Sunday, June 6, 2021

LOVER OF THE MONSTER (1974) (Full Moon Features Blu-ray Review)


Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround with forced English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Sergio Garrone
Cast: Klaus Kinski, Katia Christine, Marzia Damon, Erol Tas, Ayhan Işık, Caterina Chiani

This trashy euroshocker was filmed back to back with writer/director Sergio Garrone's Gothic Italian/Turkish thriller The Hand That Feeds the Dead (1974), made on the same sets with the same principle cast, the same cinematographer, the same composers, with nearly identical title cards and opening credits sequence. While not a remake there are a lot of similarities, particularly the opening scenes, and as such I would suggest not watching one directly after the other as it could prove to be quite confusing. 

In it we have Klaus Kinski (Jack the Ripper) playing the same-named, though totally different, mad scientist Prof. Alex Nijinksy, who along with his wife Anijeska (Katia Christine, Probability Zero)
 come to live at her family's estate, hoping to rekindle their passionless marriage. Arriving they are greeted by the family butler Boris (Erol Tas, The Deathless Devil), who settles them in and almost immediately takes them to the crypt of Anjieska's late father, the Baron Rassimov, to pay their respects. 

While perusing the late Baron's study Nijinksy discovers a notebook that details Rassimov's bizarre experiments, and later finds his beaker and blood-filled laboratory in the basement. The professor quickly loses all interest in reconnecting his wife, and instead becomes singularly obsessed with her father's mad science experiments. The lab, which is the exact same set used in The Hand That Feeds the Dead, only now covered in a fresh layer of talcum powder to give the illusion of age-related dust, he sets about cleaning-up and reconnecting the instrumentation to continue the unnatural experimentation. 

As her husband spends his waking hours in the lab to carry out the experiments of her father the increasingly ignored Anijeska begins to spend a lot of time with a former flame who lives in town, the kindly Dr. Igor Walensky (Ayhan Işık, The Hand That Feeds the Dead), who makes it very clear he wishes to steal her away from her husband, but she stays faithful nonetheless, though she clearly enjoys the attention of her suitor. 

Meanwhile, Nijinksy poisons the family dog so that he
use it for experimentation, seemingly looking to reanimate it, but the surgeries seems pretty crude. He makes an incision in the doggie's belly and pulls out it's intestines, bandages it up and then applies electricity to it, Frankenstein's monster style. The dog does not spring to life but he seems to accidentally altered his own biology after getting zapped with some electricity himself. Afterward he  occasionally transforms into an insatiable sex-beast along the lines of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, finding himself rampaging through the countryside murdering people.  His victim's include a farmer young son, and a handful of  young lovers he finds canoodling in the forests. Predictably, his jealousy over the amount of time his wife has been spending with Dr. Walensky, combined with his newfound murderous alter-ego, force a violent confrontation which ends in tragedy and regret. 

The flick is a stylish slice of Euro-cult with some mild Gothic atmosphere and period costuming, but there's not enough psycho-sexual shocks for my tastes, particularly since the murders seem to have a sex-crime element, but that is never made explicit. Again, as with The Hand That Feeds the Dead, Kinski plays the role with a subdued temperament, a bit too subdued in fact. I love a good slow burn, but more often than not this entry tends to smolder-out instead of bursting into flame, making it a bit bland. A great example of this would be when Kinski's character transforms you don't actually see the physical change, all the carnage happens just off screen or is only seen through the killer's POV, with just a few close-up of Kinski's bulging his eyes for weak dramatic effect. Eventually you do see him semi-transformed, but he really just looks like Kinski after a drunken all-night bender. 

Other things that slow the film down are subplots  involving a pair of unlucky vagrants in the wrong place at the wrong time that find themselves falsely accused of the crimes perpetrated by Kinski's monster, one of whom is beat to death by an angry vigilante mob while the other is hung after a hasty court trial, all of which goes on for far too long. To top it off the nudity is a rare and only briefly glimpsed commodity, with even less of it in this film compared to The Hand That Feeds the Dead. 

Of the pair of films shot back to back this the inferior film, not that The Hand That Feeds the Dead was any great shakes, but it at least had more action, more bizarre surgeries, more nudity and carnage, and a lot less melodrama to sort through, and this Gothic euro-shocker is lacking the sleaze, shocks and psycho-sexual that could have made it something truly interesting. 

Audio/Video: Lover of the Monster (1974) arrives on region-free Blu-ray Full Moon Features in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, and is advertised as being uncut and remastered in HD for the first time in North America. The source elements are in good shape with very few blemishes, but the grain structure is compromised, losing fine detail and waxing skin textures, with the close-ups of Kinski's craggy deep-lined face are the clearest indicators of this. Colors looks solid though, this is a very earthy presentation, the only real color are the reds found in the laboratory.  

Audio comes by way of compressed Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround with forced English subtitles, and as there's no English dub on the disc I did not mind the non-optional subtitles. The Italian dialogue is clean and free of distortion, and the score from Stefano Liberati and Elio Maestosi (The Hand That Feeds the Dead) is solid as well, adding to the Gothic charm of the film. I did not check for comparison but I would not be surprised if the score was also recycled from The Hand That Feeds the Dead. 

The only extras on the disc are are 8-minutes of euro-cult trailers from Full Moon. Not that my opinion carries any weight, but I would suggest future Euro-cult release from Full Moon should get at least an audio commentaries, from someone along the lines of Nathaniel Thompson, Troy Howarth, Tim Lucas, or Chris Alexander - someone who knows their eurocult stuff, would be a cool value-add. 

Special Features: 
 - Trailers: Barbed Wire Dolls (1 min), Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (3 min), Naked Girl Murdered in the Park (1 min),  Satanic Sisters (1 min), Voodoo Passion (1 min), Women in Cell Block 9 (1 min) 

The Lover of the Dead (1974) is an interesting companion piece to The Hand That Feeds the Dead, but it fails to deliver the bare-minimum of sleaze, psycho-sexual fervor and shocks that could have made it a more interesting viewing. That said, I am down for anything with Klaus Kinski in it, even when it's on the tamer side of his catalog. You can pick it up for under $20 from, and probably for under $10 if you're willing to wait till one of their sales. 

Screenshot from the Full Moon Blu-ray: