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Published by David Carter on 2015/7/26 (758 reads)
Directed by Jess Franco
Review by David Carter

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Released by Redemption/Kino Lorber
Running Time: 74 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Mono French or English/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
Trailer Online: Yes

Somewhere between the worlds of dreams and nightmares lies the cinema of Jess Franco. The maestro had a knack for making films that were frustratingly inscrutable and yet thoroughly engrossing, but he remains something of an acquired taste even among cinephiles. The sheer volume of Franco’s work makes finding a starting point daunting. In addition to the frenetic pace with which he released films, a large amount of Franco’s movies are available in multiple versions with different titles, making it difficult for even his fans to know what films they have or haven’t seen.

A prime example of a Franco film is one that is both bizarrely oneiric and exists in multiple versions with varying degrees of explicitness. THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN fits both criteria and is now available on Blu Ray from Redemption/Kino Lorber. Alternately known as THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and simply THE RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN, Franco made three distinct versions of film to distribute in different markets. Further complicating matters is the fact that there are versions floating around that have additional hardcore scenes added, and some that combine pieces of the three “official” versions. In my opinion, EROTIC is the most authentic version of the film and, despite lacking some scenes shot with Lina Romay, is the most “Franco” of them all.

Victor Frankenstein and his assistant (Franco in a cameo) have finally succeeded in bringing his silver-skinned monster to life. His victory is short lived, however, as both men are killed by Melissa, a blind half-bird/half-woman creation of the wicked Cagliostro. Cagliostro now has control of Frankenstein’s creation and plans to use him to create a master race; the grand scheme of his cult of Pantos. But first he must create the perfect woman, so he sends Melissa and the monster out nightly to kidnap suitable females.

Meanwhile, Frankenstein’s daughter Vera arrives for his funeral. She’s come for vengeance, not mourning, so she reanimates her father’s corpse long enough for him to tell her about Cagliostro’s fiendish plan. Vera underestimates Cagliostro’s psychic powers and falls under her spell, now forced to help him create his perfect female. When Cagliostro’s victory seems complete, an unlikely ally for Vera Frankenstein arrives to assist her and her father’s creature.

THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN begins with a scene reminiscent of the more straightforward horror films of Universal or Hammer Studios, but almost immediately spirals out of control into the type of movie only Jess Franco could have made. Melissa the bird-woman is a quintessential Franco character. She’s perpetually nude, crazed, and constantly delivering esoteric monologues. Longtime Franco collaborator Howard Vernon shines as Cagliostro even thought he mostly communicates psychically. There is the same amount of skin you’ve likely come to expect from Franco, but EROTIC delivers a more balanced narrative that showcases the director’s creativity more than his love of women.

Having seen many of the aforementioned alternate versions, I can appreciate what Redemption/Kino Lorber has brought to the table with this release. The Blu Ray print of the film is excellent, and the commentary by Tim Lucas will provide some much needed background for the newcomers. THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN is one of my favorite Franco films, because it really has all you’re looking for out of the director. Those of you who have been curious about Franco but unsure where to begin, it also makes an excellent starting point for these same reasons.
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