Editor’s Notes: The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein and Comet are out on their respective formats July 28th.
The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein
The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (Kino Lobber) is director Jess Franco’s take on the Frankenstein story. Baron Frankenstein (Dennis Price) has electrically shocked his silver-skinned monstrous creation (Fernando Bilbao) into a being able to speak. The good doctor, of course, is convinced that his scientific experimentation is for the greater good of science, but clearly he isn’t playing with a full deck. But soon after Caronte and Melissa, a blind, blood-thirsty, nearly naked bird woman, steal the monster’s body with their own twisted intention. The creature itself is not portrayed as evil; it is those who control it who are evil. They bring the monster to Cagliostro, a crazed warlock with malicious plans of his own.
One of the lesser feature films based on Mary Shelley’s novel, this 1972 French/Spanish co-production bears the Franco touch — lots of nudity, blood, and violence. Made on a small budget, the film stands out because of its sheer strangeness. Franco observes no parameters of good taste as he presents one over-the-top moment after another. Maybe this is necessary to spice up a tale that’s nearly as old as movies themselves (the first filmed version of Frankenstein was made in 1910). Franco’s trademark in horror cinema is the visceral and perverse. Dismemberment after a sulfuric acid splashing and a graphic decapitation are only two of the grim treats awaiting viewers. The look of the film is partly inspired by grisly adult European comics of the early 1970s.
The widescreen Blu-ray edition contains a print mastered in HD from the original 35-mm negative. Bonus extras include audio commentary by Tim Lucas, editor of “Video Watchdog” magazine and theatrical trailer. Two versions are included: French with optional English subtitles and alternate English dubbed.
Comet (IFC Films) is a dramedy from first-time writer/director Sam Esmail. When a chance encounter brings together cynical Dell (Justin Long) and quick-witted Kimberly (Emily Rossum), a six-year relationship begins taking place, as a title card informs us, “a few parallel universes over.” The film, which jumps back and forth to assorted scenes of their lives during this period, shows how the relationship changes over time as Dell and Kimberly experience a series of ups and downs.
The movie’s structure is puzzling. What we think might be a dream world is not; we’re told that up front. Yet sometimes we see two suns shining brightly. Other times, scenes look almost boringly familiar. The picture’s mystifying structure is a distraction; underneath the cinematic artiness, is the deconstruction of a realtionship. It’s very talky and claustrophobic, despite some attractive exterior locations, leading me to believe the story might have worked better as a play, less the parallel universe conceit.
Long began his career playing nice guys and goofy geeks. Here, however, he combines a sweet boyish charm with the sardonic, making the character interesting and frequently hard to decipher. By contrast, Ms. Rossum’s Kimberly is rather one note and too often looks as if she’s acting. The major problem with Comet is that the viewer is never invested enough in the characters to care what happens to them.
The only extra on the DVD release is a theatrical trailer.
For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.