‘Weird creatures return to life in…’
Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks is a 1973 Italian horror feature film produced and directed by Dick Randall [as Robert H. Oliver] from a screenplay co-written by Mark Smith, Roberto Spano and Mario Francini. The movie stars Rossano Brazzi, Michael Dunn, Edmund Purdom and Gordon Mitchell.
The film is also known as Doctor Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks (American video title), Frankenstein’s Castle (British video title), Monsters of Frankenstein, Terror, Terror Castle, The House of Freaks and The Monsters of Doctor Frankenstein. The original Italian title is Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette [“Terror! The Castle of Cursed Women”]
In a non-specified time in an undisclosed European country, neanderthals roam the countryside, upsetting the local villagers. Seeing an opportunity to rid themselves of their tormentors, the villagers corner one of the brutes (Goliath, Loren Ewing from Devil in the Flesh), evading the tree trunks and rocks he hurls, to bash him over the head and kill him.
Leaving his corpse, this is soon collected by some shadowy individuals and taken to the castle laboratory of Count Frankenstein (Rossano Brazzi, slumming it somewhat post-The Barefoot Contessa and The Italian Job) so that he can continue to conduct his unholy experiments. The Count is most disappointed that the other (female) cadaver collected up has been tampered with by his death-obsessed dwarf assistant, Genz (Michael Dunn, The Mutations, The Werewolf of Washington).
The locals are becoming alarmed – they’re suspicious as to what is going on at the castle and also a tad unhappy that the graves of their loved ones are being robbed. Not for the first time in the film, they are told to go away and stop being silly by the hopelessly inept head of police, played by familiar trash movie face, Edmund Purdom (The Fifth Cord; Absurd; Pieces) in fairness it’s a very sparse mob with a touch of Monty Python about it.
Elsewhere, Genz has befriended the other marauding caveman, Ook (the brilliant character actor Salvatore Baccaro, aka Sal Boris but here under the worst pseudonym ever, Boris Lugosi) and… if you’ve made it this far, it probably doesn’t matter.
Some female nudity, comedy caveman grunting, some pervy dwarf action and some endless experiments with the world’s smallest lab set-up, the ending can’t come quickly enough – indeed, rather like the opening scene, when it does come it seems out of place.
Directed by Dick Randall (here as Robert H. Oliver), best known as a producer of low-budget schlock and horror (The Mad Butcher; Pieces; The Urge to Kill), the film was made in Italy and features many bit-art actors from genre of the time – or more correctly, slightly before the time, many of them clearly having fallen on bad times – also along for the ride are the likes of German stunner Christiane Rücker (Castle of the Walking Dead), buff strongman Gordon Mitchell (Frankenstein ’80), Xiro Papas (The Devil’s Wedding Night; The Beast in Heat) and Luciano Pigozzi (Blood and Black Lace, Baron Blood, All the Colours of the Dark).
The real wonder of Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks is that it conspires against the odds so wilfully to become one of the most painful horror films to watch. As the script is at pains to clarify, the story is broadly speaking that of Frankenstein and so one might assume the hard work has been done… but no, endless, pointless twists, cut-aways, a breathtakingly slow operation (Frankenstein spends longer shaving Goliath’s head than Colin Clive did making two monsters come alive) and some mild hanky panky spiced up with the inclusion of a dwarf and a caveman who communicates through grunts, only serve to make this a harrowing mess.
Worse still, bad enough that the likes of Brazzi are disgracing themselves but that the film is so bad that even aforementioned Dunn and Baccaro (also seen in The Beast in Heat and briefly in Dario Argento’s Deep Red), usually arresting and air-punchingly fun in their performances are unable to save this is alarming.
The squelchy, grimy score is by Marcello Gigante, better known, and suited, for his work on Italian Westerns. The settings are meagre and rather harbour the feeling that if the camera moved slightly to the left they’d get a decent shot of the car park; as it goes, the gothic flavour is one of the few nearly-ticks.
Picked up by Harry Novak‘s Boxoffice International Pictures and unleashed in cinemas during 1974, the film has not improved with age and is so ponderous it’s difficult to even reappraise it as kitsch. The film found its way onto the home market initially through the likes of Magnum Video and later seen alongside Randall’s far more accomplished production, The Mad Butcher, through masters of lo-fi Something Weird.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA
“One of the trashiest horror movies produced in Italy in the 1970s […] The cast is every trash connoisseur’s delight. Randall and Oscar Brazzi assembled a mixture of has-beens, exploitation regulars and out-and-out freaks that must be seen to be believed.” Roberto Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970 – 1979 [In this well-researched book, Curti mulls over director Robert H. Oliver’s true identity at length and comes to the conclusion that it was probably Dick Randall].
Cast and characters:
Rossano Brazzi … Count Frankenstein
Michael Dunn … Genz
Edmund Purdom … Prefect
Gordon Mitchell … Igor
Loren Ewing … Goliath
Luciano Pigozzi … Hans (as Alan Collins)
Xiro Papas … Kreegin
Salvatore Baccaro … Ook (as Boris Lugosi)
Simonetta Vitelli … Maria (as Simone Blondell)
Eric Mann … Eric
Laura De Benedittis … Valda
Robert Marx … Koerner
Christiane Rücker … Krista (as Christiane Royce)
Margaret Oliver … Paisan Woman
Alessandro Perrella … Doctor
Roberto Fizz … Paisan
Annamaria Tornello … Assaulted Girl
Aristide Caporale … Grave-Digger
Nicola Palumbo … Agent
Mike Monty … Paisan
Rossella Ferrero … Paisan Woman
Ozzie Raghet … Almut
Walter Saxer … Warner
According to the Italian Public Cinematographic Register filming began on 18 December 1972. The film was granted a visa by the Italian censors on 17th November 1973.
1 hour 29 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1
Released in Italy by Nettunia Film on 19 February 1974. The film was released in the United States by Aquarius Releasing and Box-Office International Pictures in January 1975.
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