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I used to love mom and pop video stores. Finding some old rarely rented tape was always a nice treat for taking the time in the aisles of old movies. One afternoon I found a tape at a store specializing in rare films that would alter the way I looked at classic monsters. The film was Jess Franco’s Erotic Rites of Frankenstein. How could you pass up on a title like that?
I got home and popped it in immediately. Yikes! Little did I know. Now Jess Franco, for the uninitiated, is the king of erotic horror. He is also either a cinematic genius or a complete hack that should have had his camera taken away years ago. It depends on what side of the fence you’re on.
Rites don’t waste time. It opens with Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price) and his assistant Morpho (Franco) having just brought the monster to life. Shock number one. The monster is a huge Universal styled creature that is painted SILVER! Yes, it’s jarring. And before you can really settle into that idea, you get shock number two. The Dr. and his assistant are attacked in their lab by a half-naked half bird cannibal woman Melissa (Anne Libert) and her assistant (No really). Morpho is stabbed and the Dr. is torn up severely. The monster is kidnapped (monsternapped?) and taken to her master, Cagliostro (Howard Vernon). Cagliostro has a castle on the hill complete with women chained up in cages and beautiful scenery.
Soon we come back to the Dr. on his death bed as he confides in Murder Mansion’s Alberto Dalbes as Dr. Seward (On loan from Dracula) about his creation before dying. Dr. Seward attends a small funeral and runs into Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughter, Baron Dr. Vera Frankenstein (Beatriz Savón). Yes it just gets better. Dr. Vera and her assistant start by stealing her father’s body from his crypt and attempting to bring him back. He lives long enough to set her straight on the creature and his murderer. Cagliostro’s plan is simple. He has the Creature kidnap women so he can use them as raw material for creating a female to breed with Frankenstein’s monster. The purpose: to create an army of super humans to conquer the earth. (Yeah!)
Naked women, S & M, undead cloaked zombies, a flesh eating Dr. Frankenstein and a couple being whipped by the silver creature are just some of the things you’ll find with this gem. Also starring Britt Nichols as Madame Orloff, the main ingredient, Lina Romay as Esmeralda and Luis Barboo as Cagliostro’s main henchman, Jess Franco’s film is full of his usual suspects.
Will you like this film? It really depends on how open you are to this kind of film. Over sexed and sometimes incoherent, there is an undeniable beauty in the way Franco made his stories his and his alone. Rites is kind of a cross between Universal and Hammer with a little 70’s sleaze thrown in for good measure. One of Franco’s best. Which is either saying a lot or a little. Give it a shot sometime. Hopefully you’ll find it a treat instead of a trick.