Lady Frankenstein is one of the more unusu­al films to emerge from New World Pictures dur­ing its for­ma­tive years.  Rather than tack­le then-cur­rent exploita­tion themes pop­u­lar in the ear­ly 1970’s like wom­en in pris­on movies and bik­er flicks, it harkened back to the kind of goth­ic hor­ror ele­ments that Roger Corman explored in his Edgar Allan Poe cycle for A.I.P.  That said, it’s a much trashier vari­a­tion on that kind of mate­ri­al, with a din­stinct­ly 1970’s lev­el of sex and vio­lence that brings it into line with the rest of New World’s out­put around that time.

This film rep­re­sents a sort of dri­ve-in fem­i­nism take on the Frankenstein mythos, with anti-hero­ine Tania Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri) return­ing home for a vis­it with her father, the Baron (Joseph Cotten).  He’s on the brink of reviv­ing the dead and rush­es through an exper­i­ment using a murderer’s dam­aged brain to revive his lat­est pro­to­type.  The end result brings both suc­cess and tragedy: the mon­ster (Paul Whiteman) is suc­cess­ful­ly revived but mur­ders the Baron and escapes into the coun­tryside.

As the Baron’s mon­ster attacks the towns­peo­ple — show­ing a unique abil­i­ty to crash his way into sit­u­a­tions involv­ing naked wom­en — Tania decides to com­plete her father’s work.  She talks his faith­ful assis­tant, Dr. Marshall (Paul Muller), into donat­ing his brain so she can place it in the body of hand­some but men­tal­ly hand­i­capped man who works at the castle… thus allow­ing her to cre­ate a man who is her intel­lec­tu­al equal and also able to sat­is­fy her sex dri­ve.  Unfortunately, she has to con­tend with local cop Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay), the ever-more-sus­pi­cious locals and the mon­ster, who is bump­ing off all respon­si­ble for his plight as he works his way back to the castle.

The end result isn’t like­ly to be cham­pi­oned by the aes­thetes of the hor­ror crowd: it has a style that evokes the tack­ier side of Hammer’s ear­ly 1970’s out­put com­bined with the height­ened sleaze quo­tient of an Italian gen­re out­ing from the same time.  It also has one of the goofier make­up designs for Frankenstein’s mon­ster, a sort of huge, bub­ble-head­ed look that resem­bles a grue­some ver­sion of Frankenberry.

That said, a hor­ror movie doesn’t have to be classy to be enter­tain­ing — and Lady Frankenstein deliv­ers the goods in its own Eurotrash sort of way. It was direct­ed by for­mer Corman actor Mel Welles, who had become a direc­tor in Italy since his days in Corman’s Filmgroup pro­duc­tions.  His approach is work­man­like but enthu­si­as­tic, a style that is abet­ted by above-aver­age pro­duc­tion val­ues for a film of this bud­get.  The Italian crew fur­ther aids the lev­el of pro­fes­sion­al­ism: Ricardo Pallottini’s pho­tog­ra­phy gives the action a nice grimy-goth­ic look and Morricone pro­tégé Alessandro Alessandroni gives it a nice blood-and-thun­der musi­cal score that con­jures up fond mem­o­ries of Claudio Gizzi’s work on Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein.

Better yet, Welles gets game per­for­mances from a solid cast: Cotten is slum­ming here but he brings an effec­tive, weary sense of grav­i­tas to his role as the Baron and Euro-cult reg­u­lars like Hargitay and Muller turn in respectable per­for­mances.  That said, the movie belongs to Neri as the title char­ac­ter.  She plays her role like the Euro-hor­ror equiv­a­lent of a film noir fem­me fatale, giv­ing it all the inten­si­ty and over­ripe sex­i­ness that fans of this cin­e­mat­ic style expect.  When she takes con­trol of the story’s sec­ond half, her work has a real sen­su­al charge to it.

In short, Lady Frankenstein rep­re­sents the junk-food end of the goth­ic-hor­ror spec­trum — but it deliv­ers the kind of tawdry thrills its ad cam­paign promis­es (“Only The Monster She Made Could Satisfy Her Strange Desires!”) and Euro-trash fans will get a kinky kick out its fast-paced sleaze/gothic approach.