Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vamp or Not? The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein

Ah Jess Franco, there is no other director's work quite like his, and the 1972 La maldición de Frankenstein proves that point. Like many Franco films there are multiple editions. Some are ruder, some are clothed. The Spanish release had a sub-story concerning gypsy girl Esmeralda (Lina Romay, Female Vampire, Vampire Junction, Vampire Blues, Killer Barbys Vs Dracula, Revenge in the House of Usher & Snakewoman) that didn’t touch the main plot (bar referentially) and added an erotic aspect – it was with this cut that the film gained the name the Erotic Rites of Frankenstein.

Jess Franco cameos as Morpho
However such kinky goings on do not concern us as the focus of the “Vamp or Not?” is the character Melisa (Anne Libert, Daughter of Dracula). Now the Amazon UK ‘review’ (less a review and more a 3 line synopsis) suggests that she is “a blind vampire with wolfman hands”. Sounds good but we know that these things can be deceptive and, indeed, she is not that at all.

I've been making a man
However the film proper starts with Dr Frankenstein (Dennis Price, the Horror of it all, Son of Dracula (1974), the Magic Christian, Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein & Twins of Evil) who, with his lab assistant Morpho (Jess Franco), is trying to improve his creature (Fernando Bilbao, the Vampires Night Orgy, Fangs of the Living Dead and also Daughter of Dracula & Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein) – by giving him the facility to speak (although all he then says is that he is in pain!) A coach pulls outside the castle and the agents of the occultist Cagliostro (Howard Vernon, also Daughter of Dracula, Revenge in the House of Usher and Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein) break in. Those agents consist of a coachman and the aforementioned Melisa.

feathery fingers
As we see Melisa she has odd looking talons and green feathered hands, she also has streaks of green feathers on her body. This is because she is part human and part bird (so, not wolfman at all). We discover that she is blind, can intercept the telepathic communications of Cagliostro and is a seer. There is an odd cawing noise she makes that seems to work like echolocation (or perhaps that was just me). Anyway she attacks Frankenstein and seems to bite his neck, in a way that is rather vampiric, and then shows her blood spattered mouth. So, she’s a bird vampire?

mangled and lacerated, apparently
Lets have a look at the forensics! Frankenstein’s body is found in the forest, rather than the scene of the crime. Later Dr Seward (Alberto Dalbés, La Mansión de la Niebla and also also Daughter of Dracula & Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein) tells Frankenstein’s daughter, Vera (Beatriz Savón), that it was difficult to diagnose the cause of death. No vital organs were involved (presumably they were all there then) but Seward suspects that he haemorrhaged to death. Then he suggested that it was apparent that he was mangled and lacerated and was stripped of flesh – when asked if it could have been mountain lions or wolves the good doctor suggests it was more likely vultures. This dialogue was, at best, self contradictory (and all in the one scene) and, worse, the most we see of wounds are three rather superficial lacerations to his neck (and we see them often as his technology keeps getting used to revive him). That is until his spectacularly hysterical second-death by acid, at least.

Blood at mouth
The reason Cagliostro has stolen the monster is that the occultist wants to make a new breed of monster. He intends to make a beautiful woman and then have her breed with the monster. Cagliostro also seems to have a court, where all the courtiers are monsters, with skeletons and zombies included in their number. However getting back to Melisa, we see her rolling (her face) in blood again later on but, aside from the idea that she might have stripped flesh off Frankenstein, we don’t really see anything more.

Not really a vampire
So vampire? I don’t really think so. As with all Franco there is a multiple crossover – Seward, for instance, crops up in many a Franco film and was lifted from Dracula. Her manner of attack (and possibly feeding) was certainly reminiscent of a vampire. Probably safest to say Not Vamp – but of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

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