FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (1973) – Once was too Much

Flesh for Frankenstein was later titled Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973) – Written & Directed by Paul Morrissey

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Cast:

  • Udo Kier – Baron von Frankenstein
  • Monique van Vooren – Baroness Katrin Frankenstein
  • Joe Dallesandro – Nicholas, the stable boy
  • Arno Juerging – Otto, the Baron’s assistant
  • Dalila Di Lazzaro – Female Monster
  • Srdjan Zelenovic – Sacha / Male Monster
  • Marco Liofredi – Erik, the Baron’s son
  • Nicoletta Elmi – Monica, the Baron’s daughter
  • Liù Bosisio – Olga, the maid
  • Cristina Gaioni – Farmer, Nicholas’ girlfriend
  • Rosita Torosh – Sonia, the prostitute
  • Carla Mancini – Farmer
  • Fiorella Masselli – Large prostitute
  • Imelde Marani – Blonde prostitute
  • Miomir Aleksic (uncredited) – Other male monster

As I perused a list of film adaptations of the story of Frankenstein recently I came across this film, which I’d never seen.  It turns out it was available On Demand so to quell my curiosity I watched it.  And…it’s one of the worst film choices I’ve ever made.

I’ll start by saying I am aware my views on this film are in the minority.  Flesh for Frankenstein has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  But I find no redeeming quality in the damn thing – not in the realm of horror and certainly not in the realm of comedy as it’s difficult to say – from my perspective – which it’s supposed to be.

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Frankenstein and his assistant, Otto contemplate two creations

As an attempt to retell the story of Frankenstein, one we are all familiar with, Flesh for Frankenstein offers little that’s new aside from depravity.  I don’t have anything against depravity as a matter of principle where film is concerned.  But to include either vice, debauchery (or what-have-you) as a means by which to “enhance” a story just doesn’t work.  Debauchery wins and story is lost more often than not.

Let me be clear – as depicted in the film, it matters not that Baron von Frankenstein (Udo Kier) enjoys necrophilia.  It matters not that the genius doctor reaches sexual climax by handling his creation’s liver – or maybe it’s the gall bladder.  It matters not that incest is central to the story or even that rape occurs as a matter of fact.  It’s bothersome that such things need to be included without reason except for shock value.  Perhaps.  It could well be that I missed the point if there is one in this entire thing.  So let me comment on the basics – the acting is awful, which adds insult to injury.   I find Udo Kier’s performance as Baron von Frankenstein particularly hard to handle.  Kier screams every single line as if to emphasize the fact that he’s mad, which only served to constantly remind me that I was mad for taking to the time to watch this movie.  By the time the mad doctor acted on his impulses I was already repulsed.  Moreover, the script for this film is nasty and the dialogue awful.

The premise: Baron Frankenstein lives in his castle in Serbia with his wife/sister and their two young children.  He dreams of creating a master race that will immortalize him.  By the time this story starts he has attempted and failed several times as illustrated by the pile of discarded bodies in his laboratory.  He has been successful in creating a female, but now needs a male worthy of her.  He must have a super body and the head of a man with super sexual appetites in order to ensure procreation.   Naturally, he goes to a local brothel to find the appropriate male head, except he errs and chooses the wrong head.  Um…I’m not sure that sounds right, but it is what it is.

Meanwhile, the Baroness, the Baron’s wife and sister has her needs and keeps herself occupied with the help in every possible way, while the Baron is busy with his experiments.  The couple’s children just lurk in the shadows, watching their mother have sex from behind paintings on the wall and watching their father and his assistant, Otto do stuff to dead bodies.  The entire thing is unnecessary.  And I’ll leave it at that.

mad
The mad doctor

Filmed and set in Serbia, the Italian-French, Flesh for Frankenstein was also filmed in 3D (I can only be thankful I had only two ‘Ds’ available).  According to several commentaries I read on the film it was intended as a spoof of some kind, but I think it missed that boat.  It does nothing but depict the grotesque and the Frankenstein story feels merely incidental.  Again, it may well be that I just don’t get it or, as one critic noted, I’m not “in on the joke.”  And once again, I’m thankful.

As far as The Monster goes – and I always look closely at this character because it is one of my favorite in all film –  they (as in more than one monster) are very disappointing, to put it mildly.  As the doctor leans toward all things prurient, so too are his monsters intended.  Having said that, addressing the “concept” that the created may actually have a sexual appetite is not that far out.  And that the appetite may be huge, given he’s usually a strong and imposing figure, is also acceptable and worthy of attention.  But if the intent is to address that issue as a spoof then how it is addressed in Flesh for Frankenstein is not how to do it.  By my estimation, if you’re going to address the monster’s urges, then do it as Mel Brooks did in Young Frankenstein.

“Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you!”

Anyway, to be fair you should know I saw a very different version of Flesh for Frankenstein than what was originally intended.  This film was released with an X rating and I saw a much more benign screening on regular cable.  I cannot fathom, however, that more of anything in this film would have a different impression on me.  What is (seemingly) an enjoyable film to many is just not for me.  I’d never thought of myself as a prude before, but this experience may well have proved I am.  I’ve never loved Universal and Hammer as much as I do now.

7 thoughts

  1. As a fan of Ed Wood, Herschell Gordon Lewis and the like, I’m half-tempted to see this film. But only half. So maybe I’m not beyond redemption. But thank you, Aurora, for an excellent review!

  2. Nah… I’ll pass on this! Your take fit the bill for me. Thanks much for your time watching it 😉 and for sharing! Now I’m really in the mood for my Monty Feldman: “What hump?”.

  3. Oh goodness, I love Andy Warhol is a shameless marketer and pilferer or pop culture, but Warhol’s films really should come with a warning label! Sexploitation with a capital S, after watching that film you can’t help but feel Valerie Solanas had a point. 😉

    1. She did. Lol. It’s not so much where this goes, but that it goes without respite or purpose. Other than to shock, which gets old fast. I think, anyway.

  4. “…or maybe it’s the gall bladder.” To quote you Aurora: “JAYSUS!!!” OMG! I saw Andy Warhol’s “Frankenstein” back in my college days of 1973. Your review was almost funnier than the movie. Sorry it was a rough watch for you. But you made it funny for us.

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