Monday, December 19, 2011

FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS (1973)

FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS (1973)
Director: Dick Randall
Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment

One of several outlandish "Frankenstein" films made in Italy in the early 70s (LADY FRANKENSTEIN, FRANKENSTEIN '80), this entry combines pseudo Euro goth, enticing titillation, and a number of dumb characters and ludicrous clichés to devise this vintage slice of sexploitation.

Former Hollywood pretty boy Rossano Brazzi plays Count Frankenstein, who seizes a hairy Neanderthal man (complete with animal furs and club) from the wrath of the angry villagers. He calls him "Goliath" and does weird experiments on him, shaving the top of his fuzzy hair and making his scalp look like the tip of a bloody penis.

His "monsters" include a dopey hunchback (Xiro Papas, the monster in FRANKENSTEIN '80), a seemingly normal guy named "Igor" (60s muscleman flick star Gordon Mitchell), Mario Bava regular Luciano Pigozzi (AKA Alan Collins) as the slimy servant Hans, and a necrophile dwarf, Genz (Michael Dunn in one of his last roles).


After a nightly grave robbing romp, the police discover the dwarf's tiny footprints in the cemetery, so he's expelled from the castle for good. He roams off to a dark cave and exposes another Neanderthal man (played by Salvatore Baccaro, or "Boris Lugosi" if you will!) whom he befriends. Baccaro played a similar role in a sleazy nazi film beast known as THE BEAST IN HEAT, and looks like the illegitimate child of Avery Schreiber and John Oates of "Hall and Oates" fame!

Genz deems his homely new friend as "Ook," instructs him in the art of cooking meat and in the art fondling young girls. Of course, Frankenstein's beautiful daughter and her even sexier friend arrive at the castle to expose some shapely skin (the girls get to skinny dip in Ook's cave). Both Neanderthals end up fighting over one of the gals, leading up to the rather anticlimactic conclusion in the cave, prompting Edmund Purdom (as the local police) to remark, "There is a bit of a monster in all of us, especially when there is fear."

If you ever rented videos from those "ma and pa" stores of days of old, you might have rented FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS in one of its early video incarnations. It was available on a double-bill tape (in the LP mode) with THE MAD BUTCHER from Best Film & Video, and later through Magnum Home Video. Those renditions were dark, muddy messes. Now Something Weird and Image have given us a superb new full frame transfer on DVD. The picture is now clear as a bell and the colors look more vivid than ever, with only a few minor blemishes on the source print. The mono sound is good.

There is a nice gathering of extras, including a black & white short called "The Monster and the Maiden," where a guy in a rubber Frankenstein mask prances with a topless stripper. "Frankenstein and the Naughty Nurse" is actually an excerpt from the Italian-made SEXY PROIBITISSIMO (1963), which documents the history of stripping! Here, a nurse strips for a Frankenstein monster tied to the operating table until his hormones get the best of him and he breaks lose! There is also the original trailer (with a PG rating, though the "R" version is definitely represented on the disc) and a gallery of exploitation art (accompanied by a number of "Horrorama" radio spots). (George R. Reis)

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