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After the Fall of the Hammer:
Frankenstein films from the early 1970s to the 1990s

Flesh for Frankenstein (1974)

Perhaps one of the most controversial Frankenstein movies from the 1970s is Paul Morrissey's camp classic Flesh for Frankenstein aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, which actually is not nearly as bad as its reputation, but twice as funny.

Deviant sexuality: The Monster (Srdjan Zelenovic) and
Frankenstein's wife in Flesh for Frankenstein

Baron Frankenstein, who has two children with his sister Katrin, spends most of his time in his laboratory. There he has already created a female human, for which he now needs a male companion. Frankenstein's aim is to mate his two creations and to create a whole new race of perfect human beings who will only obey to his bidding. The only thing he still needs to complete his work is a head for his male. To make sure his creations will mate he intends to take the head from a man possessing an exceptionally strong sexual urge, a man who "strongly craves women". One night Frankenstein is convinced that he has found the ideal "Serbian male" with the "perfect nasum" in a peasant he spots at a bordello with two hookers. "Two girls! One man!...he must be very powerful!", the Baron exclaims to his assistant Otto and they set out to get him. What Frankenstein does not know is that his victim is about to become a monk and actually has no interest in sex at all. They kill the man, cut off his head and attach it to the male Monster. Unexpectedly, the male refuses to mate with the female Monster and Frankenstein suspects that someone might have meddled with his work.

Meanwhile Frankenstein's sister/wife Katrin recruits the stableboy Nicholas as her personal love toy and servant. However, Nicholas becomes suspicious when he meets Frankenstein's creation at dinner, recognizing in him his murdered friend. He sneaks into the laboratory where he is caught by Frankenstein and Otto. Later Frankenstein's wife enters the lab and expresses her sexual interest in the male Monster. In hope to stimulate the Monster's sexual urge, Frankenstein agrees to let his sister have sex with his creation. Unfortunately, the Monster accidentally breaks Katrin's spine while they are having sex. 
In the meantime, Otto, fed up with being just the Baron's assistant, tries his hands on the female creation, but accidentally rips open her stomach spilling her guts over the floor. Frankenstein returns to the laboratory, where he finds his female dead. Enraged, he strangles Otto. Soon the male Monster returns, refuses to obey his creator, chases him through the lab and finally impales him on a pole. Realizing that he would be better off dead, the miserable Monster rips out his own guts and dies, despite efforts by Nicholas to convince him to escape together.
The film ends with Frankenstein's two children getting scalpels ready instead of releasing Nicholas from the laboratory.

The female Monster's first movements


          Filmed in 1973 in Italy, this is as far from Mary Shelley's novel as it can get. Apart from the name Frankenstein and the central idea of creating a monster from dead body parts, Flesh for Frankenstein contains no other elements from the novel. Director and writer Paul Morrissey wanted to make an absurd, ridiculous and outrageous film - and surely succeeded. Flesh for Frankenstein (aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein due to Morrissey's former collaborations with Warhol), which was originally filmed in 3D to make it "more fantastic, more absurd, more comical" (Morrissey), is a strange movie, that people either seem to love or hate. Of course the film can only be enjoyed if it is seen as a comedy and parody on other Frankenstein films rather than a horror film on its own. Morrissey achieves this by turning his Frankenstein version into a hilarious mixture of scenes involving soft porn elements, necrophilia, incest and over-the-top gore and splatter. The screenplay is downright ridiculous, stuffed with lines that will make viewers burst out in laughter. All the cast members speak in an exaggerated, staged manner and utter their non-sensical lines with seriousness usually only found in classic theater. Actually, most of the absurd, tongue-in-cheek dialogue was written by Morrissey in his car when he was on its way to the Cinecitta Studios - unlike the mostly improvised dialogue in his previous films.

           However, the film has a lot more to offer for those who are willing to accept that Morrissey was not only a trash filmmaker, but actually conveyed some meaning hidden under a layer of naked and dismembered bodies. The most interesting aspect of Flesh for Frankenstein is obviously the dysfunctional, perverse Frankenstein family, that keeps walking towards their inevitable doom.

Baron Frankenstein is portrayed by genre favourite Udo Kier with trade-mark German accent. He is married to his sister in an incestuous relationship that has spawned two children. Obviously, the Baron is not very much interested in his wife, with whom he keeps quarrelling at the dinner table about matters such as their parents - "Why must you always pick on father?" - or the education of their children. His true obsession is his work and his desire to create an entirely new race responding only to his bidding - a desire, that clearly sets Kier's Frankenstein apart from Mary Shelley's original concept. Kier's Frankenstein shows more interest in his creations - his "zombies" - than in the people surrounding him. Morrissey takes this to an extreme, when Frankenstein engages in an act of necrophilia with his female Monster after opening her stomach and pulling out her intestines, moaning in pleasure. He concludes this act of perverted sexuality by explaining to his assistant Otto, " To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life in the gall-bladder!" The most memorable line (and indeed one that does not make too much sense) of the whole movie is actually an allusion to a line uttered by Marlon Brando in "The Last Tango in Paris". 

"To know death, Otto..." - Frankenstein explains the secrets of life, death and love to Otto (Arno Juerging)

On the other hand, Frankenstein's wife/sister Katrin has her own obsession: sexuality. And since she cannot get it from her husband she sets out to get it from other men. Her latest object of desire is found in the stable boy Nicholas, whom she seduces and forces to have sex with her. Most of their scenes together show Katrin (Monique van Vooren) and Nicholas, played by Morrissey regular Joe Dallesandro, naked in bed having sex or engaging in rather dull conversation.

In such an environment it is no wonder that Frankenstein's children mostly seem to be rather indifferent to what is going on around them. They occasionally spy on their parents (bedroom and laboratory), steal body parts and play sick games like decapitating their dolls. The movie's final scene suggests that they obviously are just like their parents and that the perverted line of the Frankensteins will live on in this monstrous offspring. Both in the laboratory and in his bedroom Frankenstein has managed to create monsters. Only the more frightening monsters are those he created together with his sister in their incestuous relationship.

          While plot and acting seem to represent the lowest of the low, technically, Flesh for Frankenstein is a little masterpiece. Here Morrissey shows that he deserves to be called a filmmaker. He masterfully uses the camera and takes full advantage of glorious widescreen photography. The costumes and set designs are also a feast for the eye, from the castle's interiors to the beautiful landscape shots and the Baron's lovingly detailed laboratory. Most of Carlo Rambaldi's gory special effects are also surprisingly convincing and realistic.

Baron on a stick: Udo Kier meets his demise

          Flesh For Frankenstein cleverly hides its social criticism behind extremes: extreme violence, extreme bloodshed, extreme sex, extreme 3-D effects, extremely stupid dialogues, extremely bad acting, extremely silly plot, extremely well-shot cinematography. Of course, Morrissey did all this on purpose (at least today he wants to make us believe he did) and uses the movie to target sexual indulgence. Here everyone is sexually deviant - from necrophilia, to nymphomania, incest and asexuality. It is up to the viewer to decide if the movie works on this level - or if it is just a film that should better be forgotten.

Deviant sexuality
, part 2: Udo Kier is making love to Dalila di Lazzaro's intestines


Cast & Crew:  
Baron Frankenstein Udo Kier
Nicholas Joe Dallesandro
Otto Arno Juerging
Katrin Frankenstein Monique van Vooren
Female Monster Dalila Di Lazzaro
Male Monster Srdjan Zelenovic
Screenplay Tonino Guerra
Pat Hackett
Paul Morrissey
Music Claudio Gizzi
Cinematography Luigi Kuveiller
Producers Andrew Braunsberg
Lou Peraino
Carlo Ponti
Andy Warhol
Director Paul Morrissey
Antonio Margheriti


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© 1999-2005 Andreas Rohrmoser