Lady Frankenstein (1971) takes the formulaic Frankenstein story that we have seen replicated countless times over the years and gives it a new, and rather erotic, twist. However, as I am a big fan of both the Universal and Hammer Frankenstein movies, I have to say that Lady Frankenstein, for me, did not quite live up to the sheer brilliance of the aforementioned studios’ productions.
The luscious Rosalba Neri plays the titular role, being Baron Frankenstein’s (Joseph Cotton) sexy, scheming daughter, Tania, who, upon arriving at the castle after finishing her studies in medicine, teams up with her father’s laboratory assistant, Dr Charles Marshall, to emulate the baron’s batty experiments in creating life. The two eventually become romantically involved, and transplant the ageing lab assistant’s cerebrum into the body of a hunky servant.
While all this is going on, the first monster – and a pretty ugly-looking brute he is too, with his scarred, misshapen head and hideous, uneven eyes – goes on a killing rampage in the village. Unlike the Karloff monster, this one lacked any real character or personality, and far from inducing the kind of pathos that the Karloff one did so brilliantly, this creature is depicted as nothing more than a robotic, mindless, killing machine.
Oh yes, all the usual Frankenstein tropes that we all love are here: mad scientists, labs full of bubbling test tubes, creepy dungeons, monsters on the rampage, beautiful damsels, horse-drawn carriages and torch-carrying village mobs out for revenge. Also, you get the added bonus of a bit of sex and nudity thrown in for good measure (well, after all, it WAS the permissive 70s, wasn’t it?). But for all that, Lady Frankenstein still doesn’t really come up to the standard one would normally expect from a good-old-enjoyable Franky movie. At times, the plot was rather dull and slow paced, and there was not really all that much in the way of excitement and character development to merit this as one of the better films in the annals of Frankenstein history. In addition, Joseph Cotton’s Baron seemed to have little to do in this movie, looking to be in the twilight years of his crazed experiments, and was overshadowed by the presence of his daughter, who was a kind of distaff Victor Frankenstein, completely dominating the movie right from her arrival at the castle.
Lady Frankenstein is a film that, without a doubt, powerfully emphasises that sexuality and real beauty are far more than a matter of simply revealing bare skin, as Rosalba flawlessly oozes jaw-dropping beauty and sensuality in everything she says and does. With her large catlike eyes, long dark hair and stunning body, this is a woman who would tempt any red-blooded man into doing things counter to anything decent and sensible – like conspiring with her in madcap laboratory experiments.
I suppose Lady Frankenstein could be compared to Marmite: you either love it or loathe it. In it’s own way, I suppose it is kind of entertaining, and something to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But having said that, it certainly could have been a lot better. It is rather a cheesy movie, one that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and with some pretty far-fetched scenes (like the guy who stupidly runs TOWARDS the monster instead of away from it, and the ridiculous inclination of the lovers to strip and make love, even while the castle is burning away around them). It is also not in the least bit scary, but then again, name me a Frankenstein movie that actually is. It’s a shame that the story wasn’t quite as strong as those of the old Universal and Hammer Frankenstein films. Ah well.
The new Director’s Cut Blu Ray release of Lady Frankenstein can be purchased by clicking on the movie’s image link above this article.