What is it about pretty human women? Every kind of monster seems really interested in them…
First blogged by me in this 22 December 2013 post at Infernal Wonders, this little pair of illustrations appears to be promotional art — possibly run in local newspapers — for the 1959 sci-fi cheapie Teenagers from Outer Space. I’ve seen this movie (or at least, the send-up of it done by MST3K), and I can attest that it does at least have the scene promised by the advertising. If you really want to, you can watch or download the movie the Internet Archive, or watch it as embedded here:
The MST3K version is currently available at YouTube, though I shan’t make any promises about how stable it will be.
Some of you might have encountered writer and film buff Steve Miller’s 150 Movies to Die before You See, which sure sounds like the sort of thing someone who reads this site should have on his shelf. Well, I am pleased to report that this distinguished reviewer has not just a site, but a whole darn network of sites of reviews and commentary and very tasty imagery well worth your time if you like what goes on here. There’s Terror Titans (horror movies), Watching the Detectives (hard-boiled private eye and spy stuff), Movies to Die Before You See (pretty much self-explanatory), The Universal Horror Archive (lot of horror, including some classic mad science), and Shades of Gray (black and white fantasy art, which should be appealing to those of you who enjoy Lon’s fine black and white work on Tales of Gnosis College). From the last, I can’t resist a swipe of some splendid mad science found there, an illustration by Bruce Timm.
And all this wonderfulness is packaged up for you at Cinema Steve, which now occupies a place of honor over on the blogroll. Do something nice for yourself and surf over to take a look.
It’s inevitable that I would be viewing a movie that’s sometimes marketed as The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (more properly La maldición de Frankenstein, 1972). True, it was written and directed by Jesús Franco, a filmmaker with a reputation for being a real schlockmeister, but that’s hardly a disqualification here!
An oddity of this movie is that it seems to exist in two versions, a “clean” version without nudity and a “dirty” one, in which whole scenes in the clean version appear to have been re-shot with naked actors. The “dirty” version, at least the one I was able to find as bonus material on my DVD version, has very low print quality — fuzzy images and poor lighting. The “dirty” version also appears to have some complete sequences that were cut from the “clean” one entirely.
In some ways the “clean” version might actually make for more interesting Erotic Mad Science cinema, because it gets us to focus on concepts. The movie’s unusual plot involves Dr. Frankenstein busily tuning up his massively muscled, silver -skinned monster (which actually appears to be loyal to him), and being stone-cold murdered by some sort of demonic individual called Cagliostro and his hideous (well, in a squick or squee sort of way) bird-woman companion Melisa. They then kidnap (!) Frankenstein’s monster and wrest him from his loyalty to his late master using Cagliostro’s “magnetic” powers.
The monster is then dispatched on the errand of raping and abducting pretty women, who are to be brought back to Cagliostro’s castle where they are to be…well, used for parts. One of them, played by Britt Nichols, puts on a great “woman in peril” face in her final moment.
Which somehow is even starker as a (supposedly) decapitated head.
But don’t worry. As we shall see, she’ll live again. Sort of. These relatively crisp images are from the “clean” version. In the “dirty” version, the camera gives us a close-up panning full-frontal shot whose poor lighting presents too many technical challenges to reproduce here.
Fortunately for the forces of good, or at least the forces of less evil, Dr. Frankenstein has an avenger in the form of his own daughter, Dr. Vera Frankenstein (played by Beatriz Savón), who just by the merest chance, happens to be a hot scientist in her own right. She responds to her family tragedy like any devoted child would: she digs up her father’s corpse and hauls it into the laboratory for a session with the Fixation Ray. The Fixation Ray was what the elder Frankenstein used to animate his monster. As Vera demonstrates, the Fixation Ray can also be used to provide prompt, temporary relief from the symptoms of death. Long enough to ask Dad who was killed by, anyway.
Finding out that it’s Cagliostro who’s to blame (and isn’t it always), Vera pulls a move worthy of a Gnosis College heroine. She substitutes herself in the place of one of Cagliostro’s victims, getting herself abducted by the monster for the purpose of infiltrating his castle. This works…right up to the point where she’s unmasked.
Things are pretty tough for Vera from there. She is tied back-to-back with a minion of Cagliostro who in typical evil-minion fashion has failed his master at a critical moment. The pair is then placed inside a field of giant, poisoned spikes and flogged by the monster. The first to fall, dies. Even in the “clean” version the resulting spectacle is pretty damn kinky.
Naturally there’s also a “dirty” version.
After Vera survives (and also possibly after a “send her to my chamber” episode that only exists as a fragment on my DVD’s extras) she’s subjected to Cagliostro’s mind-control powers and put to work, using the parts Cagliostro has been accumulating to construct and animate a “perfect woman,” whom he intends to mate with Frankenstein’s male monster for the purpose of creating a new master race. (Oh, how very original.) At least Cagliostro picked the parts well.
Hot scientist at the ready.
And in the “clean” version we see this:
And the dirty version this:
But things don’t quite work out for Cagliostro, because the monster’s residual loyalties to Frankenstein kick in just as he’s about to made with electro-woman and he runs around smashing stuff up. Cagliostro drives off laughing maniacally, apparently to his death, except that it’s not really his death because somehow he’s managed to impregnate Lina Romay, who’s otherwise spent the entire movie wandering around in a meaningless detached subplot and will be reincarnated in the body of the child she’ll give birth to. Or something. Way to wrap things up there, Jesús.
But still that’s Erotic Mad Science for you. Though for my money it’s Vera Frankenstein that makes the DVD worth the price. Not so much for what she looks like with her clothes off, though I’m certainly not complaining about that, mind you. It’s for what she does and represents, and for her uncompromising commitments to mad science and throwing herself into danger. You’re a true thaumatophile when you understand why all that matters…
You might recall a warning from a few days ago that when you go fetish fuel mining in old pop culture you might get a bit dirty. That’s sort of how I feel about today’s post, but somehow I can’t resist the underlying material all the same.
The character of Fu Manchu is one of the earlier characters one might call a supervillain. He was created in 1913 by the English novelist Sax Rohmer (1883-1959), and he must have scared the willies out of contemporary audiences as the embodiment of some rather deep fears. As Rohmer’s protagonist Nayland Smith described him in The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu:
Imagine a person, tall, lean, and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government—which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.
Yes, I’ll agree that racism really burns here — a topic I’ll be returning to shortly, I promise. But for the moment, I’d like to focus on Fu Manchu as an early cinematic erotic mad scientist. Obviously, here was a subject that Hollywood could not resist.
The instance I have in mind here is The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). The plot revolves around the struggle between a group of British archaeologists and Fu Manchu over possession of a mask and scimitar that supposedly belonged to Genghis Khan. Fu Manchu believes that with them he can be recognized as the new Genghis Khan and rouse the masses of Asia to rise up and wipe out the white people of the world. Because of course everyone in Asia can instantly recognize centuries-lost artifacts as genuine on sight, right? Hey, I didn’t say the plot had to make any sense. What I’m here for is the erotic mad science.
Which we get in satisfying doses, this being a pre-Code production. Fu Manchu is in fact an accomplished scientist, possessing at doctorates in “philosophy from Edinburgh, law from Oxford, and medicine from Harvard.” (In spite of this, not a single white character in the movie addresses him as “Dr. Fu Manchu.” That’s a jerk move on their part. I’ll take the opposite tack and pay him the respect one man of learning owes another and include his honorific for the rest of the post.) He’s played by Boris Karloff, who, while he doesn’t look noticeably Chinese, at least can be said to have appeared on this site before. Also, he gets the mad science thing going good, testing a candidate scimitar with the power of SCIENCE.
And Dr. Fu Manchu also has a daughter, Fah Lo See, played by Myrna Loy, who’s also not noticeably Chinese, but at least is fun to watch. Especially when she’s supervising the flogging of one of the English guys, which I must say, she really gets off on.
You’re a long way from Nora Charles here, Miss Loy. There’s a single YouTube clip which shows both exciting events, which I’ll attempt embedding here.
We also get to see Dr. Fu Manchu show off his surgical skills when he injects flogging-guy with a mind control drug. I’ve seen a commenter who identifies the scene in which it happens as “the most homoerotic surgery scene I’ve ever seen.” I must say I’m hard-pressed to disagree.
The guys standing around in short-shorts are big-muscled African men. Since the action for this film is set deep in the interior of China in 1930s, I’m not really sure exactly how Dr. Fu Manchu managed to recruit them. Perhaps there was some sort of special agency for that. I’m also not sure why they have to stand around like that, although they sure look cool doing it.
So anyway things spiral downward for the British Empire as Dr. Fu Manchu manages to capture the pretty blond (of course) girlfriend of our hero and set her up for a blood sacrifice (of course).
And at this point the filmmakers really pull out the racism stops with the “dirty foreigners are after our wimmenfolk” trope. To wit:
Would you all have maidens like this for your wives?
(pauses while the assembled crowd roars approval)
Then conquer and breed! Kill the white man and take his women!
Well, naturally we can’t have that now, so Nayland Smith escapes from the overly-elaborate, easily-escapable deathtrap which the genius but not-genre-savvy Dr. Fu Manchu has placed him in and saves the day.
By using an energy weapon created by Dr. Fu Manchu to massacre a lot of Asian men who haven’t really done anything. We sure know where this movie’s value system is.
Yeah. Dirty, and not in a good way.
But of course, the awfulness can’t really stop there. There’s a concluding scene on a ship back to England, in which Nayland Smith has a conversation with a steward who’s just arrived to inform everyone that dinner has been served.
(in an affected “Chinese” accent)
Good evening, sir.
You aren’t by any chance a doctor of philosophy.
The Steward laughs and shakes his head in negation.
The steward shakes his head again.
I don’t think so, sir.
But are you sure?
Oooh yes. Very sure.
(shaking the Steward’s hand)
Then I congratulate you.
(walks off, banging a gong and calling out)
Dinner is served!
Yeah, yeah. I get the point the filmmakers clearly wanted to make here. Educated and competent Asian: bad. Servile and comical Asian: good. And if you don’t believe me, take a look at the steward himself.
Do you think that there were no Asian actors in 1932 with decent dentition available, or was this some sort of casting choice meant to drive home a certain point?
You know, I’m beginning to sympathize with Dr. Fu Manchu’s point of view. If I had to live in a world full of people who took this who think my role in life is to be servile and hold my life cheap because of my ethnicity, I’d be seriously pissed off as well. I wouldn’t go for genocide (I think — just how attractive are the enemy’s women again?), but a delivering a serious collective ass-kicking would be a formidable temptation. Evidence, perhaps, of Dr. Fu Manchu as a mad scientist motivated at least some by woundedness.
From the title of the post, what did you think I had in mind?
(Found on a pop-up laden site I shan’t link to.)
Actually it was something a little different.
However strange you are erotically, you’re almost certainly not alone. There are people like you, and they have been creating stuff in the past. And now it’s buried. It might be buried because it really was erotic in some way and the creators had to get it past the censors somehow. Or it might be buried because it isn’t erotic to many people but it is to some. Or it might just be lost, because it’s stuck inside popular culture that isn’t really very interesting or very good on the whole and so is largely forgotten.
But whatever it is, it’s out there, and if you’re diligent you can go out and dig it up and bring it back to life. If you’ve been following Erotic Mad Science for any length of time you’ll have noticed my doing it a lot. I’m into this weird thing with mad science. The evidence is strong that there were a lot of people in the past who were as well. But of course they were weird and unacceptable and so they had to get their crap past the radar somehow if they wanted it to see the light of day.
Crap past the radar: The tube girls are a good example. If you were a sci-fi or fantasy editor working in mid-twentieth century America, you sure couldn’t get away with putting a naked girl right on the cover of a magazine. But a tube, properly constructed, has some interesting properties. It’s transparent, but on obvious way of constructing one involves segments held together by metal rings. So you can put a naked girl in one, and of course her naughty bits will just happen to align with the metal rings. And of course, the tube will play a part in the story: she’s in cryo-sleep! Being abducted by horny aliens! Undergoing a transformation experiment! Presto: your porny art fantasy slips past the censor and onto the cover, which I am sure is most gratifying for both the viewer and for you. Before you know it, there are tube girls everywhere.
Half a century later, a weirdo like me an go collecting them in service of his own ends.
Forgotten fetish fuel: The “personal identity porn” thing is probably not unique to me (I’ll admit it’s weird as a subset of my weirdness) and people who were making movies like The Four-Sided Triangle or Frankenstein Created Woman probably didn’t have weirdos like me in mind when they were filming (although you never really know). They were making movies to make money. Like most pop culture, they were mostly forgotten in a while. But they were not gone, and they were there for me to mine up. Watching these movies, and then being to explain what I think is interesting about them from a thaumatophile perspective, allows them to live again under a new interpretation, which is itself a form of creative act.
Of course, to perform that creative act, finding the little gems of eros amidst the dreck of mostly-dead popular culture can be a dirty business.
(Found on this Russian-language site.)
But don’t let that deter you. The amount of material in the world is massive. I’m willing to be even in my small, strange corner of the erotic world I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to know. So get Googling! And then share your finds and your new interpretations with the world. What you find will amaze you.
And arouse you.
No, again not a typo on my part. And this time, not on their part either. Rather, it’s a reference to a movie called Bullshot (1983). It’s loosely a parody of Bulldog Drummond, who was a sort of early pulp hero/proto-James Bond figure. The plot? Rather benign (only borderline mad) scientist Professor Fenton invents some sort of super-fuel formula that Must Not Fall Into the Wrong Hands. He entrusts half the formula to his klutzy-ditzy daughter Rosemary (played by Diz White, who also helped write the screnplay), and then is promptly abducted by our villain, Otto von Bruno. The distraught Rosemary contacts our hero, Bullshot Crummond (First World War fighter ace, Olympic athlete, defender of the British Empire, makes all girls swoon, etc. etc.) asking for help, and various preposterous adventures are afoot in the breeze.
Yes, this is a silly movie but I confess I was entertained for its 85-minute running time, which is more than I can say of many things I watch.
It wasn’t entirely clear to me whether von Bruno was himself a mad scientist or just a judicious user of mad science created by others, but he certainly provided some fine mad science moments. Here he is, attempting to extract the whereabouts of the secret formula from Fenton by means of an Infernal Machine, which causes its victim just to let slip out what he’s thinking.
Contrast this villainy to the reaction of our upstanding English hero, who has just received word that there’s a damsel in distress who needs his help.
Mad science will indeed make his life difficult along the way.
I suppose it gives nothing away to say that in the end British spunk triumphs over Teutonic beastliness. But at least along the way Crummond and Rosemary will have to fight off what von Bruno proudly describes as “the world’s only trained octopus.” Tentacle sex enthusiasts will kindly take note:
In case anyone should miss the point, this merry scene is accompanied with the following dialog:
It’s all slimy…and wobbly….
…and it’s so big!
Never mind that. Beat it off!
It might be about as awful as any movie I reference here, but The Curious Dr. Humpp (1967/1969 maybe) at least has the courage to over the top in the Erotic Mad Science category since it is, after all, a mad science movie almost entirely harnessing the power for sex for, well, something anyway. So there are a few good minutes here for the thaumatophile, which it’s my pleasure to cherry-pick for you, dear reader.
Humpp was originally an Argentinian movie called La Venganza del Sexo written and directed by Emilio Vieyra picked up by an American distributor who padded it out with additional softcore footage, dubbed it into English, and retitled it before release. (That release is now available from Something Weird Video.) The result is an often-tedious production (I was fast-forwarding through even more softcore than usual) that has moments of levity when the English-language dubbing conflicts with the film’s manifestly hispanophone setting.
The core plot shouldn’t detain us long (you can get a more complete synopsis here): people engaged in various sex acts are being abducted by grotesque figures. The police are baffled, by an enterprising reporter whom I shall call Journalist Guy has a theory that a mad doctor previously active in Italy is somehow involved.
Journalist Guy tracks his quarry to a hard-to-find estate somewhere outside whatever city this movie is set in. He is captured within about fifteen seconds of doing so and, unsurprisingly, is compelled to participate in weird experiments.
The apparent antagonist here is one Dr. Humpp who, to give credit where do, does maintain a pretty good-looking mad-lab given the film’s obviously small budget.
Humpp is compelling or inducing his victims to have lots and lots of sex and then extracting chemicals from them, some of which he then injects into himself. Humpp’s apparent motivation for this at this stage of the movie is some sort of vampirism: the chemicals keep him alive, young, healthy, etc.
In this experiment, he’s wired Journalist Guy and a Girl Victim up in some sort of apparatus.
Humpp explains that they are about to have virtual sex:
And now I’m going to conduct a final experiment on electronic control of the male and female libido.
(to Journalist Guy)
Do not resist. You’ll possess that girl. You’ll do everything to her that a man can.
(to Girl Victim)
You’ll respond to him. He will excite you in every way his libidinous imagination can evoke. He will drive you to climactic frenzy, yet your bodies will never touch.
And they do. Their experience is represented in a not-too-bad visual montage.
The success of this experiment allows Humpp to give us an exultant mad science line, one which no reviewer can resist quoting:
Sex dominates the world, and now I dominate sex!
But later on, because he’s our hero and because the plot requires him to, Journalist Guy manges to get out of confinement and find his way into Humpp’s laboratory. Picking up one of Humpp’s notebooks, he finds out that Humpp’s project goes beyond personal vampirism. It’s an entire Promethean enterprise, one explained by Humpp to the audience in a handy voice-over:
Science will soon be able to harness sex, the most potent force in humanity, to increase the mental and physical prowess of coming generations. The virility of men must be increased and they must be mated with women of insatiable appetites.
(Journalist Guy turns a few pages in the journal and reads further)
Through electronic control of the libido we shall produce females capable of promiscuous and orgiastic encounters of infinite variety, producing nearly continuous concupiscent delights.
Wow! It’s a good thing that Hero Journalist is working to stop this, because it would be just terrible if that were to happen because…because…
Well, I’m sure there’s some reason why it would be just terrible, but I’m afraid I don’t know what it is. Maybe that Leon Kass character knows the answer. Anyway, I shan’t tarry over this deep philosophical problem, because it turns out that Humpp’s notes reveal something even stranger.
These discoveries were discovered by the brain of Dr. Puttagniello.
(My transcription here might not be entirely accurate as to the ur-scientist’s name, since as far as I can find there is no Italian surname “Putagniello” or close variants. Were they perhaps aiming at something like Dr. Puttaniere and missing? Maybe I’ve over-thinking this.)
Note that the helpful voiceover tells us that the discoveries were made by the brain of Dr. Puttagniello, not Dr. Putagniello. And as Journalist Guy soon finds out, this is not just overheated writing, but rather literal truth because Dr. Putagniello apparently is a literal brain in a jar on Dr. Humpp’s desk.
What self-respecting disembodied brain-in-a-jar mad scientist can be denied a rant of ver own?
brain in a jar
Dr. Humpp is on the verge of a great breakthrough. In his hands sex will dominate the world. Try to stop him and you will die!
But, fortunately for morality and decency, Journalist Guy manges to summon the proper authorities in the end who storm the place. Dr. Humpp, denied his precious fluids promptly rots away. Brain in Jar is predictably outraged.
brain in a jar
What have you done you idiots? Dr. Humpp was my bodily instrument for finding eternal life for all of mankind. Just as I was preserving his life by the use of blood forces of sex, he was preserving my life. We were vital to each other! Idiots! Arrgh!!!
And then for no obvious reason except frustration, Brain in a Jar bursts into flames. I guess this brain has serious anger management issues.
There is of course one final rant:
brain in a jar
Without the powerful forces of sex we discovered, the secret of eternal life for everyone on earth. Now, you have destroyed the dream of mankind forever. You will be mortal!
Oh, so that’s what was at stake here. I guess “try to stop him and you will die” was therefore not a threat but a prediction. Well then, Nice Job Breaking It Hero.
No, that’s not a spelling error. Or at least, that’s not my spelling error. And I’ve got the screenshot to prove it:
A real movie, it turns out (made in 1972). Now the Jekyll and Hyde (ahem) story would seem almost tailor-made for erotic mad science exploitation: there’s dangerous self-testing of a chemical formula, transformation, liberation of repressed selves, and so forth, all boiling up from the original Robert Louis Stevenson story.
Now if you, dear reader, were making an adult version of the Jekyll and Hyde story, you might try any number of things. Perhaps Jekyll could be a timid individual transformed into bold, sexy one. Or perhaps you could play games with sexual orientation — straight to gay, say, or vanilla to polymorphously perverted. Or you could do it as a gender-bender. This movie opts for the last one. But it’s a fail because in spite of being a basically a soft-core porn film, a sort of shocking sex-negativity runs through the whole movie.
To put things another way, the Jekyll and Hyde story doesn’t have to be a good vs. evil story to work. But it doesn’t really work as an evil vs. evil story. It’s possible to make Dr. Jekyll a schlub, but for the story to have much of a point he would have to be a basically decent, perhaps even somewhat likable schlub.
The central character just fails, pretty much, because as both Jekyll and Hyde he’s despicable. As a Jekyll figure — a “Dr. Chris Leeder,” the movie opens with his cheating on his fiancée. When he’s dragged rather reluctantly on an antique-shopping detour by the same fiancée later that same day, he discovers the notebook of the “historical” Dr. Jekyll, describing his experiments. Leeder becomes obsessed with the book. When the shopkeeper later refuses to sell it, Leeder stone cold strangles the poor man. So much for the good, sociable Dr. Jekyll figure in this movie.
Leeder reads the book, fascinated with the adventures of Hide. The story is told in flashbacks, and at this point I had the curious feeling of watching something that resembled less a early 70s softcore movie and something more like an 80s slasher flick with an unusual amount of nudity. In the repellent values system of this fictional world, sexuality courts violent death: Hide rapes and murders two women: one a prostitute who offers him her services, another a a masturbating woman he spies through a window.
Back in the 1970s, Leeder recreates Jekyll’s formula and uses it on himself.
It induces agonizing transformation…
..into a beautiful woman.
Yep. A woman. I should note that while the Jekyll-derived transformation potion does not provide a female wardrobe, it does at least do hair, makeup and nails.
(If you’re hoping for a transformation effect here — which I was, irrationally — you’ll be disappointed. Actor Jack Buddliner as Dr. Leeder drinks potion, falls on bed, does lots of excruciating histrionics, cut, camera pans to his shoes, cut, new scene with actress Jane Louise as Miss Hide in Leeder’s clothes, which she at least has the decency to remove completely. What a wasted opportunity.)
Of course, Miss Hide is not just a lesbian, for watching her I had the feeling that I was now watching one of those 1960s sexploitation flicks that have their own ugly value system: lesbian = psycho. A girl fight and the gratuitous castration of a sailor picked up in a bar happen along the way.
What a disappointment for thaumatophiles. If you really must, it’s available from Something Weird Video. But personally, I’m hoping someone will do better in the future. Which shouldn’t be very hard, in all honesty.