Flesh for Frankenstein

Dir: Paul Morrissey, 1973. Starring: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Monique van Vooren, Arno Juerging, Srdjan Zelenovic. Cult.
Flesh for Frankenstein

If ever trash could have class, this movie would meet the criteria for it. While it boasts a ridiculous concept, even for horror, it plays with aesthetics and story in a truly merited way. This may come as a shock to most, but this is my first "Frankenstein" movie, and I am certainly glad that it is. Somehow the desire to see Frankenstein movies has not yet exceeded curiosity, and that may be due to the similarities between them all. From the first few scenes, it's clear that this movie is unique among the batch, and was therefore a special treat.

The Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) and his wife/sister (Monique van Vooren) live in Serbia with their two creepy children. The movie starts off quite slow and shows the two children's obsession with their father's medical tools and laboratory as they perform mock operations in secrecy. From there, we see the Baron and his assistant, Otto (Arno Juerging), in the lab among several incomplete corpses. It just so happens that the Baron is a perfectionist who's gone off the deep end and wants to create a super-race that will be under his command. His wife knows nothing about his medical experiments, but is frustrated about the excessive amount of time he spends in the lab. Finding a man and a woman to breed the new race was impossible, so the Baron decided to piece together the best parts of several human beings. The zombie female was easy enough to find, as was the body of the male one. Once those two transformations were complete, the maniacal team begins the search for a man's head—equipped with a one-track mind that could turn no woman down.

They stake out the local brothel and wait for the first man to exit. Inside the brothel are two stable boys who are close friends: one a womanizer (Joe Dallesandro), the other his soft-spoken friend (Srdjan Zelenovic) who is suggested to be in love with him. The latter exits first and literally loses his head. The Baroness becomes obsessed with the stable boy who survived and his many love affairs with local women. She hires him to be their servant and her husband thinks nothing of the new arrival. Once the zombies come to life and the male one has the head of his deceased friend, he goes to the children for help in order to uncover the despicable work of the Baron. Meanwhile, the Baron is losing what sanity he has left when he discovers that his two creations won't mate.

What I liked most about the film was the art direction and the focus on human flesh. You sometimes wonder if doctors or people in the medical profession have always been drawn to the human body and all its components. This movie takes that fascination and turns it into a fetish, which really gives the Frankenstein tale an interesting twist. Both the Baron and Otto are not only obsessed with their ideas of perfection, but the beauty found in everything from the skin down to the gallbladder. I also liked the fixation the children have on their father's career and how the story almost leads to a sequel where the children pick up where their father left off. Unfortunately there is no such sequel, but having such an ending leaves plenty of room for the viewers' imagination.

Perhaps the best part about these Morrissey/Warhol collaborations is seeing Dallesandro in action. While you try to let his good looks keep you interested in his character, his acting is so habitually terrible that every scene he's in turns comedic. I should also mention that unlike the "trilogy" he stars in, this film is set in Serbia. So while the other cast members at least have some sort of European accent, Dallesandro made no attempts to shake his thick American drawl. Kier is sort of the same in terms of terribly bad/good acting, and seeing him playing a sensitive killer was very rewarding. The rest of the characters are well-cast, and the chemistry was great. The music resembled an Italian score, which is a personal favorite for me in terms of horror films. All in all, this is definitely among the classics in terms of cult cinema.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Dec 27, 2010 5:38pm
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