Public domain. The term has almost become a stigma. Personally, when I discover that a film is in the public domain, my asshole puckers like the lips of a proselytized preschooler on Toddlers & Tiaras. Why, you ask? Because I know it will be damn near impossible to find a DVD that comes equipped with a seemly, speckless transfer. When copyrights are a non-issue, distribution shingles come skittering out of the woodwork to release their versions of, say, Carnival of Souls or Night of the Living Dead. Out of the dozens of companies to profit off of public domain titles, only a diminutive fraction of those racketeers will bother to put any effort into manufacturing a dignified product. And I'm not just talking about extras.
No, I'm talking about prints, assuming that the studio groused for actual film. The majority of public domain DVD's are sourced from videotapes (or laserdiscs), and sometimes, the sources themselves are bootlegs. I made a point to dredge this topic up for a couple of reasons. Well, one reason...Frankenstein '80 is in the public domain. Ironically, a cursory search on Amazon lists a whopping two discs. That's a subjacent number, especially considering that the most recent DVD was released today. What's the deal? Why haven't b-movie merchants jumped at the opportunity to append their logos to an Italian exploitation flick bursting at the seams with karo syrup, spotty dubbing and Frankenrape? Yeah, Frankenrape. That's a word now.
1972's Frankenstein '80 bears no relation to 1958's Frankenstein 1970 or 1984's Frankenstein '90. Man, that sentence wrenched my optic nerves. Due, in part, to the success of Hammer Films, a lymphatic flurry of Spanish/Italian Frankie features cropped up in the late 60's and early 70's. This production fell on the sleazier end of the spectrum. A mad scientist needs fresh organs for his patchwork of defunct flesh (the monster is referred to as Mosaic). In order to combat body rejection, he pilfers an experimental serum that keeps his creation from running through livers ad infinitum. The bulk of Frankenstein '80 functions as a police procedural. Who stole the serum? And why? Hey, who raped and murdered that prostitute? Was Ross justified in cheating on Rachel? Should Niles tell Daphne how he really feels?
If you can overlook the woozy script and the glazed acting, this is a rollicking time at the cinema. There is a scene where Mosaic bludgeons a topless demigoddess with a bone in a meat freezer. Literally. He uses a bone (see the badass cover art). The characters are obtuse twits, but I'll make allowances for the questionable writing. In all fairness, we do get a few instances of comedy that are genuinely funny. The lighter moments balance out the salacious depictions of rape and testicular expulsion. But at the end of the day, this schlocktail is review-proof. You know what you're getting yourself into, and while I wouldn't go so far as to call Frankenstein '80 a crowning achievement in Eurotrash, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fellow genre goons.
ADDENDUM: From what I understand, the DVD released by Apprehensive Films is just another bootleg. My advice would be to save your clams and splurge for the Gorgon Video clamshell. She's a beauty.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:01 PM