My love for Jess Franco definitely clouds any objective opinion I have about his work, but I truly believe that The Rites of Frankenstein (aka Les Experiences erotiques de Frankenstein, 1972) is one of the director’s most surreal and interesting efforts. Unfortunately this erotic horror film doesn’t really live up to what it could have been if Franco had access to a bigger budget and a more enthusiastic cast, but it’s still an imaginative movie filled with some memorable sequences and a strange sensuality that manages to transcend its many flaws.
The cast is very good, but some of them don’t appear to be very invested in the film which can be distracting at times. Horror film veteran Dennis Price delivers an uninspired performance here as Doctor Frankenstein and a seemingly perplexed Jess Franco also appears in his own film playing Frankenstein’s hunchback assistant Morpho. Frankenstein’s daughter is played by Euro horror queen Britt Nichols who I usually enjoy watching, but sadly she’s rather forgettable here as is Franco regular Lina Romay, who is almost completely obscured in shadows and barely recognizable at times. Thankfully the films does contain some inspired performances that really help bring this project to life.
Franco favorite Howard Vernon appears in one of his most interesting and unforgettable roles in The Rites of Frankenstein playing a hypnotist called Cagliostro, undoubtedly named after the infamous Italian occultist. Cagliostro kidnaps Frankenstein’s monster (Fernando Bilbao) for his own diabolical plans and keeps the creature imprisoned in his castle. The erotic film actress Anne Libert also stars as a blind and sadistic flesh eating “bird woman” known as Melissa who is also being controlled by the malevolent Cagliostro. Howard Vernon and Anne Libert keep the film entertaining even during its most sluggish moments and they both seem to be truly enjoying their star turns as the ruthless Cagliostro and Melissa. The film offers both of the actors the chance to shine and they really make the most of their roles.
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