“Hey, Joel Schumacher, ease up on the ass shots!”
I first saw Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks back on video in the early '90s courtesy of the good folks over at Sinister Cinema. When I popped that ol’ VHS into the VCR, I thought for sure that I would soon be knee-deep in premium Italian cheese. As it turned out, I was only half-right: it wasn’t cheese, but I was definitely knee-deep in it!
At the time, a cable station known as The Comedy Channel (later Comedy Central) was airing this completely new and off-beat show called Mystery Science Theater 3000, wherein the silhouettes of a man and two robots sat in a row of theater seats and proceeded to make fun of the movie they were watching. It was nothing short of genius.
One day, the thought hit me: “Dude, Mystery Science Theater 3000 should totally do that awful Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks movie!” Like all thoughts that entered my head during that particular time period, it soon left… and the dream of seeing one of Italy’s dumbest exploitation movies ever given a good riffing went with it.
But now, thanks to the diligent service of the brave men and woman of Cinematic Titanic (MST creator and former host Joel Hodgson along with writers/performers Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Mary Jo Pehl), Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks may at long last be viewed with the relentlessly cruel bashing it so appositely deserves.
And to think, it only took about twenty years to happen!
I suppose just one of the many plausible reasons that none of the former MST3K crew ever so much as bat an eye at Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks in the past could be due to the fact that, as is the deal with most Italian exploitation flicks, nudity is a key feature. In fact, the promise of extreme nekkidnes in this film is undoubtedly what turned many a hapless viewer onto it in the first place (too bad there isn't that much). However, thanks to the advent of this whole technology thing, this problem has been, ahem, “fixed” here via what is referred to as a “Breast Blimp” (the profile of a radio controlled blimp comes down and covers up the movie’s scenes of nippledom — irritating, but cute in a “Well, I wondered what they were going to do there” sort of way).
Another problem that may or may not have dissuaded the old MST3K gang(s) from doing a number on Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks is the fact that it is a really bad, incredibly stupid, horrendously lame, and incorrigibly dumb excuse for a motion picture! So much so, that even the usually razor-sharp wit of the Cinematic Titanic crew seems to drag at times with this outing (but don't worry, they make up for it).
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t give Cinematic Titanic: Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks a try — because you should! You really, really should!
It’s fun! Heck, it's nutritious, too!
Are you sold yet?
So anyway, let’s discuss this movie’s dreadful attempt at a plot. Originally entitled Terror! Il Castello Delle Donne Maledette (or Terror! Castle Of Cursed Women if you translate that literally), Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks is a movie that has the appearance of being comprised entirely of dailies and outtakes: there are long shots used when there should be medium ones (imagine a film using only establishing shots); actors seem to be rehearsing rather than acting; the English-dubbed dialogue is nothing short of inane and has a habit of repeating itself; special effects are non-existent; and any attempt at direction on the part of veteran exploitation producer Dick Randall (as Robert H. Oliver) comes across as incompetent at best (hell, even the titles are bad: witness the mention of actor Mike Monty’s name in the closing credits — twice! — as if the filmmakers really couldn’t decide whether or not his part was important).
Sporting a distinguished cast of has-beens and nobodies alike including South Pacific’s Rossano Brazzi; The Wild Wild West’s diminutive Michael Dunn (in one of several posthumous performances following his death the year before in 1973); Edmund Purdom (another familiar face from Italian exploitation flicks who passed away on New Year’s Day, 2009); Gordon Mitchell (star of many a peplum and spaghetti western movie); Luciano Pigozzi (aka Alan Collins); the ladies of the story, Laura De Benedittis and Simone Blondell (aka Simonetta Vitelli), whose careers were probably cut short with this one; and, quite possibly the most unlikely screen name in B-movie history, “Boris Lugosi” (aka Salvatore Baccaro) as Ook, the caveman!
All of the aforementioned factors (and more) enable the Cinematic Titanic boys and gal to keep the jokes coming hard with a barrage of midget jokes, hunchback quips, caveman puns (some serious shades of Eegah! there, folks), remarks about the stilted acting, and even some personal references to the comedians’ previous work (“This totally reminds me of my last day at MST,” Weinstein relates, as Luciano Pigozzi tosses Michael Dunn from the castle).
Bottom line: Cinematic Titanic: Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks is a most-worthy sixth installment in what has quickly become the preferred movie riffing experience. But don‘t take my word for how good Cinematic Titanic: Frankenstein’s Castle Of Freaks is, just browse on over to the Cinematic Titanic website and purchase the DVD for only $14.99, or download the entire episode (which you can in turn burn to DVD-R) for immediate viewing (if you can't wait any longer for a good laugh) for just $9.99.