The films of Spanish director Jess Franco can be a hard sell for average film watchers. No matter what film you chose as an entry point, Franco's work is too often a mighty fine cure for insomnia. I understand this problem. I'm not one of the many fans of his movies who is enamored of the long dull stretches in which we watch people smoke in jazz clubs while brooding about their horrible feelings of ennui. Long, languid scenes of bored people acting tired can be of interest for a minute or two but stretched to feature length it begs the question - "What are we doing here?" I need Franco to do something with his camera and since his obsessions and mine overlap in some areas - naked women, old horror tales, pulp adventure stories, monster movies, etc - he occasionally crafts something that keeps my attention for the full runtime. Such is the case here where Uncle Jess is playing with the classic monster characters beloved by generations of horror fans the world over. If he sticks to the tropes of a typical monster story will it serve as a good launching pad to Franco fandom for the 'normal' film viewer? If it deals with the legend of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can it keep tedium at bay? As with all things in his huge back catalog, only time- and the individual watcher's curiosity- will tell.
Franco’s take on the Frankenstein legend is unusual, of course, with nods to both Universal Studios' classics of the 1930's and the more colorful British Hammer efforts if the 1960's mixed with a few cocktails and a possible hit of acid. The title in question, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, now arrives on Blu-ray in its full strength, director-preferred French version complete with English subtitles with the option of the English dub track as well. This release may come as a relief for long time Franco-files even if there are still several other versions out there on the gray market to keep them hunting if they wish. Of course, most Jess Franco movies have multiple versions originally created for different countries' specific cinema laws and the in depth study of alternate edits is a hobby for many Euro-Cult fanatics, so maybe this Blu-Ray just marks the latest chapter to be added to the story.
The presumed dead Frankenstein is found by his daughter Vera (Beatriz Savón) who arrives at Castle Frankenstein just a little too late to save him. Being a Frankenstein though she reanimates her father using his own electrical shock therapy which allows him just enough energy to fill her (and us) in on the whole 'monster on the loose and under the control of Cagliostro scenario'. Also in the mix is Dr. Seward (Albert Dalbés) who spoke to Frankenstein before his death and knows about the monster so he’s now paying visits on Vera in an attempt to get his hands on the creature for himself. Vera tracks down the monster in mid abduction of an artist’s model but she can't maintain control of the creature and so Frankenstein’s creation is soon back in control of Cagliostro. At this point there is a try at creating a female being to mate with the monster using another abducted woman from the nearby town but that goes badly. Soon all hell breaks loose as the various players make their stabs at getting what they want from the clever Cagliostro as the magician moves to set himself up for occupation of his next body. Who will survive?
Luckily for fans this Redemption/Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein has been mastered in high definition from the original 35mm negative and presents the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio making it quite probably the definitive edition. The transfer looks very good with much more detail than I remember from past discs with the night scenes noticeably brighter (and therefore understandable) than in the past. Having these day-for-night scenes looking as they should is almost reason enough to see this version. As the co-author of Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas is a perfect choice for the disc's only substantial extra, the aforementioned commentary track, on which he smoothly guides the viewer through the Franco Frankenstein experience. He talks about aspects of the film's conception and production from the
the various actors' histories with Franco, the methods the director used to
maximize his time as well as Lucas' musings about how this film fits into the
history of Frankenstein cinema. In fact, Lucas has so much information
seemingly at his fingertips that the film's 74 minute running time starts to
feel too brief to allow it all to be related! Even if you find this film to be a terrible,
slapdash affair I urge you to give this commentary a listen. I suspect it will
open your eyes to the joys of not just this film but to a good portion of Jess
Franco's filmography. As an extra kind of extra the original French trailer for
the film is also included on the disc which has a Tim Lucas commentary on it as
well! He really did have more information than the film allowed!