“Only the monster she created could satisfy her strange desires!” ran the salacious tagline for this US/Italian co-production, released by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. Tania Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri under the alias: Sara Bay) returns home after graduating medical school to find her father, the Baron (Joseph Cotten) still up to his old tricks. Working with his assistant, Dr. Charles Marshall (Paul Muller), Frankenstein transplants the brain of a recently-hanged criminal into the body of his latest monster (Paul Whiteman), who promptly revives, kills its creator and goes on a countryside killing spree. While local police captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay) investigates Frankenstein’s favourite grave-robber Tom Lynch (Herbert Fux), Tania seduces smitten Charles and transplants his brain into the hunky body of manservant Thomas (Marino Mase), thus creating her perfect lover.
For some reason the 1970s saw Frankenstein’s Monster become the unlikeliest of softcore sex stars. Along with Frankenstein, Italian Style (1976) and Jess Franco’s The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1972), there was an outrageous fumetti (Italian adult-oriented comic book) series wherein the Boris Karloff incarnation got it on with a number of nubile, Euro-lovelies. What dear old Boris would’ve thought of this surprising turn of events, we’ll never know, but Lady Frankenstein would seem like the forerunner of this trend, if it weren’t as sexy as mouldy bread.
The plot suggests high camp, but the film itself is actually rather dour and murky, centred mostly around angst-laden romance between Charles and Tania, sincerely played but none too engaging, interspersed with random murders. The lumpy, bald, stitch-faced monster carries none of Karloff’s pathos and is purely a killing machine, with a particular aversion to sex-happy peasants. He keeps sneaking up on courting couples, stomping heads or throwing naked girls in the river, doling out the ultimate coitus interruptus. No wonder so many torch-brandishing peasants storm the castle, since its unlikely anyone will get any while this monster’s about. Mickey Hargitay makes the most of a few witty bon mots, but his character slips in and out of the meandering plot with little to do.
Although the Italian production design is handsome - with fizzing electrodes and bubbling chemicals that make for fine laboratory scenes - Welles does little with them, nor with his gutsy leading lady. No stranger to sexploitation, Rosalba Neri doffs her clothes for a sex-murder or two, but the film carries little erotic charge and wastes the gutsy, confident anti-heroine, drawn to her father’s experiments with almost sexual fascination. The would-be shock ending is far too abrupt and overall, you're better off tracking down some of those Frankenstein fumetti.