More hot hacienda action the ol' Franco way, featuring many of the sets, actors and characters from "Dracula: Prisoner of Frankenstein". "Curse" does in fact exist in two versions, as the "proper" version is called "The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein" and is roughly the same as "Curse" aside from that fact that in several scenes the characters have miraculously lost all of their clothes. Curse is the censored and "clothed" one, which also unfortunately includes an additional number of scenes not present in "Erotic Rites" which depict a gypsy girl called Esmeralda wandering around a wood and talking to an under-acting old woman who doesn't even appear to realise that she's being filmed. Needless to say these scenes have absolutely sod all to do with anything else and, in an act of pure sadism, Tartan Video decided to release this longer version onto DVD.
Being fair to it, "Curse" is a lot better than "Dracula: Prisoner" and with some alterations could even have made a tolerable 70s horror film in its own right. Its core plot isn't too far removed from the Hammer films being churned out at the time and there's some vaguely interesting stuff going on in it. However, that doesn't mean to say it's any good. Mercifully, Franco has vastly cut down on the number of crash zooms though still seems to have problems in focussing the camera a third of the time, and most exterior footage seems to suggest that every building in Spain is situated on an ungodly ground subsidence. The musical score is also questionable, giving us some nicely eerie tunes here and there and then assaulting us with jazzy percussion tempos during key action scenes, such as when Frankenstein's monster breaks into a poor young lady's bedroom and leaps on her on the bed. Ah yes, there's some naughty hijinks going on in this film including a truly nasty whipping scene that goes on for too long (and is even worse in the "Erotic" version, simply because one of the people being whipped is a nude 50 year old man urgh
) but certainly nothing to get heated about. Then again, Franco's idea of erotica seemed to be to just point a camera at a naked woman and stay there for 30 seconds a throw. Ho hum.
Dr Frankenstein (Price) is reanimating a somewhat shinier version of his monster, with help from his assistant, Morpho (what is Franco's fetish with the name 'Morpho'???). Despite playing the title character, Price is killed approximately two minutes into the film. Now, poor old Price's characters often have a run of bad luck. I've seen him getting throttled, impaled, drowned, drained of blood, tipped into acid and "excited to death", but I think I wouldn't be wrong in saying that Curse gives us the most novel method of Price dispatchment: bitten and bled by a blind and cannibalistic bird woman. Mmm. There's something to write home about. The bird woman and a gurning helper steal Frankenstein's monster and take him to the true villain of the piece, Cagliostro: a ranting nutter who doesn't blink (yes, it's Howard Vernon again, far better playing some bloke we've never heard of than the legendary Count Dracula). Cagliostro initially seems to want the monster to steal lots of virgins for him but then decides that he wants to create the ultimate woman as a bride of sorts for the monster. Quite why I don't know but I'm sure if he had the chance he'd list his reasons. Frankenstein's daughter, Vera, comes to pay her respects at her dad's funeral, following which she steals the body and reanimates it back at the "castle" to learn who did the poor bugger in. Eventually she reasons that the best way to get her revenge on Cagliostro is to let herself get captured by his monster and
um, get hypnotised into being his completely willing slave. Yes. Erm, not quite sure what she was getting at, there. In any case, that's the status quo and it's not even including the activities of the good Dr Seward, wandering around the plot and chatting to people (probably looking for Bram Stoker for an explanation as to what on Earth he's doing there).
I said it wasn't as bad as "Dracula: Prisoner" and that's true. For a start, it can only tarnish the memory of one horror staple rather than three, but aside from that it at least seems to know where it's going half the time. Most of this is thanks to the dialogue, in stark contrast with its prequel; yes, this time characters actually talk to each other, a revolutionary concept if ever I've heard one. Dr Seward actually gets stuff to do here and even comes across as a decent enough hero character (even if he does try to chat up Vena at her dad's own funeral yes, really), having a hand in the baddie's downfall as opposed to his spare part status in "Dracula: Prisoner". Dennis Price appears several times throughout the narrative despite the seemingly overwhelming drawback of having been killed but spends most of the time lying on a bed, twitching spasmodically and rambling about his monster and Cagliostro. From what I can make out, Price seems to be giving an
interesting performance (in other words, going over the top to exceptional degrees) but as it's dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles I can't really tell. Eventually Frankenstein dies after one ramble too many, only to come back from the dead as a (somewhat mincing) zombie who staggers into the next room to have a go at strangling Dr Seward. Price's demise is finally made certain when a police inspector chucks a container of acid over him, which seems to disintegrate Price's head in 0.5 seconds. Golly.
And then, 20 minutes later, it sort of... stops. I ought to be grateful that it ended at all.