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Image Entertainment presents
The Rites of Frankenstein (The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein/La Maldición de Frankenstein) (1972)

"Tonight, the past and the future will be reunited to celebrate the most extraordinary rite of all time!"
- Cagliostro (Howard Vernon)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 07, 2005

Stars: Alberto Dalbes, Dennis Price, Howard Vernon
Other Stars: Beatriz Savon, Anne Libert, Fernando Bilbao, Britt Nichols, Luis Barboo, Daniel Gerome, Doris Tom, Lina Romay, Jess Franco
Director: Jess Franco

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for gore, violence and sadomasochistic abuse (nudity in the alternative footage)
Run Time: 01h:25m:20s
Release Date: August 09, 2005
UPC: 014381259926
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+BB- C

DVD Review

This 1972 horror was an unofficial sequel to director Jess Franco's monsterfest of a year earlier, Dracula vs. Frankenstein (Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein). Dennis Price reprises his role as Dr. Frankenstein (albeit briefly), and Howard Vernon drops his Dracula fangs to portray Cagliostro, a deathless spirit of evil in this somewhat coherent entry in the prolific Spanish director's filmography.

Cagliostro, working in tandem with Melisa (Anne Libert), a blind vampiric bird-woman who can see the future, murders Dr. Frankenstein and steals his monster (Fernando Bilbao). Cagliostro intends to build a bride for the monster and use them to create the race of Panthos (which is never quite explained, but apparently a race of superhumans). He enlists the aid of Frankenstein's daughter, Vera (Beatriz Savon), through the use of his "magnetic communications."

Unfortunately, the source print used is the Spanish version, with the onscreen title La Maldicion de Frankenstein (as is also the case for the Region 2 German disc, differing in running time from that disc only due to PAL speedup). The preferred cut of Franco is reportedly the French version, which includes plenty of racy footage and nudity (though much of that shows up in the extras). The result is a rather tame picture that has to rely on its poorly executed gore effects to make an impression. For example, a decapitation is laughably faked by having the actress' head cropped by the frame right at the chin.

Price is hardly in the picture, being killed off immediately after the opening credits, though he is periodically revived (a bonus of being in a Frankenstein picture) to deliver a line or two of exposition. He easily could have shot all his footage in a single afternoon. There is, however, plenty of Howard Vernon, who is allowed to ham it up to his heart's desire. Given the character, that's actually fairly appropriate, and fans of the intense actor will find a lot to like here, though there are a few too many closeups of his more-bugged-out-than-usual eyes. Most of the rest of the cast is fairly uninteresting, though Franco himself has a brief cameo as Frankenstein's assistant Morpho.

The film is notable in Franco's filmography for introducing Lina Romay, who would not only star in many dozens of his pictures, but also become his wife. She is featured in an odd subplot as a prophetic gypsy girl. It feels like padding since it has little relationship to the rest of the film. It's entirely possible that that's the case, since some additional material would be needed to replace the sex snipped out. The Monster is quite disappointing, with the putty of his makeup readily visible, and much of the time it looks like it's ready to fall off. For reasons unexplained, his skin has a silvery cast. Bilbao does a decent enough job with the character, though he of course imbues it with none of the pathos one finds in Karloff's interpretation.

The picture does have some intriguing merits. The character of Melisa is memorably bizarre, and her introduction through Frankenstein's murder is quite striking in its abrupt violence. A set of green clawed hands doesn't hurt either. The sequence of spectral beings assembling in a woods is one of the more evocative of the many dreamlike sequences from Franco over the years. Daniel White contributes one of his most intriguing scores, with electronic sounds, white noise, organ and more traditional film music being united into a fascinating blend.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is quite serviceable, considering the poor treatment offered Franco's films in general. Skin tones seem washed out in some sequences but are fine in others, indicating that these issues may be inherent in the cheap and fast film technique of Franco. Other than minor dirt during the opticals in the main titles, there's not much damage present. The picture is rather soft, but at least no misguided effort was made to artificially enhance it. Detail on closeups is quite good, and shadow detail and black levels are surprisingly well rendered.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: There's moderate hiss on the Spanish dub presented here, but it's nowhere near as bad as on the alternate footage in the extras. White's score has a very nice impact, though deep bass is unsurprisingly lacking. Dialogue is generally quite clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Alternate footage
Extras Review: The sole extra is a set of 12m:07s of alternate footage from the French version, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, with an English dub only. As the title implies, it includes more sex and nudity though it's all fairly softcore. An alternate set of titles is also present. Although presented in anamorphic widescreen, the footage is obviously sourced from videotape, with all the low quality that implies. Colors are smeary and red in particular looks terrible, with tons of chroma noise. Fine detail is practically nonexistent. It couldn't have been edited back in without being jarring in the extreme, but it's too bad that a genuine French print couldn't have been turned up.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Some disturbing elements remain in an unfortunately tame version of the film, with an attractive enough print, considering.


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