Doctor Frankenstein (Dennis Price) has made a breakthrough with the Monster (Fernando Bilbao) which he has breathed life into: after an intense brain operation, it can now talk, although what it is saying relates largely to how much pain it is in. However, just as the scientist is proclaiming his mastery, a bird woman named Melisa (Anne Libert) breaks into the castle laboratory and attacks him, biting his flesh and sucking his blood. Left for dead, the intruder takes the Monster with her to her master, a certain magician named Cagliostro (Howard Vernon)...
After he made Dracula: Prisoner of Frankenstein, director Jess Franco must have liked the idea of updating those old Univeral horrors because he made another one, or rather another two, for The Curse of Frankenstein (not to be confused with the groundbreaking Hammer favourite of the fifties) was a different edit of another variant named The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein which contained noticeably more nudity and sexual content. Originally these were La maldición de Frankenstein, but as with many Franco efforts there were alternate versions depending on which market was being aimed at, causing something of a headache for his fans.
Which is the definitive version, you may well wonder? Well, it depends what you want from the film, as if you wished for a straightforward low budget horror flick then Curse was the one to go for, though if your tastes extended to the kinkier then Erotic Rites would be your choice. What made Curse significant in a way that the latter was not was the presence of a very important player in Franco's oeuvre: Lina Romay, who was not in the sexed up one but played a psychic gypsy girl in the "straight" cut, notably not taking part in any of the scenes with the main stars, but proving important to the finale.
And not because they added a bit of dialogue to the end to tie her appearance into what had gone before, oh no. While either type was not the sort of thing your mainstream movie watcher would appreciate, and even many of the hardcore horror fans would turn their nose up at Franco, there was enough eccentricity here, if not to make it a classic movie or even worthy of the lesser Universal franchise entries, then at least offer a few sights you would not have seen. Take Libert's bird woman, dressed in patches of green feathers and dubbed over with a tape of bird calls she mimes to, almost embarrassing in its poverty but strangely poetic in its appeal to surrealism.
Price did not get much to do as the mad doctor, being dead for pretty much the whole movie, but he was periodically revived for advice using his own techniques where the actor shakes and writhes in a manner that illustrated what a sad end a once-promising career had come to, although ironically appearances in these grade Z works earned Price an enduring audience, even if he rarely looked healthy in them (alcoholism had long ago taken hold). Elsewhere, Franco stalwart Vernon essayed the mysterious historical figure of Cagliostro as someone akin to Count Dracula only without the bloodsucking (and with a distractingly pubic-looking goatee), pitting his wits against Frankenstein's daughter Vera (Beatriz Savón). As for the Monster, for some reason he's been painted silver, and even more outlandishly indulges in sadomasochism, wielding a whip, but this was par for the course in Franco's chillers by this stage. Is it any good? Truth be told, it does get montonous, but Romay's debut lends it a note of interest. Music by Daniel White.
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.