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Old 10-05-2004, 07:28 PM
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Default Lady Frankenstein




Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: December 16, 2001

Released by: DVD Drive-In
Release date: 2001
MSRP: $29.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes



The Story

inline Image Lady Frankenstein begins in a dark cemetery as a group of ruffians, led by the unsavory Flynn (Herbert Fux), digging up and stealing a body. They're performing this work for Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten) and his assistant Charles (Paul Mueller), who are using them for experiments with transplants. Frankenstein, long forced to the margins of the scientific community for his unusual theories, is determined to prove to himself and to his colleagues that he was right all along. As Flynn drops off the body at the Baron's castle, he is given a special assignment for the next time - bring the Baron a body that's been dead no more than six hours. It's time for the final experiment.

inline Image The next morning, Tania Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri), the Baron's daughter, arrives at the castle for a visit. She has recently graduated from medical school and has just become a licensed surgeon, and to the surprise of Charles and her father, she knows much more about their experiments than they'd ever realized. She explains that ever since she was a little girl she would sneak into their laboratory through a secret door and watch them work. She tells them that she has some ideas of her own regarding transplants, and would like very much to help them.

inline Image However, the Baron decides that it would be best if just him and Charles worked on the final experiment. Flynn supplies them with a newly dead body, that of a criminal hung that morning, and they transplant the man's heart and brain into the cadaver of a creature built from Flynn's other acquisitions. As they put the brain in, Charles notices that the hypothalamus area was damaged by the hanging and should be repaired. Knowing that they only have a limited time to make the experiment work, the Baron refuses and proceeds with the transplant, even though Charles warns the damaged area could cause unstable behavior. After the procedure is finished, they shoot the corpse full of electricity, and after a few minutes the body begins moving and breathing. Charles rushes to fetch Tania and show off their success, while the Baron remains behind in the laboratory. Unfortunately, the poor man gets a nasty surprise when the creature walks right up to him and crushes him to death with a big bear hug.

inline Image The creature escapes and runs off into the countryside, and when Tania and Charles find the Baron's body, Charles declares that they need to go to the police and tell them what happened. Tania objects, saying that the truth would ruin what little good name her father had left. So instead of confessing to creating a monster, Charles instead tells the local police detective, Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay), that the Baron was killed by a burglar who broke into the laboratory. They decide to deal with the monster in their own way - by creating another one to dispose of it.

inline Image Meanwhile, the creature starts going on a killing spree, and after some suspicious behavior on the part of Tania and Charles, Harris begins to doubt the story about the burglar. Meanwhile, Tania gets Charles to admit that he has secretly been in love with her for years, but she says she could only truly love him if had a better body, like that of Thomas, the Baron's physically beautiful but dumb-as-dirt hired hand. They come up a plan - they'll kill Thomas and put Charles' brain in his body, then Charles will use the super-strength he'll gain from the operation to kill the monster, and the two will be able to be happy lovers. But they'd better work quickly before Harris can find their secret and stop themů

At its heart, Lady Frankenstein is an incredibly zany throwback to the mad scientist movies of the 30's and 40's. In terms of plot, the movie bears a strong resemblance to those earlier films. There are grave robbers, a rampaging monster, ludicrous scientific experiments and angry, torch-wielding peasants. In terms of character, though, there is a noticeable difference. This time around Baron Frankenstein, who would normally be the main character, bites it in the first third of the film, and Charles becomes completely weak-willed and subservient to Tania. Whereas in an older movie Tania would most likely be a minor character, kept hanging around until the last reel so she could be carried off by the monster or something of that sort, here she becomes the main character, making all the decisions and moving the story forward, many times using her sex appeal to help out. Although some feminists may object to the implication that women can be just as evil as men, it is an interesting aspect of the story.

The cast of Lady Frankenstein is surprisingly strong, although the fact that it's dubbed makes some of the performances hard to evaluate. Though his part is brief, Joseph Cotton helps make the movie seem much more respectable than it would otherwise be. Remarkably, he does not seem to be embarrassed at all to be working in a cheap schlocky film such as this, and even appears to be enjoying himself. Rosalba Neri is very lively and energetic, and her nude scenes will be one of the highlights of the film for any male viewer. Many of the European actors like Paul Mueller also add a distinct character to the production. Mickey Hargitay on the other hand, playing the very un-European Captain Harris, seems a little out of place.

Other aspects of the film are far less interesting. Like in many other Frankenstein movies, the monster here doesn't actually do a whole lot besides shuffle around the countryside and kill people, and the make-up effects are poorly done. The plot itself remains predictable, the script is full of cheesy dialogue and anybody looking for gore will be disappointed. Director Mel Welles keeps it moving along at a reasonable pace, but it's never that lively. Unfortunately, it seems that some of the movie's problems can be attributed to the fact that New World, the film's original American distributor, cut 15 minutes out of the movie upon it's original release and all versions available in the U.S. since then have been this cut one. Fortunately though, some of these faults mean the movie can still be enjoyed on a "so bad it's good" level. It's no Plan 9 From Outer Space, but it can still be entertaining.

Image Quality

inline Image Lady Frankenstein is presented letterboxed at 1.78:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Unfortunately, the video quality of this disc isn't up to the level most fans would be hoping for. The video problems can be attributed to the lack of a good print; as every independent DVD studio in the industry has found out, there's just no guarantee of being able to find the proper source material. The transfer appears to have been made from a 16mm source, and suffers from numerous splices, specks and blemishes. Grain is noticeable throughout the entire film. At many times the image has a soft, unfocused look, and night scenes are usually overly dark and murky. Colors are acceptable, though quite noticeably faded. Overall this release is superior to the videotapes that have been floating around for many years (some of which were of an even more heavily cut TV print), but not up to the standards of the average presentation from a company like Synapse or Anchor Bay. It's actually hard to fault DVD Drive-In too much because a lot of work obviously went into this release, but still though, a warning about the quality of the presentation might have been appropriate.

Sound

The soundtrack is in Dolby 2.0 Mono. It's a decent presentation, the dialogue is clear and intelligible, and the music and sound effects are reproduced adequately. Light distortion in the form of some popping and hissing can be heard, as well as one or two audio dropouts, but that's it. No subtitles or captions are provided.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Here's where the real kudos go to DVD Drive-In. For an obscure film released by a small firm, the amount of supplemental material here is impressive. First up, we're treated to a twenty-minute interview with Mel Welles. He covers all the main aspects of the production - how it came about, how it was filmed, and how he cast all the actors. It's entertaining and informative, although there was one point that puzzled me - near the beginning, Welles states of the transfer that "a pristine copy of the film went into making this." Huh?

A second interview is also provided, this one with star Rosalba Neri. Lasting roughly seven minutes, the interview is interesting, although it isn't as informative as the one with Welles. Ms. Neri doesn't seem to remember a lot, struggles with her English and seems a bit impatient to get the whole thing over with, even looking at her watch at one point!

Also included are two photo galleries, one focusing on the movie in general, another focusing on Rosalba Neri, and including many nude shots (pant pant pant). Several trailers and TV spots for the film are available, as well as TV spots for a variety of other 70's horror flicks like Beyond the Door and Legend of the Wolf Woman. Finally, there are biographies included for Welles and all of the principal actors.

Final Thoughts

Let's hope that DVD Drive-In continues to release these old films. The supplements are very good for such a small operation, and I admire the effort that went into preparing this release, although the transfer of the film itself leaves something to be desired. Lady Frankenstein certainly isn't Mel Welles' most notable cinematic achievement (that distinction would have to go to his hilarious role as Gravis Mushnik in the original Little Shop of Horrors), but it does have some qualities that make it worth viewing at least once.

Rating

Movie - B
Image Quality - C
Sound - B-
Supplements - B+

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Color
  • Unrated
  • 1 Disc
  • 27 Chapter Stops
  • Dolby 2.0 Mono
Supplements
  • Mel Welles interview
  • Rosalba Neri interview
  • Still Galleries
  • Trailers and TV spots
  • Biographies

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