroom. On the plus side, for those who simply must see every Franken-flick and/or those whose appetite for low-budget horror in general is insatiable, Neri’s quite sexy with her raven-black hair, intense eyes, and graceful figure—it’s easy to accept her as both madwoman and seductress. (She also benefits from better dubbing than some of her costars receive, since Lady Frankenstein—like most Italian films of the period—includes only post-production sound.) It should also be mentioned that Lady Frankenstein features a smattering of gore and nudity, so the movie is not without its low pleasures. As for ostensible leading man Cotten, by the way, he delivers the sort of somnambulistic performance that characterized the twilight of his career, not even bothering to conceal the East Coast lilt in his voice despite the fact that he’s playing a European.

Lady Frankenstein: LAME

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