Alex Nijinsi (Kinski) and his lovely, curvy, younger wife Anna (Katia Christine) are an estranged couple hoping to repair their marriage by moving to her family home which has been left to her by her father. Alex, a former (?) doctor, is apparently given to fits of jealousy and it's suggested that this has led to the problems in their marriage.
And though they're giving it a go at this new location, the couple is obviously still having problems, illustrated by their bedrooms at opposite ends of the house (a plan Anna apparently never shared with Alex if we're to believe his surprise at the arrangement) and his continued tendency to peer at and spy on Anna whenever she's away from his side.
(This gives rise to lots more opportunities for Skulking Klaus, making this the perfect half of a curtain-peering fetishist's double bill along with BLACK KILLER.)
But it seems that Alex has plenty of reason to keep an eye on his wife as the couple's new neighbor -- Dr. Igor Walensky (Ayhan Isik) -- shows up seemingly within minutes of their arrival and begins showering Anna with compliments and attention.
Seeking solace in the house's library one night, Alex flies into a rage and discovers a journal kept by Anna's father, also a doctor. The good doctor's lab -- complete with beakers, ancient battery cells and more Hammer/Universal issue mad scientist gizmos -- is still intact underneath the house. When Sasha, the family dog, ends up dead one day, it provides Alex with the perfect opportunity to try the experiments in the journal and see if the old man had been successful in bridging the gap between life and death.
When the experiment goes wrong and Alex is shocked by the machinery (huh?), it appears to unleash a dormant side of his personality, turning LOVER OF THE MONSTER aka LE AMANTI DEL MOSTRO into an interesting take on the old Jekyll and Hyde tale with a bit of Jack the Ripper thrown in for the hell of it.
Soon, Alex's monstrous side is out roaming the countryside, killing villagers and throttling naked chicks as they sell their bodies to fat sleazeballs. Blaming not one but two area vagabonds, an angry mob kills one suspect and then hauls in another when more bodies are discovered.
Not surprisingly, the Jekyll/Hyde storyline gives Kinski plenty of opportunity to flex his acting chops and he relishes in shifting gears between the sickly, foppish, frequently-bedridden Alex and the gaunt, hollow-cheeked, crazy-eyed monster. Quite frankly, had his performance in Jess Franco's JACK THE RIPPER been a bit more like this I'd probably think more highly of that flick.
Aside from a bit of nudity and rough violence, LOVER OF THE MONSTER has the distinct feel of a nasty Hammer flick, especially the Frankenstein cycle. The period costumes, castle setting, angry villagers, laboratory sets, numbskull magistrates and marauding monster all have a familiar feel while the overwrought score would be right at home in a black & white Universal tale.
The flick certainly has occasional lapses in logic (Walensky and Anna discuss how there have been no more murders, despite the fact that they've just found Boris, the castle caretaker, murdered outside the entrance to the lab) and characters make gigantic leaps that seem to belie their intelligence. But it's loads of fun watching Kinski play the sickly doctor and his wild alter ego. It's never quite clear if the machinery actually caused the monstrous side of him or if it simply awakened it, but who really cares?
Hardcore Eurotrash fans might be put off by the low-level of sleaze in the flick. There's a bit of bloody experimentation when Alex tries to re-animate Sasha and the last act seems destined for a gorey trip down Frankenstein Lane, but director Sergio Garrone opts for a more interesting ending as Alex tries to right his wrongs. DEATH SMILES AT MURDER it ain't.
Not to be confused with THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD, another Italian/Turkish co-production filmed simultaneously with LOVER featuring the same cast, sets and director. Legend has it that Kinski was not informed they were making two films, though I suspect that's apocryphal. Watch for the in-joke when they visit the grave of Anna's father.
While not a great flick by any stretch, LOVER moves pretty fast (it's just 85 or so minutes long) and any lulls are frequently perked up by a little nudity or violence.