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Oh man. This film.
Paul Morseythe 1973 feature film Flesh for Frankenstein (A.K.A Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) is quite the plunge into the absurdity of the genre. Initially, the film may look like a sexier Hammer production, but it quickly establishes itself as something far more evil and darkly comic than any of Hammer’s stately, stately gothic trinkets.
The plot is standard Frankenstein fare, just with a nice dollop of exploitation sleaze thrown into the mix. Played by an indomitable international icon Udo Kier, Baron Frankenstein is an openly fascist figure who is determined to create two perfect “zombies” from looted human remains. Once these zombies are finished, he plans to have them mate to create the perfect master race that will obey his every command.
The Baron is unaware that all is not well in the House of Frankenstein, as sexual deviance and twisted desires help undermine his grand designs.
Flesh for Frankenstein is campy with a capital C. The dialogue is extremely silly and the cast’s delivery is more than a little hysterical throughout.
Given the tone of the movie though, this Grand Guignol of almost wacky proportions seems largely intentional. Morrisey wants you to squirm as much as possible and laugh at the absurdity displayed – sometimes both at the same time.
sexuality in Flesh for Frankenstein is the driving theme. Phallic and yonic images abound in the film – one particular visual gag during the climax involving a wooden pike and internal organ is so loaded with meaning that I actually laughed out loud.
The good doctor is married to his own sister Katrin (Monique van Voreen) in a loveless relationship that gave them two children. Neither side is particularly interested in satisfying their carnal desires with each other and seeking it out in other ways – while casting damnation and judgment on everyone else’s sexual choices. Katrin dominates her status over the castle, berates the mercenaries for their sexual inclinations while indulging hers under her husband-in-law’s nose.
Frankenstein isn’t just interested in building his master race, he’s also interested in screwing it up. Literally. “To know death, Otto – you have to fuck up! In the gallbladder!
For 1973, the sex acts depicted in the film are enough to give you the fumes if you weren’t prepared for it beforehand.
Although far from being the most explicit or shocking genre film to deal with themes of death and sex, Flesh for Frankenstein still contains enough queasy perversity to make you uncomfortable.
Beneath the nudity, overdrive and vibrant splatters of gore – just what is Flesh for Frankenstein in regards to?
Paul Morrisey hails from Warhol’s Factory, so it’s safe to assume that the social satire present in this film is no accident. The narrative plays like a big piss that tackles the hypocrisy and moral decadence of the wealthy elite.
Throughout the film, the Baron and Katrin are seen exploiting and manipulating the working class for their own gain. Both literally see these people as nothing but flesh they can do whatever they want with. The baron is convinced of his own ethnic and intellectual superiority and believes that it is his innate right to conquer and rule. Morrisey takes the Frankenstein Principle of Vanity that Mary Shelley introduced in her seminal novel and stretches it to its extreme conclusion with all the accompaniments of lovers of exploitation cinema.
If you haven’t seen Flesh for Frankenstein, do yourself a favor and look for it. It’s packed with camp fun, delicious gory gags, and enough satirical merit to stand the severed heads and mutilated torsos above many other Frankenstein adaptations.
You can enter Flesh for Frankenstein in 4K Ultra HD from Vinegar Syndrome.