Lady Frankenstein – Italy, 1971

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Lady Frankenstein is a 1971 Italian horror feature film directed by American Mel Welles (The Little Shop of Horrors, Maneater of Hydra). The screenplay was written by Edward di Lorenzo, plus five other scriptwriters. The movie stars Joseph Cotten, Rosalba Neri, Paul Muller, and Mickey Hargitay.

Alessandro Alessandroni (Devil’s Nightmare; The Killer Nun) provided the soundtrack score.

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On August 13, 2018, Nucleus Films is releasing Lady Frankenstein in a restored, remastered 99 minute ‘Director’s Cut’ 2K Blu-ray version.

  • Complete and Restored 99 minute Director’s Cut
  • Complete and Restored 84 minute New World Pictures American Theatrical Cut
  • Audio Commentary by film authors and critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
  • Italian and English Audio LPCM 24 Bit
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • The Truth About Lady Frankenstein (2007) – German TV Special (42 mins)
  • New Featurette – Piecing Together Lady Frankenstein (35 mins)
  • Featurette – The Lady and The Orgy (8 mins)
  • Bigfilm Magazine (1971) – Italian Lady Frankenstein Photo Novel
  • BBFC’s 1972 Theatrical Censor Notes
  • English, Italian, German and three US Trailers
  • US TV spots
  • US Radio Spots
  • Home Video Releases Gallery
  • Extensive Image Gallery

Lady Frankenstein was mainly financed through Harry Cushing, but just prior to the start of filming a letter of credit from a film company was not accepted by the Italian banks. The final last-minute $90,000 needed to make the film was obtained from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. The latter released a heavily edited version in the USA in March 1972.

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A trio of grave robbers, led by a man named Lynch (Herbert Fux), deliver a corpse to Baron Frankenstein (Cotten) and his assistant Doctor Marshall (Müller), for obvious reanimation purposes.

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Baron Frankenstein’s daughter Tania (Neri/Bay) arrives from school, having completed her studies in medicine, and is greeted by her father and his servant, the handsome but mildly retarded Thomas. Tania reveals to her father that she has always understood his work with “animal transplants” to be a cover for his work reanimating corpses and that she intends to follow in his footsteps and help him in his work.

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The next day, Frankenstein, Tania, and Marshall witness the execution of a criminal who is hanged down a well, and it is implied that his body will be harvested for their experimentation. Law enforcement agent Captain Harris (Hargitay) arrives to harass Lynch at the hanging. Harris claims to be on to Lynch’s grave robbing.

That evening, having harvested salient body parts, Frankenstein and Marshall successfully reanimate a corpse (The Monster) as Tania secretly watches…

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Reviews:

With its impressive gothic set designs and costumes, its familiar international cast and enough gratuitous nudity and violence to secure an R rating, Lady Frankenstein agreeably blends the classic period feel of Hammer horror with typical early 1970s Euro trash attributes. The eerie score by Alessandro Alessandroni (The Devil’s Nightmare) is somewhat reminiscent of some of the music Bob Cobert did for the Dark Shadows series and the duo of theatrical features.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

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“The film gets off to a bit of a pokey start, but once the mayhem kicks in, it’s pure drive-in bliss for horror buffs with a surprising cast of characters both in front of and behind the camera. For example, would you believe this was directed by Mel Welles, best remembered as Mr. Mushnick in the original The Little Shop of Horrors? On top of that the film is downright kinky at times…” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital

“The sets are okay, with some threadbare corners occasionally showing. However, the standard Frankenstein lightning storm sequences are completely lame. The worst part about the film is the monster itself, which is given a ludicrous makeup job that makes it look as though it has a giant watermelon planted on top of its head. Mostly, Lady Frankenstein passes routinely.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“While it’s a typically zoomy and roughly edited venture fraught with stilted dialogue and hammy acting from the get-go, things don’t really get good (read: absurdly bad) until the title character embraces her destiny, which apparently involves letting the monster roam and terrorize the countryside. Featuring the loose plotting that only six different writers can provide, the film often throws logic and cinematic rhythm to the wind.” Oh, the Horror

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“Neri’s dominance over the film is as complete as Tania’s over the various endeavors toward which she directs herself throughout its story. The obvious (if largely undeserved) commitment she brings to Lady Frankenstein is a large part of the reason why it’s only in retrospect that you consciously notice how nonsensical and poorly structured it really is.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“Stressing crudely visceral details and nudity, this poor imitation of Hammer’s Frankenstein movies spares Cotten, who plays the Baron, by killing him off early on.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“The gore effects by Carlo Rambaldi are rather crude, and most of the outdoor sequences run from poor to embarrassing […] the subplot featuring Hargitay and Renate Kasché is merely filler. There is little doubt that what Welles really cared about was the titular lady.” Roberto Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970 – 1979

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Lady Frankenstein takes the worst of latter-day Hammer Horror (bad sets, rubber bats, unconvincing makeup, exploitative nudity) and performs the usual Italian Xerox job, which is supplanted only by Neri’s enthusiastic performance.” Mind Warp!

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“By taking the emphasis off of the Baron, well played by Cotton, and putting it onto Tania, the film ups the sex appeal considerably. Neri is stunning here, and nude more than once, and she knows how to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants from the men around her. She fits the role well, looking great in her period dress and exuding a smart, sexy confidence that fits her character very well.” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!

“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…” Andrew Pragasm, The Spinning Image

“The acting is awful unless perhaps every character is supposed to be either arrogant or confused. But the costumes, the lab, and nearly everything else visual works well including a heart and brain transplant… The pacing and dialogue are decent too…” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“The character of the monster isn’t particularly well handled; though the dialogue talks about him consciously doing away with everyone responsible for him being a monster, he never acts in any way other than a mindless killing machine, and that is a disappointing choice. The movie ups the exploitation elements; there is quite a bit of gratuitous nudity here.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Impossibly dubbed and illogically plotted, this strange contribution to the Frankenstein canon may be late night, drive-in fodder, sure… but it’s got an irresistible sort of charm all its own. Italian horror regular Neri (1971’s Slaughter Hotel, et al) is lovely to watch, and she injects life into this trippy carnivale with her feisty, determined performance.” The Terror Trap

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Categories: 1970s, Blu-ray, exploitation, Italian, monster movie, rural horror

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2 replies

  1. Wow! That’s great background info. Thanks very much for sharing!

    Adrian @ Horrorpedia

  2. A few years before his death I did correspond a bit with Mel Welles about Lady Frankenstein (in fact I think Mel may have been the first person I ever emailed). So for anyone who is interested, here is some of what he had to say about the film, several of the actors, and the censorship of the film.

    “LF was shot in English with a multi-national cast so that it had to be post voiced or dubbed in entirely. It was a big success in Italy and in South America and did reasonable business here. Roger Corman, who distributed in the USA, didn’t feel his audience was mature enough to digest the nudity and explicit sex in a gothic horror film. Incidentally the nudity in the film showed male as well as female. There were no particular anecdotal happenings with Paul Muller, a Swiss actor living in Rome, very strait laced and not particularly colorful outside of his art. Herbert Fuchs was in from Germany and very serious actor, worked hard, and did not interact much with the rest and the cast and crew. Rosalba (Neri) of course, was a love and a close friend as well as the leading lady, so there were many socials, but nothing that falls into the ‘anecdote’ category. Dick Randall had no involvement in the making of the film, he was only involved in the making of the original deal, in that he brought me and the financier of the film together. Hence, a film was wrought. We were friends living in Rome and part of a colony of Americans and Brits living there and working in the European film industry. Dick was an astute film broker, a sharp businessman with a great sense of humour. Chubby, mustachioed with a thin Gilbert Roland one and of shortish stature. The last time we met was at Cannes about 15 years ago. Dick was the embodiment of the exploitation film producer of that era.””

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