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Flesh for Frankenstein

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Paul Morrissey
Udo Kier
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 Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) lives in his mansion with his sister Katrin (Monique Van Vooren), who is also the mother of his two children. Disgusted by conventional sexuality, the Baron is secretly working in his laboratory building two humanoid creatures – one male & one female. He intends to have them mate & thus create a whole new race over which he will have complete control! In order to do that, he needs to find a new head for the male zombie, so he tries to find a man with a suitably huge libido. Meanwhile, Katrin has employed a new manservant Nicholas (a rather wooden - & curiously American - Joe Dallesandro) in order to satisfy her sexual desires the Baron has been neglecting.
“Flesh for Frankenstein” was the first of two films Paul Morrissey made in Italy following the success of several Andy Warhol collaborations in America, most notably “Heat”, “Trash” & “Flesh”. Although Frankenstein (like the second film “Blood for Dracula”) would be released as “Andy Warhol's Frankenstein”, the famed artist lent little other than his name to proceedings. During the preceding decade, Gothic horrors had moved forward considerably in terms of both graphic intensity & sexuality with the likes of Hammer & Mario Bava, but the Italian giallo genre had taken both to new levels in a modern setting. Clearly, the time was ripe for someone to get a little unruly & throw new extremes of gore, nudity & perversions at the scene in the gothic genre. Morrissey's films fit the bill neatly, although his flamboyant Grand Guignol style & blackly comic tone ultimately owe more to the likes of HG Lewis than Dario Argento.
“Flesh for Frankenstein” is a film which continues to divide its audience. Opinions vary from it being offensive & inept, through trashy camp comedy to pop art masterpiece. For sure, it's almost impossible to review the film without mentioning just how brilliantly funny it is. From the deliberately ridiculous dialogue to the outrageous plotting, as an OTT splatter comedy, the film works tremendously well. Particular mention must be made of the gloriously hammy performances – Udo Kier's deliciously bonkers, career-defining turn is the standout, but it would be remiss not to mention the bug-eyed lunacy of his assistant Arno Juerging. And it's certainly very, very gory (for a 1973 film anyway!) with all manner of internal organs being rummaged around & sexually assaulted, not to mention a stunning decapitation & a great severed hand bit. The film was originally shot in 3D, so most of the grue is also thrust out at the camera in deliciously ooky detail. And yes, there's loads of nudity & sexual perversions going on too – if you're after a bit of 70s Euro-sleaze, you're not likely to be disappointed.
The film is really beautifully shot in 2.35:1 by Luigi Kuveiller, who would later shoot “Profondo Rosso” for Dario Argento. He makes great use of the wonderfully detailed sets by Enrico Job (production designer) & Gianni Giovagnoni (art director, who would later go on to the likes of “Black Hawk Down” & “Kingdom of Heaven”). The grand, theatrical designs lend themselves perfectly to the art/exploitation feel of the film, playing up the key theme of voyeurism. If you think about it hard enough, the film can also be read as a satire of American excess, or a fascistic attempt to create a “master race”. The trouble with thinking about “Flesh for Frankenstein” too deeply, is that you're likely to miss just how much fun the bloody film is. It's certainly not a film for everyone, but anyone with a taste for the most flamboyant excesses of Euro-sleaze or splatter comedy will have a whale of a time with the films many stand-out sequences that marks this out as a “must see” in my book. It's a gloriously outrageous, camp, sleazy, surreal & utterly deranged romp.
“Flesh for Frankenstein” arrives on UK DVD courtesy of Tartan, & first thing to note is that the BBFC have finally waived all previous cuts to the film for the first time. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 transfer. Whilst it's not the best transfer I've ever seen – it's a touch soft & has some occasional ghosting – given the age of the film I'm not really complaining too much. The audio is nice & clear. The first extra is an audio commentary featuring Paul Morrissey, Udo Kier, & critic Maurice Yakowar. They were recorded separately & then cut together, & all have interesting things to say about the film, making it one worth listening to – although Yakowar tends to get stuck to much in pretension, it's still pretty funny. The disc also contains a selection of production stills with director's commentary (a whopping 23 minutes!) plus screen tests (4 mins, again with commentary), thus making this the best edition out there for bonus feature, & an easy recommendation.

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