The Return of Franco-stein
During the busy year of 1972, filmmaker Jesus Franco made two Frankenstein movies, both of which were distributed under a half dozen titles. They are among the most bizarre films in the Franco filmography – and that’s saying something! Many of his recent series of American financed direct-to-video features have re-examined past themes, so it was inevitable that he’d get back to Frankenstein territory sooner or later.
Lust for Frankenstein (1998) features longtime Franco star/companion Lina Romay, whose second film was Franco’s 1972 Erotic Rites of Frankenstein. Romay plays Moira Frankenstein, whose sad story of abuse at the hands of her (younger!) step-mother is told in voiceover. The ghost of her infamous father (“Carlos Subterfuge”) begins to haunt her, imploring her to return to the family villa and revive his final creation, “a new goddess… a monster of love!”. Moving back to the villa, she does her best to avoid her slutty step-mom (Inalia Ivars, the enigmatic Furia in Franco’s Tender Flesh) and her slimy boyfriend/gardener (Alex Cox), but Daddy’s visitations continue to beseech her.
She finds the monster (Michelle Bauer) easily enough in the basement, and succeeds in reviving her. This monster needs a bit more than electricity to keep going – the naked nymphomaniac creature craves near-constant sexual activity. At one point she resorts to having sex with a palm tree. In between weird erotic encounters, she pitches in to help Moira kill off her enemies.
Despite the extreme nature of the role, Bauer – who many of us remember as our favorite Hollywood Chainsaw Hooker – does a very good job with the role, making her (at 40!) not only the sexiest monster since Frankenhooker, but a genuine sympathetic presence. Her make-up design is also clever, consisting mostly of horizontal scars (including old implant marks). However, her performance is just about ruined by a cheesy audio effect that makes most of her lines unintelligible.
Not that she stands out in this regard. Romay and the other European members of Franco’s cast speak English with accents that range from thick to very thick. It’s pretty difficult to understand even the American actors, so it’s a tragedy there are no subtitles included on the disc.
Franco, along with his photographer Raquel Cabra, seem to be having fun experimenting with shooting on video, exploring its different qualities with high contrast shots, special effects, etc. Several scenes have the odd poetic quality that marks the director’s best work, such as in the scenes where our heroines are seen disposing of the bodies along a beautiful stretch of shoreline at dawn. The combination of Franco’s odd imagery with music by the Cramps-influenced band The Ubangis – which Moira spins on vinyl – gives the play a nice Bohemian atmosphere at times. However, the skimpy plot just seems to meander on through most of the running time, making it tough to hold interest, even when there’s a gorgeous naked monster in platform boots marching around. It’s also sometimes hard to tell whether the comedy is intentional. For example, there’s a scene where Frankenstein’s ghost implores Moira to seek out his records, which cuts directly to her reaching for an LP!
The disc also contains what is billed as the “European” version of the film, but except for the length of a few shots, this seems to be just about the same as the other version. A lengthy section of video labeled “Fun with Franco” shows almost nothing of the director, although he’s sometimes seen from behind or shouting directions from behind the camera. The best part is when Bauer leads an impromptu workout for cast and crew. Bauer is also seen in some 1994 interview footage from a horror convention, in which she explains that she’s a shy, normal gal in real life that transforms in front of a camera into a movie star that’ll do just about anything.