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05 January 2015 @ 08:13 am
Movie Reviewed: Frankenstein '80 (part 1 of 3)  
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Frankenstein ‘80
(1972)


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[note: this title shot is how it’s framed on the Mill Creek disk -- the usual quality work]

Starring: John Richardson, Gordon Mitchell, Renato Romano, Xiro Papas
DIR: Mario Mancini

Blurb: A scientist is successful in creating a serum that allows bodies to accept transplanted organs without the threat of rejection. Unfortunately, the scientist’s discovery is stolen and used by a mad doctor creating a patchwork man from various body parts. This bizarre creature escapes from the lab and sets out on a rampage of death and destruction with the police desperate to stop the crazed monster.


Scene 01: We open on a man in a sportscar racing somewhere in the dead of day-for-night. On the radio, he hears the exciting news about a Dr. Schwarz, who has seemingly perfected an anti-rejection serum and is looking for a suitable human test case. Our gentleman grows bored with the radio the very moment that this Radio Exposition has completed this groundbreaking announcement and shuts it off. We watch for several long seconds of the car going through a metropolitan area.


Commentary: This should be good folks! We’ve got: horrible day-for-night-for-no-real-reason, we’ve got Convenient Expositional Radio - which is turned on only long enough to catch a backfiller program and then immediately shut off, we’ve got scenes that go too long but doesn’t give us any story detail and we’ve got sudden whiplash inducing jump cuts.

Is it Italian Horror? You betcha!



Scene 02: Elsewhere in the city, we join a woman going up a flight of stairs in the moonlight. She’s carrying some groceries home.

Suddenly and abruptly, she’s grabbed by somebody from the shadows and before she can utter a scream, is choked silent. She falls as apples roll down the stairs.


Scene 03: We hear our bad guy gasp and grunt as if having trouble breathing. He drags our woman to a semi-dark corner and stares down at her body. As the woman’s sightless eyes stare into the night, he fondles and tears open her top. But it’s not the lacey, yellow bra that he’s after, but her side as he slices her open with a scalpel.


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A few slices later and he has a new liver.

He walks toward us as we stare at his boots from ground level, still making some distressed, sucking breath sounds.


CREDITS - where we sit staring at a pair of dark pants, shoes and overcoat for a boring length of time while our credits are all cut off on both sides because of the framing. But, the theme isn’t too badly done, so it isn’t all painful to begin.


Scene 04: After our credits, we get several simultaneous events: a car crashes noisily, a woman spots the dead, mutilated remains on the steps below and screams in horror and zoom-lensing POV lenses madly.


Scene 05: It’s sometime shortly later. Our car crash victim has been found on a lightly traveled road and it seems a miracle that he’s been found in time to possibly be saved.

The man is loaded up on a stretcher. We get a spin-pan around their faces as they look grimly on the car accident victim [in such horrible day-for-night that the tinting is obscuring their faces, so if we’re meant to establish who we’ll be seeing later it doesn’t work -- and we don’t get any names anyway].

The ambulance speeds away [in the morning sun attempting to be the night moon], carrying our car wreck victim to Dr. Schwarz.


Scene 06: Elsewhere a group of police inspectors arrive to inspect the body of the poor, murdered woman. Our chief inspector glances over the body and then uses a kerchief to pick up the obvious murder weapon. He holds the bloody scalpel up for an interminably long time [as POV zoom lens’ in so we can appreciate it].


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Scene 07: Elsewhere, the ambulance arrives at the clinic of Professor Schwarz with our crash victim [and thankfully, we’ve acknowledged that the morning sun has risen so the scene isn’t heavily tinted].

Somebody meets the gentlemen [struggling] with the stretcher to ask about what they’ve brought in and they reply an accident case.


Scene 08: Professor Schwarz seems to be running a teaching/research hospital as he’s walking with some sycophants and telling them they’ll meet again for something the following morning.


Commentary: Apparently, Roberto Fizz wanted us to glean that the Professor is an arrogant prick because he gives off that impression in a few seconds of walking with a vague line that we can’t know the meaning of, since we’re coming into this in the middle of the conversation. So… good job, Mr. Fizz?


Scene 09: In another room of the clinic, a woman is telling her brother that she’ll be alright and not to worry. Brother is reminding his sister about the Professor’s breakthrough and [DRAMATIC SPIN DURING LINE RECITATION!!] if he could use it on her, things would be alright, so apparently an organ transplant is what she’s waiting on.

Sister thinks that would be just grand, but she’s momentarily more worried about her brother’s job down at the paper. He [clumsily and awkwardly] reminds her that he’s Chief Reporter now at the crime desk [Which, uh, means he doesn’t have to worry about going to work?? I-I don’t understand what the point of that statement was in-universe].

They hear Professor Schwarz in the hallway.


Commentary: Not that we get any introduction to these two’s relationship for another two scenes, so I was calling them husband and wife… oops.


Scene 10: The Professor and his colleagues arrive to check on Ms. Patient [And, uh, yikes! Go back to being gruff, go back to being gruff!]


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She assures the doctor that she’s feeling great today. He’s there to announce the happy occasion of a donor having been found for her unrevealed sickness and they’re going to prep her for an immediate surgery.


Scene 11: In the Professor’s office, our Crime Desk Chief Reporter is told that the donor was just killed in an auto accident and the deceased’s wife has given clearance for the man’s heart to be given to Ms. Patient.

There is discussion about the real dangers of this surgery in an attempt to prepare Crime Desk Chief in case the worst happens. The doctor reminds him that although he’s confident of getting Ms. Patient through surgery, the risk of organ rejection is high.

[Professor Schwarz so far is the only one to be given a damned name. Is it too much to ask that Brother/Sister/Professor sprinkle a few first names into their conversations?]

The Professor brings up using his sister as the human trial for his new serum.

[Hey, ask and it shall be granted! Our Chief Reporter of the Crime Desk will be Karl Schein, now.]

Schein signs the necessary papers for permission to go forward with this experimental treatment [Uh… Ms. Patient didn’t look anywhere near underage and she’s not incapacitated… do patients in Italy lose all say in their own courses of treatment as soon as they get put into a bed??]. The Professor shows off the Schwarz Serum proudly, which he keeps in his office refrigerator. He shares with Schein that it’s the only bottle of serum existing in the whole world [because, yes, that makes sense].


Scene 12: Presumably that evening, somebody opens a door in a suspicious manner with a key… but slooooowly with ‘creeper-music’ and wearing black gloves. In the office, by flashlight, our thief goes to the unsecured refrigerator to steal the only bottle of anti-rejection Schwarz Serum in the world. It’s shockingly easy.


Scene 13: That night, Ms. Patient is being rolled into surgery [so… it took, literally, all day long to prep her for surgery??] as Schwarz is being gowned up.

Our Research Professor/Transplant Surgeon savant goes into the tiniest surgical suite ever and Ms. Patient is gassed into unconsciousness.


Scene 14: Meanwhile, our donor is being kept chilled in what appear to be a morgue room… not the refrigerator, just in the room. Somebody in a surgical mask and bloody scrubs pulls the sheet off of him to inspect his body -- it appears the heart was already removed for the transplant procedure now occurring.

Our masked man tells himself that it may be a little too late to grab the liver, but he must try. He proceeds to raid the donor body and then checks out the liver in the lamp light with a look of complete focus in his baby blue eyes.

Our donor patient’s nipple is attesting to the chillness of the room.

Our raider takes another small bit from our donor [it may be one of the man’s testicles, but it sounds like the raider is muttering “gullet” to himself, which makes no sense]. He then spends precious moments risking discovery by sewing up the donor cadaver. With his organ prizes in unsecured jars, he and his glorious 70’s ‘stache mosey out of the morgue.


Scene 15: Our raider creeps to another office in the clinic and triggers a secret passage hidden behind a book case. This leads to an entire secret medical room, where he places the organs in his own refrigerator… and there we see the Schwarz Serum as well.


Commentary: Okay, I have to admit that I liked the idea that there would be this entire surgical suite set up in secret right inside of Professor Schwarz’ own clinic, from which our errant doctor could perform his own experiments using the Professor’s work.

That is a nice touch and keeps things convenient script wise, since our mad doctor has an ready excuse for why he’s able to get his needed supplies easily and conveniently while also being able to keep a tab on the Professor’s own breakthroughs.



Scene 16: The following day, the theft of Schwarz’ office is being explained. The Professor is commiserating with Schein because his sister did not survive the transplant without that stolen serum. The Professor laments the work of a lifetime stolen.

[Well, Dickhead. Perhaps if you’d kept samples in a secured location. Perhaps if you kept the serum locked away. Perhaps if you kept detailed notes so you could replicate more. Perhaps if the clinic had insisted that this sort of work be verified by outside laboratories where samples could’ve been stored. Perhaps if the patents had been put in place to allow actual pharmaceutical manufactories to begin producing the serum there would be more to have gotten rushed to your Podunk clinic to save Ms. Patient. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… but now you’re just looking like a complete fucking moron. Good going, Professor Secretive Monomaniacal Ego.]

Schwarz promises Schein complete access to anywhere and anybody he needs in the clinic to track down who stole the serum and is possibly responsible for ultimately killing his sister [even with the serum, it’s been made clear that her chances were only improved, the risk wasn’t eliminated that she’d reject anyway -- a realistic touch in a ridiculous scenario].



Commentary: It’s unclear how long after the surgery this is taking place, but it’s had to have been days if not weeks, so I can go ahead and ignore that the police are nowhere to be seen at the moment but this scripting is really lazy and messy and it’s starting to actively irritate me. There is so much wrong with the idea that a Professor would be able to secretly produce a new serum and get it tested with government and public approval without anyone else having access to the formula for verification, or even having a way to reproduce it himself that… well… this sort of shit is easier to swallow when you’re dealing with mad doctors in their home labs in the basement. In this setting, it’s just unbelievable and stupid. And I hate crusading reporters doing the police’s job for them as they’re nowhere to be seen as a story crutch to avoid the drudgery of police work… hate it.


Scene 17: Schein starts by trying to find out who was on front desk duty the night of the serum theft. He’s directed by the desk agent to the personnel office.


Scene 18: He goes to a patient treatment floor, instead of personnel and asks a random doctor about who is in charge of records for the floor. Doctor directs him to a nurse, as they take care of all of that record keeping business.

He finds Fritz, the Special Nurse to Professor Schwarz. Schein asks Fritz for any ideas on who would want to steal a formula whose only use would be for transplants. Fritz can think of no one off hand, since the Serum hadn’t even proved successful yet. He shares that he did notice something unusual that he didn’t share with the police as it could be nothing, but he did smell the scent of Formaldehyde near the professor’s refrigerator when they’d discovered the serum missing. It seems an out of place scent as you’d expect it in anatomy labs and morgues, not private offices and Fritz cannot think of a scenario where the professor would have the substance in his study.


Commentary: But, yeah… I’m sure it means nothing that the police should know about. As to “who would be interested in an about-to-be-proven anti-rejection serum that could be worth tens of billions to the medical industry”… yeah, *shrug* who would wanna steal something like that? I sure can’t think of anybody….

Or for the love of a sensible script writer.



Scene 19:  We now jump to a close up of fleshy organs in a series of dishes. Over these stands a patchwork man [Yeah, I’m just going to jump to the chase -- this is our Frankenstein’s Monster and we’ll know him as Mosaic, a nice name considering his origins. By the way, I’m going to shortcut that our organ stealing Frankenstein will be named Otto]. He wears a blank look as he stares at the pieces of human. We focus tighter and tighter onto his face.


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Scene 20: A jump cut takes us to Mosaic outside of a shop, staring in at a female clerk behind the counter in a butcher’s shop, serving a woman. She is a wonderful woman who doesn’t react one whit to the fact that her newest customer is deeply scarred and has trouble vocalizing intelligently.

She makes out in quick order that he wants liver. Alas, this means she has to leave public view for the meat cooler where she also must apparently hack the liver out fresh from the cow carcass herself.

Mosaic creeps in behind her. There is a wresting match where he tries to brain her with a cow leg bone. There is an unpleasantly extended scene of her being slowly, methodically beaten about the head and face as she tries to retreat deeper into the meat locker.


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She manages to strip off her meat packing coat and get her blouse open to expose her bra and cleavage while retreating from this vicious attack [as I’m sure you would].

Once unconscious, Mosaic tears off her bra and feels up her boobies. Presumably after the jump cut, he takes that liver he was after, which seems to be the one part that continually breaks down after transplant.


Commentary: I know that it’s the 1970’s and all, but that was just gross. There was absolutely zero reason for the camera to focus on Xiro’s hands fondling the actress’ tits except that we were supposed to feel a little aroused at it… which is just sleazy in an un-fun way. But what makes the whole scene so disgusting is the way Mario ensures that our victim manages to tear at her own clothes to get herself down to her bra during her attack, which is clumsy and unnecessary. If Mosaic was already going to be tearing her bra off, why not just have the bad guy tear the shirt open as well? I don’t understand making her do this when she’s supposedly fighting for her life. So, not only is it scummy, but it’s also stupid.


Scene 21: Meanwhile, at the police headquarters, Inspector Arnold Schneider is bitching out his subordinates for spelling his name wrong on some reports. Apparently, the typist of the report spelled it ‘Ornold’, which does seem to be rather clumsy. He sends his subordinate away with the reports to proofread them, even more irritated that he bothered answering a rhetorical question, rather than stand there mutely quaking in his boots.

The Inspector then gets an update on their organ stealer case. The detective tells him that the coroner stated the surgical cuts to remove the woman’s liver were amateur [this would be the opening scene death, where apparently Mosaic used a wire garrote that we didn’t get to see].

The Chief Inspector bellows about for a while. He gives his detectives a blustery five things he wants done immediately -- which are things that you’d expect the detectives to have already started looking into. They leave, wondering what bug is up the Inspector’s butt crack.


Commentary: I’m of the mind that this scene was supposed to be played for laughs at the Inspector’s impatience and the subordinates dumbfoundedness … whatever; If it was amusing, it was very mildly so. But more problematic than the tone of the scene and the cliché of the Bellowing Boss was that there wasn’t anything said here that we couldn’t have done without. The scene was largely without a purpose and could’ve waited until they found the organ theft from the body in the morgue at Schwarz’ clinic. At some point, they have to know that they’re dealing with two different organ thieves and then start to tie them together, and the Bellowing Boss scene could’ve waited until then.


Scene 22: Elsewhere, a set of gloved hands fondle a scalpel [or a lancet, as they use in Italy]… probably of the same manufacture and from the same supplier as the weapon used on our opening victim.

This is our Dr. Frankenstein. He goes to the refrigerator for the Schwarz Serum, where we get a long, staring POV on the bottle so we can remember its significance… because we have the retention skills of a goldfish, apparently.

He then listens to a tape of his previous attempts at treating Mosaic, which degrades into his berating him for going after his own replacement organs. After hearing this, he then proceeds to record a new surgical session as he again replaces the wore out liver on his creation. He discusses the process throughout for later review of the procedure. He also transplants the stolen testicle while he’s at it. Finally, he treats Mosaic with the purloined serum.

As he’s injecting Mosaic, an alarm and red light go off in the hidden medical suite. It seems to be an alarm about Mosaic’s decreasing heart rate.


Commentary: The only thing I’ll say about this scene is that the cut marks across Mosaic’s left side, while the doctor is working on the right out of our view was very well done, effect wise. But the testicle transplant feels really weird. I can get the thought behind it -- obviously Mosaic is frustrated at not being able to do more than fondle at the moment, but I can’t imagine why this little tidbit was included. I don’t even think that a testicle would survive in a corpse long enough to be an option but even if it were theoretically capable, it’s a strange detail to include in a movie script…. Which means that I kinda like it, even though at first I was really taken aback by its inclusion in the scene.


Scene 23: Late that night, a man is walking down the street by lamplight. He arrives at his destination and rings a door bell several times. This turns out to be our reporter, Karl and this is Dr. Otto Frankenstein’s home. Otto isn’t in though, but his niece offers to take a message to deliver. He chooses instead to come back the next day.

As our reporter returns to his car. When he turns on his headlamps, he sees a figure shielding their eyes from the bright. This is apparently a streetwalker. He speeds away.


Scene 24: Meanwhile, one of our detectives is canvassing the neighborhood but doesn’t seem to be getting any helpful information.


Scene 25: The following day, our detectives compare notes. One of our men has received a duplicate scalpel of the sort that our killer/organ thief used.


Commentary: These scenes are also pretty empty, but I do like that instead of forcing us to listen to dialog that doesn’t add up to anything, we get the detectives as a short montage with some decent jazzy music. It makes it un-painful to sit through, especially since the scenes are short enough to just be sketches to let us know that the detectives are working the case at the same time as our reporter -- and presumably at some point they’ll intersect.


Scene 26: That night, Mosaic is back on his feet and out wandering. He happens to run into the prostitute who works Dr. Frankenstein’s neighborhood… the same that had a brief encounter with Karl. She gets one look at Mosaic’s face and makes a rude comment before turning on her heel to storm away from him for startling her. With Mosaic following her in a limp behind her, she keeps telling him to go away as she’s taken him for your garden variety bum.

She manages to walk away from where there are plenty of people to where she can be isolated with the stalker. She gets very lucky as another working woman springs from the bushes to offer Mosaic her services instead. She doesn’t seem at all put off by his scarred face and after staring after his intended target a little longer, he acquiesces to our unfortunately industrious hooker.


Scene 27:  She takes him to her apartment of business, complimenting how tall he is and flirting with him. At her place, she strips down for business as Mosaic stands silently staring at her. She asks him to get undressed but he stands mutely. She asks his name, but as she sees him struggling to make sound, she tells him not to worry about it. He’s sent off to the bathroom to disrobe, since he seems shy.

When he leaves the bathroom, our hooker gets a look at his surgically treated tackle along with his body scars. She freaks out. But Mosaic wrestles her down onto her mattress.

She’s raped in another unpleasantly protracted scene with some indication that he’s unusual enough down there to both terrified her and now to be hurting her.


Scene 28: Back with our group of night workers, our intended Mosaic customer has returned to her place in the line. The other prostitutes are discussion how slow it is that evening. Dr. Frankenstein approaches her looking for Mosaic and is directed to our hooker’s co-worker’s place.


Scene 29: Back at our woman-of-the-evening’s place, Mosaic is napping after his exertion. She’s lying still, watching him and afraid. She tries to get up, but this wakes him and he goes for round two to her continued protests.

He suddenly grabs at his face in pain, as she continues to scream to be let go. This pain seems to drive him crazy-cakes and he’s suddenly clamping his large hands around her throat.

Dr. Frankenstein arrives just a little too late to save her, telling Mosaic that he knew exactly what he’d be up to when he’d found his money missing. Now, he looks over what his creation has done… again. He insists that he must stop this killing, but for the moment they need to get out of there. He bundles Mosaic up in his hat and overcoat and rushes the otherwise naked man out of the room.


Commentary: Give it this to Mr. Mancini, he may have a sleazy streak going but he’s at least not completely focused on female nudity only. Although we’re obvs not going to get Mosaic’s junk in frame, full body scarring has been added so we get plenty of shots of his torso, back and buttocks along with the usual breasts. I can accept sleazy nudity when it’s equal opportunity-ish.

I liked this scene more though for after Otto arrives and the pleading way that Mosaic reaches for him, naked but unselfconscious and the way that Otto reacts almost like a father trying to protect a son without even acknowledging that his creation is standing there stark naked. It’s a nice character moment between these two men from the doctor to his creation. I am a bit confused as to Mosaic’s behavior though. In the opening murder and the slaying of the meat counter clerk, his intent was obvious, boorish and murderous. But here, with this woman, it almost seemed to me that he wasn’t actually going to murder her. Although he cannot be forgiven for his assault on her, she may’ve actually lived if not for a sudden pain through his head with her exacerbating it by screaming. One wonders at what would’ve happened if she’d stayed quiet and still… it seems that Otto wouldn’t have allowed her to be slain upon his arrival. I’d like to see an explanation of whether he is just a slaughterer or if there really is some small shred of humanity within this monster before the movie is through.




Scene 30: Sometime later, Chief Inspector and his detectives are processing the apartment. They seems to detect an odd scent in the air, but we don’t hear anything about it as they go through fingerprinting and waiting for the coroner.



TBC

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