• The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein (Nucleus Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Nucleus Films
    Released on:
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Dennis Price, Luis Barboo, Anne Libert, Beatriz Savón, Albert Dalbés, Lina Romay, Britt Nichols, Howard Vernon
    Year: 1972
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    The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein – Movie Review:

    When this 1972 film from Jess Franco begins, Baron Frankenstein (Dennis Price) gives his monster (Fernando Bilbao underneath a whole lot of silver body paint!) the ability to speak only to immediately learn of the pain that the monster must live with! Shortly after, a brute named Caronte (Luis Barboo) and a flesh eating blind bird woman named Melissa (Anne Libert) raid the lab after which they leave the good doctor’s body dead on the floor and make off with his most famous creation to deliver the monster to their master, Cagliostro (Howard Vernon), a sinister wizard with the ability to hypnotize people.

    With everyone assuming that the doctor is dead, Frankenstein’s daughter, Vera (Beatriz Savón), arrives in town to use her father’s knowledge to reanimate his corpse so that she can learn the truth about what really happened. The only other one who knows of the monster’s fate is Dr. Seward (Albert Dalbés), and so he and Vera kinda-sorta work together to find the monster – and they do, but Cagliostro’s mind control powers area strong and prove able to command not only to the monster, but Vera as well. Soon enough we learn the truth behind Cagliostro’s scheme: he intends to provide the monster with a mate in the form of Madame Orloff (Britt Nichols), a woman from town he has kidnapped to provide the necessary parts for his fiendish experiment. Why? To create a race of perfect slaves using their offspring, of course!

    This is a film that is highlighted by a cast of Franco regulars. Obviously Howard Vernon appeared in scores of the director’s pictures over the years and he’s great as the sinister Cagliostro here. Dennis Price does a fine job as the titular doctor, hamming it up just a bit, while Beatriz Savón as his daughter is, if nothing else, quite beautiful – on top of that she looks the part, she has a bit of a youthfulness to her that suits the role well. Anne Libert as the insane bird woman steals pretty much every scene that she’s in while Fernando Bilbao as the silver painted monster is…. bizarre… just flat out bizarre, but truly unforgettable in the part. Throw the always lovely Britt Nichols into the role of Madame Orloff, however, and this definitely turns out to be one that fans can have a good time with even if only for the casting. It’s also fun to see the director himself pop up as Frankenstein’s trusty assistant Morpho.

    Thankfully there’s more to appreciate here than just a bunch of familiar faces. Daniel White, another frequent Franco co-conspirator, delivers a very effective and moody score while the movie itself, a decidedly odd take on Mary Shelley’s most famous work, is ripe with weird sexualized set pieces and insane costume choices. Throw in a whole bunch of the director’s trademark kink, a little welcome slap and tickle action and plenty of gratuitous but nicely shot and fairly artsy nudity and this one hits most of the right notes most of the time. It also, like most of the director’s work, has got some great atmosphere and enough oddball cinematography to keep you interested even if the story occasionally goes off the rails a bit.

    Note that Nucleus Films has included both the 1:13:51 French ‘uncut’ version of the movie as well as the more common 1:25:17 Spanish ‘clothed’ version of the movie. The differences? With the clothed variant some of the naughty bits are replaced with alternate shots with actors not in the buff. There is also some alternate ‘gypsy’ footage included in that cut, which features Lina Romay in a supporting role as a Gypsy woman named Esmeralda (it’s this material that makes up most of the difference in the running time between the two films). The uncut French version of the movie has all of the naughtiness completely intact. The opening and closing credits are also different between the two versions. The Spanish version, while lacking the salacious appeal of the stronger French cut, does play out like a more traditional horror picture, but it’s still pretty wacky when compared to the Universal classics that obviously inspired it.

    The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein – Blu-ray Review:

    Both versions of The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein arrive on region B Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. The shorter French version takes up 19.4Gbs of space. Despite some compression artifacts that pop up in the darker scenes, this is a pretty nice transfer that looks quite similar to the Kino/Redemption Films release that came out in North America a few years ago. Colors look excellent, and detail rises above past DVD editions in a big way. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, and there’s no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement here to gripe about. Franco does employ soft focus and occasionally uses his trademark zoom lens at times, which can understandably soften detail when it occurs, but overall this looks pretty solid.

    The longer clothed Spanish variant gets 20.8GBs of space. As the alternate material for this version was shot after the material included in the French cut of the movie, it makes sense that it doesn’t always match in terms of lighting, color and overall tone. As such, the picture quality on this version isn’t quite as consistent, but it’s still more than watchable despite some scenes that look a bit faded. Again, compression artifacts do pop up in the darker sequences at times but the transfer remains film-like throughout, showing no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement issues.

    The French cut features 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono tracks in French and English audio options, with subtitles in English available translating both tracks. The Spanish version gets a 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track in Spanish with optional subtitles in English. Audio quality is pretty decent on both versions, understandably limited in range given its age and origins, but properly balanced and generally free of any hiss or distortion. The score gets a nice boost here thanks to the lossless options provided.

    Aside from the two different cuts of the movie, the main extra on the disc is The Rites Of Franco, a featurette with Stephen Thrower, the author of two rather massive tomes on the director’s output. Here, over the course of twenty-six-minutes, Thrower covers the influence on the classic Universal horror pictures on this and other Franco pictures, the alternate titles and versions of this feature that exist and why, details on the different cast members that populate the picture, how the film resembles some of the Italian horror comics that were popular in this era, the locations that Franco used for the picture, Daniel White's score and quite a bit more. It’s an interesting and quite thorough piece well worth checking out.

    A French trailer for the feature (which looks to contain a bit of footage not seen in the two feature versions included here), an extensive still gallery, menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the disc along with bonus trailers for Death Laid an Egg and Lady Frankenstein, both of which are also available from Nucleus Films. The Tim Lucas commentary that was offered on the US release from Kino is not here, however, so hardcore fans of the film may want both releases.

    The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein – The Final Word:

    The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein is as compelling and bizarre as you’d hope for and all in all, this release is an easy one to recommend to those with an affinity and fascination for Franco’s output thanks to the great cast and the string of utterly strange but unforgettable visuals. The Blu-ray release from Nucleus should be considered essential amongst Franco fans as for including both versions of the picture as well as a great piece with Thrower.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein (the French version) Blu-ray screen caps!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein (the Spanish version) Blu-ray screen caps!