And that's me speaking as an Andy Warhol fan. Clearly this film was made with a distinctive sense of humor, packed with Melodrama on an almost operatic scale and glowingly obvious in its influences (that go far beyond just Frankenstein). Some consider this to be a tribute to the lavish Italian Horror productions that we've seen so many of (note: we're not talking Giallo here). Others believe this is an out and out spoof of such films. Even at its most serious, Flesh for Frankenstein can be completely ridiculous and calculated for discomfort. The cast and crew are completely successful in this pursuit. The audience, however, isn't so successful in determining just what is and what is not a joke in this film.
Any way you slice it (and there's a lot of slicing to be seen here) this isn't a great film and it certainly isn't for everyone. There's plenty of perversion, necrophilia, torture, murder, over the top, ridiculous dialogue, chopped meat used for body parts and bad, bad, bad special effects. Because Carlo Rambaldi's name appears in the Special Effects crew listing I'm led to believe that this must be intentional, but then again, so does Antonio Margheriti's, so maybe not.
Sure a great deal of this is intentional, sure often that works in its favor. Equally surely, however, this doesn't suddenly make this a great movie. One more thing. This is truly worthy of its status as a cult classic, but it's hard not to note that The Rocky Horror Picture Show did similar things in a much funnier manner (even without audience participation) two years later and Young Frankenstein nailed it with aplomb just one year later.
A young Udo Kier (still in his late twenties) plays a very creepy and smarmy version of Barron Frankenstein. He's got two creepy kids Monica (Nicoletta Elmi) and Erik (Marco Liofredi) and a sexy wife in the oft topless form of Baroness Katrin Frankenstein (Monique van Vooren). In that the Barron is more interested in his psychotic flesh experiments with his almost-as-creepy assistant Otto (Arno Juerging), the Baroness' eyes often seek out other dalliances. Strangely, Frankenstein doesn't seem interested in his hot blonde wife. This could have something to do with the fact that half the time he refers to her as his "sister".
As the Barron nearly finalizes work on his finest creation (literally), the Female Monster (played by an almost always naked Dalila Di Lazzaro), he decides he must find for her a mate. To this end he decides to build a Male Monster for her to mate with and bring forth a race of little monsters for the Barron to Control.
To this end, creepy Franky and creepy Otto go looking for a guy who'll fuck anybody. So to a brothel they must go. As fortune would have it, young stableboy (who would fuck anybody) named Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) has just convinced his pious young friend and Monk-to-be Sacha (Srdjan Zelenovic) to accompany him for the T&A harvest. Through a case of mistaken identity, it is Sacha who becomes the head of what Frankenstein refers to as his "Zombie".
While Nicholas' best friend Sacha's fate has most assuredly been sealed, this fact seems to, well, merely preturb Nicholas... a little. He soon finds himself back in the employ of the Frankesteins and soon, naked in the bed of the Barroness.
Strangely, even with all this going on, Flesh for Frankestein gets boring. It could be because it's so obvious what writers Pat Hackett, Tonino Guerra and Paul Morrissey (who also directed) are attempting to do while telling Mary Shelley's famous tale. Most every moment seems calculated to disturb in one way or another and the scenes that don't succeed in disturbing us feel like weak ligaments holding this skeleton together. The Barron gets sexual pleasure from putting his hands into bloody flesh... so we get that scene for a while. Then he decides to take it a step further and has sex with a gallbladder while a disembodied set of lungs hyperventalates in the corner and Otto turns around to give the Mad Scientist his privacy. Scars are licked for pleasure, abdomens are ripped open, people are hung by their wrists, plastic heads are popped off of mannequin bodies and plenty of butcher shop refuse is strewn about, right up to the final debaucherous scene that seems to be in a competition with itself on whether it's going to be repulsive or hilarious.
There are a lot of people who have and will come out of this movie considering it to be the worst film ever seen by them. And depending on what films they're used to, they may be right. There is a brilliance to the satire here and a certain way that Morrissey has with the camera eye and framing that allows for the lavishness of the countryside and even the castle and laboratory interiors to look incredible. On the other hand, one must be in on the joke to get much more enjoyment out of Flesh for Frankenstein. I get the joke, I'm a Warhol fan. I understand. But there's no way to make this into a "great" film. If the implied nastiness of the psycho-sexuality here doesn't get you the incessant gore will, especially when the two are combined. If neither one gets to you at all, even when combined, then you might want to consult a shrink. That's, um... not what gallbladders are for, there, Sparky!
It's no surprise that this one was banned as one of the DPP's 74 Video Nasties. It's a must for completists, especially those fans of European Horror. However those fans might be better served with another film. The Pendulum Swing missed the Dog rating on this one, but this mad scientist tale is still only able to resurrect Two Stars out of Five! Lavish sets and an impressive eye for framing aren't enough to elevate Paul Morrissey's film (which Warhol produced) past the trash we find at every corner, even when intentional. Gore, cheap thrills and shock value (not to mention the most drawn out and melodramatic death scene I've ever witnessed) keep this one right where it belongs. In the B-Movie category. But then again... it's good to get stung once in a while. It lets you know you're alive. So until I discover that the real secret to eternal life can only be found by making "Zombies" in a lab... I'll see you in the next electrified reel.
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