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Frankenstein '80
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: John Richardson, Gordon Mitchell, Renato Romano, Xiro Papas, Dalila Parker

Written By: Ferdinando De Leone, Mario Mancini Directed By: Mario Mancini

The Short Version

"Mosaic" is a cool name for him, but this version of the monster gets no sympathy.

Like the monster, an interesting premise goes horribly wrong.

The direction and the screenplay are just plain awful.

Exploitation horror is one thing, but Frankenstein ’80 is just plain sleazy.

This one’s a stretch even for Bad Movie Night material; just pick something else.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Salty Italian cheese that carries an aroma and is generally grated into bits rather than being used whole.  Sounds about right for this monster.

Pairs Well With...


A sleazily named shooter made from half Sambuca, half Peach Schnapps - two liqueurs that tend to cause a lot of people to make nasty faces just by thinking about them.

“The hunt for the monster is still going on.  The murder of the exotic dancer, of the vagabond found in the car dump, and the murder that we have just learned happened in the toilet at today’s International Grand Prix are the work of the same monster.  Police request all citizens to be very careful and to report anything suspicious.”

There’s really only one word that can be used to properly describe Frankenstein ’80, and that word is “sleazy.”  Well, okay, maybe there’s a second “s” word, too.

There isn’t even a question here: Frankenstein ’80 is bad.  If you’re looking for even a halfway decent horror flick featuring one of the all-time classic monsters, move on.  This is one of those movies of that extra special kind of quality that says “if you can’t find it on the video store shelf, check under the sand in the cat box.”  The only real matter up for debate is whether or not Frankenstein ’80 is suitable for viewing as Bad Movie Night material.

That one is a very close call.  Then again, when all is said and done, it really isn’t.

Frankenstein ’80 actually starts with an interesting premise.  In the “near future” of 1980 (this movie came out in 1972) Germany, a certain Dr. Schwarz (Roberto Fiz) has announced the development of a serum that will guarantee that any body will accept any transplanted organ, without the possibility of rejection.  (This, by the way, would be an absolute godsend to the world of medicine if it ever happened for real.)  He’s ready to make his first use of the serum on a human subject: a lovely young lady who desperately needs a new heart.  Unfortunately for her, this serum is also exactly what a certain Dr. Otto Frankenstein (Gordon Mitchell) also needs the serum  to solve difficulties he’s having with the monster he’s created, called Mosaic (Xiro Papas), whose body keeps rejecting its miscellaneous body parts… and there’s only one jar of serum.  So, while she’s being prepped for surgery, Frankenstein and his monster steal the serum, and the poor girl dies. 

Her distraught brother, Karl (John Richardson), is a star reporter, and he vows to get to the bottom of this theft, which may end up also being related to a series of murders throughout the city wherein bodies are being found with random organs removed…

From both a serious and a Bad Movie Night perspective, this premise has promise.  Seriously speaking, this initial idea takes what would unquestionably be one of the most serious scientific problems of creating a real-world Frankenstein monster and tries to solve it.  Transplanted organ and tissue rejection?  That’s absolutely brilliant.  You could really build an interesting story off of this idea.  Or, on the silly side of the coin, Dr. Frankenstein needs the Schwarz serum to keep his monster alive.  He must use the Schwarz!  Hell, the parody dialogue practically writes itself at that point.  Either way, so far, it looks like we’ve scored.

But it’s never quite as simple as the synopsis of the premise, is it?

Get past the premise, and the screenplay for Frankenstein ’80 is a complete train wreck.  You almost don’t need to make up new dialogue to make fun of the movie; the screenwriters have done that themselves.  Try not to think too hard about this exchange, for example:

“I’m glad you came, sir!”

“It’s good for my complexion.”

(Though granted, if you are making fun of this movie, the automatic punchline pretty much writes itself, doesn’t it?)

Also try not to think of the cops, who can only truly be described as being of the Keystone variety.  We expect them to be idiots, of course, but the apoplectic Chief of Police- or is he a Captain?  Or just a high ranking Detective?  The script can’t seem to decide; it calls him all three.  The only thing the script is sure of is that he’s high strung, and that he’s forbidden his team to smoke any more cigarettes until the case is solved/the monster is caught.  That, and the fact that the nosy reporter is better at figuring things out – pulling them out of his ass, when necessary – than any of the cops are.  But don’t ask the reporter to make any sense, either; this plot has so many holes in it that if you have the movie on disc, you can probably use the disc as a strainer.  In fact, don’t ask any questions at all.  If you do, you’ll be tempted to wonder why Dr. Schwarz has only one bottle of his anti-rejection serum, and, apparently, no notes on how to make more.  You’ll wonder how the monster can go from being on an operating table in the hospital with a bandage over his eyes to outside a house across town and back to the hospital again in no time flat.  You’ll also wonder what’s up with the completely unnecessary twenty-five extra minutes tacked on to the movie when, for all intents and purposes, it should have ended at the one hour mark.

But let’s back up a bit, and return to Dr. Frankenstein and his monster just after the serum is stolen.

Having acquired the serum, Dr. Frankenstein heads to the morgue to harvest some organs from fresh corpses to replace those being rejected by the patchwork body of his creation.  Specifically, he goes for a liver, and, as he goes to very great pain to make sure the audience is aware, a right testicle.

Frighteningly enough, this detail actually is important.

Dr. Frankenstein returns to the lab, and narrates a play by play for the audience (under the guise of speaking into a tape recorder) as he transplants the newly stolen organs into his monster.  The narration continues as we change to a scene later on wherein the monster is going about the town.  Since the successful transplantation of the “new gonad,” the Doctor’s voice intones, the monster’s sex drive has increased.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind here.  One: how, exactly, could the Doctor tell?  Two: regardless of the answer to that, anything that follows cannot be good.

The monster walks into a butcher shop, and points to a liver.  (The monster cannot articulately talk; he can only grunt menacingly or make gurgling noises that sound vaguely like a backed-up toilet.)  The nice lady butcher goes in back to get one, and the monster follows her into the walk-in freezer, at which points her starts to savagely beat her to death with a ham bone.  Somehow, just being hit with this bone manages to completely relieve her of her butcher’s coat and completely tear open her blouse.  When she falls dead, the monster, unsatisfied, tears off her bra and cops a feel.

Yes, you read that right.  But wait.  There’s more.

Later on, the monster walks up to a gaggle of hookers on the street.  After he’s rebuffed by one hooker, another one happily suggests he come with her.  (The over-caffeinated cop will later describe this by saying “One prostitute refuses to go off with an ugly bastard who then goes off with another.”)  She’s put off neither by his massive frame nor his shambling walk.  “You may have a limp when you walk, but I bet you don’t have one in bed!”

She takes the monster to her apartment, and he follows willingly.  She then strips completely naked and invites him to do the same.  (She’ll wish she hadn’t; this dude is really ugly without a shirt, and I’m taking even before the scarrifying makeup job.)  When he hesitates, she wonders aloud if he doesn’t actually have the money to pay her.  The monster then reaches into his coat pocket, and then tosses a bunch of bills onto the bed.

Let’s pause again for a moment.  I know that I said not too far back that it’s never a good idea to ask questions of Frankenstein ’80, but I’m going to anyway here, because damn, this scene leaves me no choice.  The apparent horniness of the monster being set aside as just one of those things we have to accept here, the question still remains: how, exactly, did the monster know where to go to pick up hookers?  Further, he appears to know in advance what is expected of him once he finds one; i.e. he needs money to pay the hooker with.  Where exactly did he learn this, we cannot help but wonder?

We’ll find out a few moments later when Dr. Frankenstein comes barging in that this is also apparently not the first time that the monster has gone off looking for some hooker action, since Frankenstein says “I knew where I’d find you when I saw you take my money.  I knew you wanted a woman.”

Were Frankenstein ‘80 a straightforward softcore horror sexploitation flick, that might have the potential to actually be funny.  Unfortunately, something else happens between the time when the monster throws down the money and Frankenstein barges in the room.  I’m sure that you’ve already guessed that the hooker winds up dead.  The part that probably – hopefully – didn’t cross your mind is that this monster is not just a killer.  He’s also a rapist.  Even worse, he’s an on-camera rapist.

Even in exploitation flicks, there are still some lines.  Jason Voorhees kills a bunch of people; that’s fine.  Jason kills the naked girl while or after she’s having consensual sex with her boyfriend (or girlfriend, for all I care); that’s fine.  But neither Jason nor any of his reputable brethren ever crossed that next line.  This monster does, and if Frankenstein ’80 had been at all fun before (which is questionable), it sure stops being fun there.

This is made worse by the fact that the director glorifies what’s happening, literally filming it like it’s a porn flick.  Later on in the movie, the monster does it again, catching a stripper in her dressing room.  The director decides that it’s a good idea to get close up jiggle shots of her breasts while the monster is attacking her and strangling her to death.

So, yeah.  Sleazy.  Not that the movie didn’t have a greasy feel to it before, but here, I think, all doubt has been removed.

Now, if you’re looking for more traditional train wreck material, you can go ahead and back that scene up a bit, and start with the stripper’s act, which is so languid that the three-plus minutes it takes feels like three hours.  Then, as she steps off the stage, the following announcement is heard:

“We continue our program with that great Western hit, ‘Tucson Sam,’ starring Wild Bill Brown!”

At which point, we hear the sounds of a Western movie starting to play.  That’s right, folks.  She was stripping as the opening act for a movie theatre.

Don’t ask.  I don’t know.  Just like I don’t know what the monster was supposed to be doing hiding out in the men’s room stall at an alleged auto race.  (The “race” is stock footage of two cars doing practice laps in a near-empty venue; hardly an “International Grand Prix.”)  I also don’t know why the editor of this movie insists on using the exact same footage of a police car driving down a poorly lit street over and over again several times in the space of three minutes.

When it’s all said and done, nothing really matters anyway: the monster just “burns out,” so to speak; his body rejects its transplanted brain, and the monster falls over dead in a pool a gooey red blood.  What was already a lackluster chase over the course of the final third of the movie ends up feeling like a waste.  A complete, utter waste.

Even without the sleazy atmosphere that permeates the entire movie and its other, frankly heinous elements, Frankenstein ’80 is already so wretchedly bad that it’s questionable as to whether it’s even worth making fun of as Bad Movie Night material.  Add the extra, and I’m more than willing to go in the direction that I’d been leaning in already and just tell you to skip this crap.

Bottom line, Frankenstein ’80 is a poorly made, poorly executed, and ultimately sleazy waste of time.  As it stands, it’s just too lousy even to work as fodder for Bad Movie Night fun-poking.  Pass this one by and find yourself another flick.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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