Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Microreview [film]: Lady Frankenstein


The Frankenstein story is my favorite in what might be considered the classic horror canon -- I enjoy it more than vampires, werewolves, and/or zombies in their many iterations. I like it so much I even wrote a song about it once (like to hear it? here it go...)

That abiding love is the only thing that enabled me to push through all the way to the end of Lady Frankenstein, an 85-minute movie that seemed like it went on for three hours.

Over the years, I had heard a little about this movie (notice the monster gripping his own shaft on the poster above), so I certainly didn't expect it to be "good," but I had hoped for interesting. See, it has Joseph Cotten in it, who you may remember from a couple of movies with Orson Welles called Citizen Kane and The Third Man, or alternately from Alfred Hitchcock's personal favorite of all of his own films, Shadow of a Doubt. I knew that the 1970s saw Cotten in some B and B+ horror movies, but some of those are pretty good, like The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Soylent Green. But seeing him in this just hurt. It didn't help that his assistant -- the Igor character -- is named "Charles," and when Cotten calls out to him, it sounds like he's calling to Charles Foster Kane.

Here's the gist of the film. Take the standard Frankenstein story -- with the Baron and his experiments and the gravedigging and whatnot -- but now add to the mix that Frankenstein has an adult daughter Tania who has just returned from medical school and wants to participate in her father's work with "transplants." While Tania sleeps, Frankenstein and Igor, er, Charles, do their big experiment they do with the lightning and whatnot, and, sadly, the monster's face catches on fire. Frankenstein assesses the situation quickly: "I don't care what he looks like, I want him to live!" Well, apparently the filmmakers didn't really care what he looked like, either, because the result is a bulbous-headed doofus that is one of the worst monsters I've seen in any film. The monster kills Frankenstein and hits the countryside, looking for couples having sex so he can kill them. Why couples having sex? Why not? Tania wants to prove that her father was onto something though, so she apparently marries Charles (I guess?) as they begin lying to a sarcastic police inspector who smells a rat in Frankenstein's death. Charles, who is now crippled (I guess?), is too old and run down for Tania, so she suggests they kill the mentally challenged servant Tommy, and put Charles' brain in Tommy's otherwise underutilized skull. That way Tania can screw a body she likes, and still have stimulating conversation after. Blah blah blah, pitchforks and torches, the camera operator loads the wrong filmstock in the camera for some of the outside scenes so everything is weirdly blue, I ponder cancelling my Netflix Instant subscription, more boobs, some fire, and finally, mercifully, the movie comes to its wearying conclusion.

The Math

Objective Quality: 2/10

Bonuses: +1 for Mickey Hargitay, who may have actually been The Most Interesting Man in the World (seriously, look him up) playing the sarcastic police inspector

Penalties: -1 for turning what started as a female-empowerment in the sciences story into a bloody striptease; -1 for using Joseph Cotten against me

Cult Film Coefficient: 1/10. Really, really bad.

This is bad, but it turns out things can be even worse. Check out an explanation of our non-inflated scores here.