Lady Frankenstein

Lady Frankenstein ★★★★

While, in Lady Frankenstein's telling, the story around Victor Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten), his loyal minion (Jess Franco regular Paul Muller as Dr, Charles Marshall), and their monster are extremely conventional, once Victor's daughter, Tania (Rosalba Neri) shows up, everything suddenly perks up and goes in new directions, if only for a while.

Returning home after defiantly finishing top of her medical school class, despite the burden of having a vagina, Tania refuses to be sheltered by her father any longer. Though she typically uses the argument that she's a doctor, not a woman, rather than simply asserting herself as a grown ass adult who can do what she wants, the result is the same: now, she watches (and, it must be said, is overtly excited by) hangings, and confidently, commandingly inserts herself into her father's previously secret studies, including the creation of human life.

It's difficult to believe that, as played by Neri, Tania was ever the shrinking violet as which her father preferred to think of her but, if she was, none of that lingers any longer. Not only is she assertive when it comes to her life outside of the house and inside of its laboratory, but she also refuses to pay lip service to social conventions, calling Marshall out on his silent, noble pining for her with a casual, "Do you ever think of touching me?" His horrified response — "Tania, please!" — speaks volumes about his comfort with his own sexuality (as well as hers), the tone of the household of which he's become a part, and how jarring Tania's boldness is to everyone she encounters.*

As befits both a Neri character and an early female medical student, Tania is frank, powerful, and entirely unashamed of her desires and needs, be they professional or otherwise. The fact that she's aroused by violent death is not exactly subtle, and it's something that unexpectedly aligned her with her father, whose excitement at seeing a blade drawn across skin, leaving a trail of blood in its wake, echoes what his daughter feels watching a man hang.

She is also voluntarily bound to her father and his legacy, determined to protect his reputation from being linked with the monster that killed him and, to that end, decides to create a life of her own, ostensibly with the mind and strength needed to end the life of the wildly strong being still terrorizing the community, but also because she is irresistibly turned on by the idea of a powerful body attached to a intelligent mind that worships her. And so, as sexy ladies of fiction do, she persuades Marshall to agree to donate his brain to the hot body of Tommy (Marino Masé), her father's mentally disabled groundskeeper, so she can craft her perfect supplicant. (To show that she's serious, she marries him in his own body, and even lets him bang her — a deposit, of course, on the hot new husband she'll soon have.)

Though the presence of Nadia is a real monkey wrench in the typical Frankenstein story, this is still Frankenstein and, no matter how much Victor Frankenstein says "man's will be done", the universe will not allow either man or woman to play God. So, it ends where one expects it to, more or less, but way sexier than usual, and with an unexpectedly strong hint of what was to come in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, with a deadly conflating of lust and violence bringing lovers to their not unwilling end(s).

Massive thanks to syvology, who put this on my radar with their recent, enthusiastic review.

*While it's possible the attitude shift could be a generational one, the film also features a young woman who is one of Tania's chronological peers; she is just as shocked by Tania as everyone else is, suggesting that it's only Frankenstein's unruly daughter who acts this way.

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