Late at night in this city can present dangers, as one woman discovers when she is walking home and on reaching a flight of steps, a hulking brute grabs her and strikes her dead, then rips open her blouse to apply a scalpel to her side, removing her liver for reasons best known to himself. Who could this vile creature be? The answer lies at the local hospital, where Professor Schwarz (Roberto Fizz) has just devised a new serum that will assist in the transplant of organs, but has only tried it out on animals so far, with some success, but he needs a human volunteer, and the sister of newspaper reporter Karl Schein (John Richardson), needing a new heart, is a prime candidate for the operation.
It's a mystery why Italy in the nineteen-seventies had a rash of gory sex murder movies, perhaps it was the loosening of censorship in their country, perhaps Christian Barnard's fame was a factor, but Frankenstein '80 was part of a subset of those where the stitched together creations of the mad doctor would get up to no good: Andy Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein was probably the most famous of those, but was by no means their sole proponent. Part of the motive was a curious interest in disgusting the audience with surgery footage, quite often documentary extracts of actual operations edited into the action, not exclusive to Italy - Mexico's Night of the Bloody Apes beat them to it in the late sixties, but distinctive of them.
Quite what the real life patients thought about their organs having a brief starring role in these efforts is lost to the mists of time, but the mondo movie drive to present the semblance of reality to their extreme clips somehow got into the mainstream of horror too, if you could call something like this mainstream; it certainly would have played in cinemas across the world, though the more respectable ones would not have given it the time of day (or night). In the Mary Shelley-derived shockers, which doubtless would have offended the author when she saw what was being done in her classic novel's name, it was a joke that nobody thought "Dr Frankenstein? Why does that sound familiar?"
Therefore these crazed scientists were allowed to literally get away with murder, until the last act at least, since there was a massive conceit that nobody else in the movie had heard the Frankenstein name, which given we were already one step ahead of the reporter in this as to what the crimes were, made both our hero and the police look like a bunch of idiots. Not that many police forces have to be prepared to tackle a case where a reanimated set of body parts goes on the rampage, so you'd think they would be forgiven for not twigging right away, yet so well-worn were the clichés of this sort of affair, even in 1972 when this was released, it became tiresome waiting for the good guys to catch up. As if to soothe our frustrations, cinematographer turned one shot director Mario Mancini ramped up the exploitation.
Yes, another distinguishing mark for these gore flicks was the sleaze factor, and the monster preyed on the lowest of the low in society, at least according to this film: prostitutes, hobos and butcher's assistants. Huh? Well, it didn't matter so much as long as they were young women to be slaughtered, or if they were not available, then a down and out who served no useful purpose to society was gleefully smashed over the head. The actual Frankenstein was not Schwarz, as it transpired, but one of his colleagues played by ex-Hercules Gordon Mitchell, now far into his slimmed-down and leathery to the point of cadaverous look that he embraced in this decade, so much so that he would have made a pretty decent monster himself with a bit of creature makeup on. Unless you got your kicks from the supposedly transgressive nature of bad behaviour in trash movies, however, this was a bit of a slog to get through, one for the completists more than the casual observer. Music by Daniele Patucchi.