Frankenstein?s odd bedfellows
R. Tripp | 01/05/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Nineteenth Century Italy is beset by attacks from Neanderthal men living in a cave- when the villagers manage to overpower one of them, beating him to death Count Frankenstein uses the body for experiments. A quick shave and a brain-transplant later and the Neanderthal man is transformed into a monster called Goliath complete with goofy Hong-Kong Phooey hair. Grave robbing is specialised in by Frankenstein's `..., a randy hunchback, a misfit butler, a man in a black hat and Genz the evil dwarf (Michael Dunn). The thorn in Frankenstein's side, Genz is always getting into trouble, and eventually is thrown out of castle Frankenstein. Vowing `I'll get my revenge on Doctor Frankenstein' Genz befriends local Neanderthal Ook (`Boris Lugosi'/Salvatore Baccaro). And with Ook the brawn to his brains the dwarf embarks on a second career as a ..., for when he's not spying on people undressing, he has his Neanderthal right hand man abduct village girls and take them back to a cave. The villagers already planning to storm Castle Frankenstein when dead girls go missing (`I'd go with you myself if I wasn't so crippled' moans one have-a-go villager) become even more enraged when live ones start to disappear as well, and the torch waving mob are only kept at bay by Edmund Purdom's Prefect of police who does his best to sustain law and order. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks is an uncharacteristic slice of Italian horror, in that it seems more influenced by the old Universal horror films and the peek-a-boo ... of American ...-cuties than anything coming out of Italy at the time. No combination like that could be completely without interest but Frankenstein's Castle never quite lives up to its potential (or its English language title) and is crippled by slow pacing and too much dead air in-between brain-transplants and wench worrying. Veterans Edmund Purdom and Rossano Brazzi both look to be fighting back the boredom as the Prefect and Count Frankenstein. Brazzi makes for an uncharismatic, unenthusiastic Frankenstein and when Purdom's character remarks `I just don't understand this kind of madness' you can't help wondering the actor's reaction to the script was any different. Even less swinging times were had by Xiro Papas and Michael Dunn- both of whom passed away after acting in Frankenstein's Castle. Dunn who wasn't actually a dwarf per se (he suffered from a childhood disease that causes bones to become severely arthritic) appears to have spent the final years of his life travelling the world and appearing in the most offbeat movies you could imagine. He popped up in the UK (The Mutations), France (Too Small My Friend), Spain (House of the Damned) before this stop-off in Italy. Of all these films Frankenstein's Castle offers Dunn his largest role, but bigger was certainly not better with Genz portrayed as the textbook evil dwarf, forever ogling the women, being manhandled by the rest of the cast and called a `miserable little worm'. To add insult to injury while Purdom and Brazzi dub their own voices Oklahoma born Dunn is dubbed by someone putting on a `squeaky' voice that robs him of any posthumous dignity.
The token/Pseudonymous nature of the credits has always made the identities of the people behind Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks hard to determine. The Something Weird/Image DVD claims that director `Robert. H. Oliver' is really the late exploitation movie mogul/producer Dick Randall. Hmmm..... Unquestionably Randall's money, business sense and second-hand car-salesman mentality made the world of exploitation films a more colourful place as his productions like The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield, King of Kong Island (both 1968), The Bogeyman and the French Murders (1972), Pieces (1981) and dozens more illustrate- but Randall's involvement with the creative side of filmmaking is more arguable. A year or so ago I asked director Mel Welles about Randall's involvement with his film Lady Frankenstein, and while Randall was crucial in setting that film up he had minimal on-set involvement... so I'm slightly sceptical he ever directed a film. Randall probably had some involvement with Frankenstein's Castle, but more likely candidates to be the man behind the camera are co-writer William Rose who also directed the Randall-produced Girl in Room 2A or DP Mario Mancini who made the wonderfully tacky Frankenstein 80.
With nothing by way of an audio commentary (most of the cast/crew mentioned are either dead or M.I.A) or the informative sleeve notes you'll find on their releases of Bloody Pit of Horror and Horrors of Spider Island, the Something Weird DVD isn't about to shed light on this mystery production but it does do the film justice. Presented full-screen with crystal clear quality the film looks like it could have been shot yesterday, something that can't be said of the film's tape incarnations over the years.
Of the extras only one relates to the feature (the original US trailer) the others are shorts that share Frankenstein's Castle's themes (gratuitous nudity, man made monsters). `The Monster and the Maiden' is a B/W ... short from Sonny Amusements with the mildly entertaining spin that a ... stage-bound act is interrupted by the Frankenstein monster who rises from his coffin and eventually has to be dragged off-stage by the girl. While in `Frankenstein and the Naughty Nurse', Dr.Frankenstein leaves his monster tied to a table with a leggy nurse for company. And because `there's a man laying there, even if he is a monster' the nurse decides to pass the time by ... to easy listening music `after all plenty of girls ... for middle-aged industrial magnates who are uglier than he is'. All in all, it's hard to completely dislike a film full of familiar faces, top heavy females, hunchbacks, pseudo-dwarfs and all manner of self-proclaimed cripples, but of all the Italian horror DVD's on the market, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks isn't the one you're likely to return to on a regular basis."
"It's the most incredible case I've ever come across!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 12/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"That nutty Count Frankenstein is at it again, funking around with forces not meant to be meddled with by man...except this time he's sporting an Italian accent, lives in a less than spectacular castle, populated with oddballs, on a mountain somewhere, and enjoys shmoozing with his daughter's friends in the film Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1975). This Italian feature, originally titled Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette, and released in 1974, was helmed by Robert Oliver in his only directing credit (big surprise), and features Rossano Brazzi (South Pacific, Krakatoa, East of Java) as the irrepressible Count Frankenstein, whose scientific pedigree, in this instance, I find highly dubious. Also appearing is the diminutive (in stature) Michael Dunn (The Werewolf of Washington, The Mutations), Edmund Purdom (City of the Walking Dead), strongman Gordon Mitchell (Atlas Against the Cyclops, The Giant of Metropolis), Loren Ewing (Venus in Furs), Xiro Papas (Frankenstein 80), who is also listed as one of the producers, Simonetta Vitelli (A Man Called Django!), Christiane Royce aka Christiane Rücker (Bedroom Stewardesses), Alan Collins aka Luciano Pigozzi (2019: After the Fall of New York), and Boris Lugosi aka Salvatore Baccaro, who also appeared in a little slice of Heaven titled Cave Dwellers (1984), an affair painfully familiar to Mystery Science 3000 fans.
As the film begins we see a fierce battle being waged between a Neanderthal man, eventually named Goliath, played by Ewing, perched on a hilltop, and some unlikely looking townspeople. There's a lot of rock throwing, as the men finally manage to subdue the creature, and leave it for dead...to which it's snatched up by Count Frankenstein's cronies and taken back to the castle. Oh, there's the phoniest looking hunchback I've ever seen...now it's nighttime and we're in a graveyard, witnessing some individuals unearthing a coffin. Inside is the recently deceased body of a young woman...and look, dwarf named Genz (Dunn) is lovingly pawing at her...that's pleasant...and it's back to the castle, where we meet all the Count's kooky staff...there's google eyed Hans (Pigozzi), the hunchback Kreegin (Papas), who's constantly making time with Hans' wife (the cook) behind Hans' back, Igor (Mitchell), who seems a lot less freakish than the others, and finally the dwarf Ganz, whom we met earlier...and now we're outside on a road leading to the castle, as we see the Count's comely daughter Maria (Vitelli), accompanied by her fiancé Eric, and babalicious schoolmate Krista Lauder (Rücker), arriving home for the holidays. Some stuff happens (Krista takes a milk bath, someone peeps on her through the eyeholes on a wall portrait, Hans' wife likes the rough stuff, the Count makes time with Krista when not working on reviving the Neanderthal man with a little brain salad surgery, etc.), the townspeople get jiggy, and the authorities bumble around trying to figure out who's robbing graves. Eventually the little weasel Ganz gets kicked out of the castle after earning disfavor with the Count, vows revenge against all, and hooks up with a completely different Neanderthal man roaming the countryside (which Ganz names Ook, played by Baccaro). Some more stuff happens, Ganz sneaks back into the castle, releases Goliath from his bonds, and mayhem ensues leading up to a not so climatic finale involving a battle between Goliath and Ook (it was hardly clash of the titans here, believe me).
Generally I like bizarre films, and if they contain a certain amount of sleaze, all the much better...and this film is definitely bizarre and slightly sleazy, but also boring as all get out...I'd venture to guess the story was made up as they went along, as there's so little cohesion throughout. The acting is pretty lousy, with the performers having a tendency to step on each other's lines. Frankenstein's motives toward reanimation are questionable, as is his crummy, little lab, complete with various glassware containing colored fluids and an `electric accumulator' whose purpose is relatively unclear. The dwarf Ganz spends a good deal of time peeping on ladies in various states of undress, prior to his hooking up with Ook, a completely different Neanderthal man than the one the Count is experimenting on...there was some much appreciated pointless nekkidness of some of the women featured in the film, but it was surprisingly brief and far and few between. There was one scene, where Ganz and Ook kidnap a girl from the town and ferret her back to Ook's cave, and we see Ook all ready to hack her up for dinner, by Ganz stops him, as he has plans of his own. He strips off her clothes, and then appears to begin to disrobe, to which we cut away, thankfully, to another scene. There's very little blood, as we never even see the Count operate in any way whatsoever (except with his daughter's friend), only the end results indicating some sort of procedure took place (Goliath sports some very phony head wounds, along with a Larry Fine hairdo as part of his shaggy mane needed to be shaved). I think this was just a case of too many characters running around, with little time spent on any one character, creating an overall feeling of disinterest. And then there was the minimal, offbeat, space age musical scoring complete with ookie sound effects...much of the film is populated with effects that sound, well, like someone in the throes of a fit of explosive diarrhea, making me laugh, but hardly fitting for what I thought was supposed to be a horror film (I suspect there may have been some comic undertones intended in the film, but, if so, it was hardly distinguishable to this viewer). There's really not much worthwhile about this film, even for those who enjoy the exploitation genre.
The picture quality, in fullscreen format, on this Something Weird Video DVD release looks very sharp and clean, and the colors are bright and vibrant. The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through very well. As far as special features, there are some goodies here including a theatrical trailer for the film (which is much better than the actual movie), two film shorts, the first titled `The Monster & The Maiden' (11:00), featuring a sort of burlesque dance routine between a rubenesque blonde (who gets nekkid) and a guy in cheap Frankenstein monster gear, the second one in color titled `Frankenstein & The Naughty Nurse' (4:09), featuring an slightly chunky, attractive brunette (who doesn't get nekkid). Also included is a gallery of exploitation art display while vintage radio advertising for schlocky horror features plays in the background (my favorite line from here was "You pay for the whole seat, but you'll only use the edge!"). All in all I give the actual film, in all of it's boring rottenness, 2 stars, while the DVD release warrants 4 stars, averaging out to 3 stars.
Interesting and not so bad as the say
cookieman108 | 03/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just seen this DVD..., i happened upon this title searching information about Xiro Papas and Frankenstein 80... If Frankenstein 80 is REALLY REALLY BAD, I think Castle Freaks is much better... i mean: lighting is sometimes good, editing is made by someone with minimum talent, and directig and performings are equally apropiate for this kind of movie. These things doesnt mean this was a good movie..., but it deserves one viewing at least. When you see it, you got the feeeling that the guys WANTED to do a creditable job..., and here the value is. Moreover, movies like Dracula VS Frankenstein(Adamson) are REALLY BAD( altough i love this title) and got a hit status and this one is able to make you feel sick or sad..., and it is almost unknown...Watching Castle Freaks will leave you with a bitter taste... i dont know exactly why, but i felt it...
Now watch how are portrayed the "freaks" specially the dwarf and the monster(Ewing)... dont you feel something unhappy???Enjoyable."