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Plot: a police inspector, his wife, her lover. Who’s the criminal?

There’s something of a connection between the German krimi and the earlier antecedents of the Italian giallo despite both evolving independent but parallell from each other. Whereas Mario Bava’s legendary monochrome shocker The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) served as the template and prototype that established all rules and conventions for the giallo the German krimi frequently crossed over with other subgenres. One such crossovers was The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle (1963) that combined the krimi with gothic horror. La morte non ha sesso (that translates to either Death has no sex or The Dead Have No Sex, released in North America as the more noir sounding A Black Veil For Lisa) was shot in Germany under the working title of Vicolo cieco or Impasse and lands at the halfway point between a krimi and a giallo. Everybody’s morally compromised in one way or the other, the women are beautiful, the blade-wielding maniac wears a black trenchcoat and gloves, there’s more than enough sex and high fashion and the plot is certainly convoluted and labyrinthine. However, with the attention squarely on the sleuthing and the investigation this one etches more towards the conservative Anglo-Saxon and German variants.

Massimo Dallamano was one of those workhorse cinematographers of post-war Italian cinema who debuted in 1946 but never really received a great deal of attention or recognition for his work. While his work spans a healthy two decades a mere three titles stand out in his resumé as a director of photography. One is the peplum Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile (1961) and the two others are Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965). He formally quit his position as cinematographer once he made his directorial debut with the spaghetti western Bandidos (1967). A logical choice considering he had spent much of the sixties photographing exactly that for a living. A decade earlier Dallamano co-directed the documentary Tierra mágica (1959) in Venezuela but it got little to no attention. As is often the case Dallamano quickly moved on to more artistically fulfilling projects that he himself was interested in making. In that capacity he directed twelve movies over 18 years between 1968 and 1976. His Venus In Furs (1969) (with Laura Antonelli) was not only earlier than the more popular Jesús Franco one it was also plain better. Where Dallamano truly found his calling was in the poliziottesco and giallo. His ‘schoolgirls in peril’ poliziotteschi duology What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) are legendary for a reason and the Oscar Wilde inspired sleazefest Dorian Gray (1973) (with Marie Liljedahl, Maria Rohm, Margaret Lee, and Beryl Cunningham) is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Other notable contributions of his include the Malicious (1973) imitation Innocence and Desire (1974) (with Edwige Fenech), and the The Exorcist (1973) rip-off The Night Child (1975). In truth, Dallamano was never given his fair due and among the enduring exploitation greats he remains somewhat of a humble unknown.

And who’s Lisa, you ask? Luciana Paluzzi. Paluzzi had debuted inconspicuously as a handmaiden in The Labors Of Hercules (1958) and established herself in Hollywood with the bikini comedy Muscle Beach Party (1964). Her most high-profile (and most publicized) role was that of SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball (1965). For her Bond was a double-edged sword that brought her fame and fortune but at a considerable cost. Its impact was almost immediate and would continue to reverberate through out the rest of her career for many years to come. On the one hand she now was an international superstar and sex symbol but, according to the documentary Bond Girls Are Forever (2002), Bond had damaged, or at least tainted, her reputation. She found herself, by her own admission, shunned by all the respectable domestic directors (Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica, and Roberto Rossellini) and was thusly forced to turn to exploitation cinema for a living. Regardless, with head held high and chest proudly thrust forward, luscious Lucy soldiered on. In that capacity 1968 was a turbulent year that saw her star in four productions. First there was the Italian-Japanese counterfeit Space Station Gamma 1 epic The Green Slime (1968), the Eurospy OSS 117 Murder for Sale (1968), this, before playing a genie in the Spanish Arabian Nights swashbuckler 1001 Nights (1968) (with a young Paul Naschy). Her other highlights include the turgid Jesús Franco women in prison ensemble film 99 Women (1969), the Alberto de Martino giallo Exhibition (1969) (opposite of Romina Power), the Fernando Di Leo poliziottesco The Italian Connection (1972), the blaxploitationer Black Gunn (1972), and the Terence Young peplum breastacular The Amazons (1973). After a quarter century Paluzzi’s career came to a halt with the Francesco Prosperi poliziottesco Deadly Chase (1978).

When a series of systematic executions target police informants in the Hamburg criminal underworld narcotics detective for Interpol Franz Bulon (John Mills) suspects that Harry Schouermann (Carlo Hintermann) is behind the recent swathe of assassinations but he has no tangible proof to substantiate his suspicions. Schouermann has been the subject of an ongoing investigation of his and Bulon is pressured by his chief Ostermeyer (Tullio Altamura) to crack the case as soon and smoothly as possible, especially now that key witnesses have been eliminated. Along with his colleagues Kruger (Loris Bazzocchi) and Siegert (Enzo Fiermonte) he takes to interrogating known drug user Marianne Loma (Renate Kasché, as Renata Kashe) and her immediate circle which leads him to cartel assassin Max Lindt (Robert Hoffmann). At the home front Bulon has marital problems to deal with. His thirty-something trophy wife Lisa (Luciana Paluzzi) feels constricted by her geriatric lover’s controlling and possessive tendencies and is prone to flights of fancy just to drive him up the wall. At another crime scene Bulon finds incrimininating evidence linking Lindt to the series of murders. He also finds proof that Lisa is indeed cheating on him while he’s on duty. Hoping to solve two problems at once he traps Lindt and he makes an offer to the young hitman: rid him off his cheating wife in exchange for immunity. Things take a turn for the complicated when Max and Lisa fall in love and Bulon’s less than savory ways of solving crime come to light….

Orbiting around luscious Luciana are veteran British actor John Mills, he of the period costume drama Lady Hamilton's Warm Nights (1968) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970). The other is Robert Hoffmann who could be seen in I Knew Her Well (1965), Naked Girl Killed in the Park (1972), Spasmo (1974), The Old Gun (1975), and Eyes Behind the Stars (1978). Since it was filmed in Germany it was probably stipulated that local talent had to be used. Here that appears in the form of that other redhead, Renate Kasché. Kasché was no Solvi Stubing, Barbara Capell, or Andrea Rau. Hell, she was not even an Ingrid Steeger, Claudia Fielers, Judith Fritsch, or Gisela Schwartz. Kasché was more of Flavia Keyt or Ulrike Butz. She might not have been as prolific as the latter but she did score a few notables like the former. Regardless, Renate can be seen in roles of no real importance in Venus In Furs (1969), The Naked Countess (1971), Lady Frankenstein (1971) (with Rosalba Neri), Erwin C. Dietrich's She Devils of the SS (1973), and Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle in America (1977). Tullio Altamura is known around these parts mostly for Samoa, Queen Of the Jungle (1968) and Carlo Hintermann for Eyes Behind the Stars (1978). Mirella Pamphili and Paola Natale both were bit players with the former having a more distinct career than the latter. Pamphili had small roles in the Mario Bava gothic horror Kill, Baby… Kill! (1963), the fumetti Argoman, the Fantastic Superman (1967), the giallo The Sweet Body Of Deborah (1968), the Romina Power musicarello The Gold of the World (1968), the fumetti Satanik (1968), and the art-deco visual treat The Laughing Woman (1969). The only things of significance that Natale did were the giallo Naked… You Die (1968), and the Erica Blanc gothic horror The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971).

In 1968 31-year-old Luciana was at the height of her physical prowess and at her utmost desirable. Like Graziella Granata, Rosalba Neri and Luciana Gilli, Paluzzi was a classical curvy Italian beauty and a very patrician one at that. While her features were more sculptured (very much as her contemporaries Daliah Lavi, Marisa Mell, and Diana Lorys) Paluzzi was blessed with an absolute spectacular body. No wonder that Paluzzi’s picture eventually ended up on the desk of Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. While Edwige Fenech and Rosalba Neri (to name the most prominent two) would reinvent themselves as wanton sex kittens at the dawn of the following decade Luciana never disrobed for just anybody. On the first glance it appears her role as a red hot sexpot is mostly decorative but nothing could be further from the truth. Luciana wields some dizzying cleavage, gloriously fills out every of her many robes, and sports some incredibly skimpy lingerie. Her brown cowgirl suit and the frilly translucent white nightgown are particular favourites among her many costumes. Ever since Thunderball (1965) Paluzzi was never shy about doing nudity. Admittedly, in the fourth Bond film her nudity was implied rather than shown but in A Black Veil For Lisa Luciana lets it all hang out – and it is ever glorious. A Black Veil For Lisa may not have been remembered for much, Lucy’s nudity has certainly aided in ensuring its longevity. If not for her A Black Veil For Lisa wouldn’t have endured the way that it has. While it is no classic, it’s historic for being somewhat of a quintessential evolutionary link between the German krimi and the earliest of Italian gialli while not strictly adhering to the rules of either.

In all honesty, A Black Veil For Lisa is not exactly what you call a classic but it nonetheless was prescient of where the giallo was evolving towards. It tends to date itself somewhat by putting almost all focus on the police procedural and only slightly leaning into the debauched sex-crazy antics of the decadent upper class. The giallo would coalesce into its most identifiable form when director Sergio Martino got involved with his Edwige Fenech cycle of The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (1971), The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (1971), All the Colors of the Dark (1972), Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), and Torso (1973) that saw Fenech transforming from promising starlet into international sex symbol. Martino went where Top Sensation (1969) and the early Dario Argento gialli only hinted at. A Black Veil For Lisa also failed to make a giallo star out of Paluzzi the way Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, Nieves Navarro, Femi Benussi, Suzy Kendall, Carroll Baker, and Ida Galli were. In fact this seems to be the only time she ventured into this particular horror subgenre. It must have impressed at least somebody as Dario Argento protégé Luigi Cozzi refurbished the mainplot for his own and only giallo The Killer Must Kill Again (1975). While oozing with atmosphere and sensuality A Black Veil For Lisa is not nearly sexy and stylish enough to count itself among the more definitive gialli that followed it. Regardless, as a genre piece it certainly is strong and convincing enough. Where Luciana Paluzzi went, others were bound to follow. And that what’s happened.

Plot: the sins of the father shall be visited upon the daughter.

Lady Frankenstein is another of the many Italian gothic horror potboilers with the always enchanting Rosalba Neri in the titular role. Based upon a story by Dick Randall, and written by, among others, Edward Di Lorenzo and directed by Mel Welles (and an uncredited Aureliano Luppi), Lady Frankenstein boasts an international cast including faded Hollywood star Joseph Cotten, exploitation regulars Paul Müller, Herbert Fux, and Mickey Hargitay. Lady Frankenstein stays true to the basic tenets of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel and oozes with enough rustic gothic horror charm, and a surprising amount of Neri nudity, to compensate for the somewhat lackluster script and a distinct lack of striking visuals.

Director Mel Welles had worked for exploitation mogul Roger Corman for over a decade by the time Lady Frankenstein was put into production. According to an interview with Welles in the 2007 Louis Paul tome Tales from the Cult Film Trenches one of the producers – Harry Cushing, a well-to-do American living in Italy - had a thing for Neri and built Lady Frankenstein, originally from a script called Lady Dracula, as a project specifically with her in mind. Neri did not reciprocate Cushing’s advances. When some of the financing fell through at the last minute Roger Corman stepped in. Despite not having a solid script when principal photography began, and the involvement of no less than six writers (Umberto Borsato, Edward Di Lorenzo, Egidio Gelso, Aureliano Luppi, Dick Randall, and Mel Welles), Lady Frankenstein never devolves into incoherence despite a minimum of plot.

In Lady Frankenstein Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten) and his assistant Dr. Charles Marshall (Paul Müller) have at long last mastered the ability to revive an exanimate subject. In a revolutionary transplant, lifted wholesale from The Giant Of Metropolis (1961) and later repurposed in Marino Girolami’s cynical cross-genre exercise Zombi Holocaust (1981) a decade after this pompous gothic horror romp, the two scientists will place the brain of the soon-to-be-hung Jack Morgan (Petar Martinov) in a recombined body they prepared earlier. Lecherous vulture, part-time grave robber and full-time creep, Tom Lynch (Herbert Fux) is overjoyed at the idea of his old enemy finally becoming of use to him. Lynch assists both scientists in bringing their experiments to fruition as long as there is a monetary compensation. Throwing caution to the wind, and against Marshall’s protests, Frankenstein senior is adamant in commencing the experiment regardless of the circumstances.

At that point the Baron’s college graduate daughter Tania (Rosalba Neri, as Sara Bay), now bearing a degree in medicine from the same faculty that ousted her father many years prior, arrives at the old homestead. Despite a quarter century age gap the middle-aged Marshall has been pining for Tania for several years. Tania immediately puts her comely charms to use, winding Marshall around her finger, while getting wind of her father’s dabbling in illicit necro-biologic experiments. As the Creature (Peter Whiteman) becomes animate Marshall leaves to summon Tania to witness the resurrection. This leaves the geriatric Frankenstein to the mercy of the Creature’s super-human strength. As Tania and Marshall return to the laboratory they find the lifeless body of Frankenstein the elder, and the Creature having fled into the nearby woods. Soon the Creature’s rampage prompts an investigation by Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay). In a three-way power struggle for survival Tania, Lynch, and Harris attempt to outwit each other.

As it turns out Tania does admire Marshall, but not on the way he probably imagined, or desires. Tania has taken a liking to feebleminded but able-bodied stableboy Thomas (Marino Masé) and by her reasoning Thomas’ frame with Marshall’s brain as a guide would form the ultimate countermeasure against the elder Frankenstein’s homicidal Creature. Tania’s seduction (and corruption) of Thomas foreshadows Neri’s work in The Devil’s Wedding Night two years later. In a plot scribbled from James Whale’s The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Tania builds a second creature not for her late father’s Creature, but for herself. “Who is this irresistible creature who has an insatiable love for the dead?asked the poster and Tania, in the form of seductress Rosalba Neri, fits that descriptor like no other. To nobody’s surprise Frankenstein the younger is forced to betray her creation, and Lady Frankenstein ends in a sizzling climax, both literal and figurative, that leaves Harris, thwarted at every turn, picking up the pieces.

Joseph Cotten, an American actor in his twilight years, had appeared in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), and The Third Man (1949), Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt (1943), the Richard Fleischer science fiction classic Soylent Green (1973) with Charlton Heston, Airport ’77 (1977) alongside George Kennedy and Gone With the Wind (1939) star Olivia de Havilland, and Michael Cimino’s big-budget western fiasco Heaven’s Gate (1980). From 1971 onward Cotten frequently appeared in low-budget Italian exploitation shlock. In 1969 Rosalba Neri had figured into a trio of Jesús Franco productions with the likes of Luciana Paluzzi, Maria Rohm, and Christopher Lee but also starred in the offshore giallo Top Sensation with Edwige Fenech. Neri appeared in the Fernando di Leo giallo The Beast Kills in Cold Blood (1971). A year after Lady Frankenstein Neri starred another gothic horror piece with L'Amante del Demonio (1972), and The French Sex Murders (1972) with Anita Ekberg and Evelyne Kraft, later of The Mighty Peking Man (1977) and Lady Dracula (1977). In 1973 Neri graced the screen, alongside Mark Damon, in the gothic horror throwback The Devil’s Wedding Night.

Swiss actor Paul Müller made uncredited appearances in respectable productions as El Cid (1961), and Barabbas (1961) before becoming a pillar in continental European exploitation cinema, primarily in Italy and Spain, through turns in Mario Bava’s I Vampiri (1956), Mario Caiano’s Nightmare Castle (1965) with Helga Liné, Amando de Ossorio’s Fangs Of the Living Dead (1969) with Rosanna Yanni, and in the Jesús Franco productions Eugénie (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), The Devil Came From Akasava (1971) and Nightmares Come at Night (1972) with Soledad Miranda, and Diana Lorys. Hungarian actor Mickey Hargitay, father of Emmy and Golden Globe winner Mariska from long-running police procedural Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999), ended up in the Italian exploitation industry and had appeared in Revenge Of the Gladiators (1964), Bloody Pit Of Horror (1965), and The Reincarnation Of Isabel (1973). Marino Masé debuted in the peplum comedy The Rape Of the Sabines (1961) with Roger Moore, and appeared in Nightmare Castle (1965), Emanuelle Around the World (1977), Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination (1980), and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III (1990).

Herbert Fux was a veteran of German TV and cinema, having appeared in popular series as Tatort (1972), Der Alte (1980), der Bergdoktor (1992), and mainstream cinema hits such as The Three Musketeers (1993) and Astérix & Obélix contre César (1999). In exploitation circles he appeared in some of the Kommissar X action/adventure movies through out the 1960s, and a few Tiroler sex comedies from Franz Josef Gottlieb and Alois Brummer in the 1970s, and uncredited in the budget-deprived Lady Dracula (1977) opposite of Evelyne Kraft. Fux portrayed the Devil that copulated with nubile starlet Susan Hemingway in the Jesús Franco production Love Letters Of A Portuguese Nun (1977). Fux was dubbed in the English language version by director Mel Welles, himself an experienced actor.

One of the more interesting aspects of Lady Frankenstein is its pronounced feminist angle, which isn’t strange considering its release that coincided with the Women’s Liberation movement that was gaining momentum in 1971. Tania Frankenstein is, for good or ill, an emancipated, highly intelligent, determined, coldly calculating woman that will stop at absolutely nothing - including murder - to finish her late father’s experiments on reanimating the dead, or acquire the man she craves. From the moment she is introduced, and especially after her father’s passing near the half hour mark, all men, in one way or the other, become subservient to her whims. Tania’s ambition and desire to vindicate her father’s theories eventually pushes her into the same god-like madness that can only lead to death and destruction. As the only character worthy of an arc it is Tania that becomes the crux in the travails in each of her male co-players. The men that circle around Tania are either bottomfeeders (Lynch), boytoys (Thomas), useless idiots (Harris) or willing accomplices (Marshall). In a Freudian slip that results in her killing Tania exclaims “Thomas!” in a particular passionate lovemaking session with the Marshall-Thomas creature, unleashing jealous rage in the latent Marshall part.

While not among the worst of Frankenstein adaptations Lady Frankenstein is emblematic of gothic horror of the day. It's portentous and heavy on that rustic Hammer Horror atmosphere but on a fraction of the budget. The distinguished presence of Joseph Cotten and the always alluring Rosalba Neri can only carry the rudimentary script so far. Like Spanish production Necrophagus (1971) it is thick in atmosphere, but seldom yields any heart-stopping visuals or arresting imagery. It's functional and competently directed, but rarely inspired as such. There's enough Neri nudity but Lady Frankenstein never aspires to the pompous erotic heights of The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973). Rosalba Neri had appeared in better movies, both before and after, Lady Frankenstein. The score by Alessandro Alessandroni is majestic and gloomy in equal measure. Neri's presence might make it of interest to Italian gothic horror fans, or completists - but Lady Frankenstein probably wouldn't be remembered today if it weren't for her portraying the titular character.