CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Lady Frankenstein (1971)

Imagine a Hammer movie where instead of implied nudity and strange sexuality, everything is laid, well, bare. It’s not hardcore, but compared to where horror was pre-1971, Lady Frankenstein is a somewhat audacious concept: the man is no longer in charge and it turns out that the heroine (or villain, there’s no real hero in this movie though) is even more warped and insatiable than those that have come before. If you listen to Rob Zombie, you may know the sample from the trailer for this film: “Who is this irresistible creature who has an insatiable love for the dead?”

Three graverobbers deliver a body to Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten!) and his assistant Dr. Marshall (Paul Muller, Barbed Wire Dolls) to bring back to life. The twist is that Tania Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri, Lucifera: Demon Lover, Amuck!) has completed her studies in medicine and is eager to help her father with his secret work.

The next day, the Frankensteins and Marshall watch a criminal be hung and run into Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay, the former husband of Jayne Mansfield and father of actress Mariska Hargitay, who was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980 made for TV movie The Jayne Mansfield Story), who already suspects them of graverobbing.

That night, Frankenstein brings the man back to life — a scarred, weird headed, giant-eyed beast — who pretty much instantly hugs the Baron to death. Tania and Marshall report the murder as a burglar, but Harris calls their facts into question.

If you thought that killers going after people as they have sex was something that was invented in 1980’s slashers, the creature in Lady Frankenstein is here to show you the error of your ways as he comes upon (no, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter) numerous frolicking couples and eviscerates them.

Meanwhile, Tania makes Marshall confess that he’s always loved her, but his old body can’t satisfy her. This is a polite way to say that the dude has erectile dysfunction and if Viagra had existed in the 1800’s, there would be no need for the movie to continue the way that it does. Tania does find the mildly mentally challenged servant Thomas (Marino Masé, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) attractive, so she has sex with him while Marshall watches. Thus cuckolded, he snuffs the young man out with a pillow.

Things get better for him, as she puts his brain in the young man’s body, making him superhumanly strong for some reason. While all that’s going on, the creature keeps on terrorizing people until they remember that they’re supposed to pick up pitchforks and torches and take him out.

The monster makes its way back to the castle, where it attacks Marshall, who rips off its arm, allowing Tania to stab it before he smashes its head open. As the castle burns down around them, Marshall and Tania make love as Harris and Thomas’ sister Julia (Renate Kasché, Devil in the Flesh) watch. The flames consume them as Marshall begins to choke out Tania.

Lady Frankenstein isn’t a great movie, but has a great lead who can do anything a man can do, if a man wants to bring the dead back to life and have sex with their reanimated corpses. It’s progress. And if you want, you can watch it on Amazon Prime.

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