Review Date: June 10, 2001
Released by: Criterion
Release date: December 8, 1998
MSRP: $39.95 (OOP)
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: No
Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier
), a nobleman in 19th century Serbia, has always had a dream - to create the perfect being, a pure creature that embodies the physical and spiritual "ideal" of the Serbian people. A brilliant scientist and researcher, Frankenstein and his assistant Otto (Arno Juerging
) have been working for years, studying both life and death in the Baronís private laboratory. Their creations, a modern Adam and Eve, are almost complete - all they need to do now is get a head for the man. The Baron wants the two subjects to breed quickly and abundantly, and thus decides to seek a "donor" with an enormously powerful libido. But where do they get such a subject? The Baron decides to go to the local brothel.
Meanwhile, the Baronís sister, Katrin (Monique Van Vooren
) - whoís also his wife (!) - has taken their two children (Marco Liofredi and Carla Mancini
), on a picnic near the castle. They accidentally stumble upon their stable boy Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro
) being "intimate" with a local girl. The Baroness professes disgust and orders Nicholas to come back to the castle the next morning after sheís discussed with her husband what to do about him.
As it so happens, Nicholas visits the local brothel that night, and brings along his friend Sasha (Srdjan Zelenovic
), a shy, handsome boy who wants to be a monk. Sasha really isnít interested in sex, either, and doesnít participate. However, when a lizard crawls into the bed where Nicholas and several prostitutes are screwing around, the two women start screaming and run outside naked. Sasha goes to the door and persuades them to come back into the house, which proves to be quite a mistake, as the Baron and Otto are watching. Believing that Sasha is a sexual superman, they come back later that night and ambush the two as they are walking home, decapitating Sasha and leaving Nicholas unconscious.
Nicholas wakes up the next morning and buries the headless Sasha by the roadside, before heading over to see the Baroness at the castle. Expecting to be fired, the man is surprised when he is offered a job working at the castle as a servant - as well as providing his, uh, unique services to the sex-starved Baroness. He immediately gets to work.
Down in the laboratory, the Baron and Otto have been busy grafting Sashaís head onto the trunk of another specimen. Using special electrical equipment, the two revive both Sasha and the female creation (Dalila di Lazzaro
) that theyíve been working on. Unfortunately, when they try to persuade the two to mate, they find that Sasha is completely unwilling. The Baron wracks his mind trying to figure out what went wrong. Could it be that they picked the wrong head? Only another transplant will answer that question, and after spying on Nicholas and Katrin together, he thinks he knows where he can find another donor...
Originally released in the United States in a 3-D, X-rated cut re-titled Andy Warholís Frankenstein
(although Warhol only signed his name to the production), Flesh for Frankenstein
is a much better and more intelligent a film than itís reputation would suggest. The sex and gore is so clearly over-the-top that nobody can truly take it seriously, and of course, thatís the point. Director Paul Morrissey clearly wasnít interested in making a straight horror film, and instead used satire and dark, sick humor to tell the story.
The element that Morrissey most plays up is the idea of sexual dysfunction, which afflicts every one of the characters. Katrin is a sex-starved nymphomaniac, while the Baron has immersed himself in his work to the point that the only pleasure he experiences comes from his work, including the sexual pleasure of building his female creation. Otto has been corrupted by the Baronís example, while poor Sasha suffers from an unhealthy lack of interest in sex, and Nicholas is brought down when his overactive desires get him involved in the whole mess. The two Frankenstein children, who have only a couple words of dialogue, are silently warped as they watch whatís going on around them.
The acting, with one exception, is excellent. The one weak performance comes from Joe Dallesandro as Nicholas. The only American in the cast, Dallesandro is very stiff and talks like heís from New York, which ruins the mood of the film at times. Dallesandro was a regular actor for Paul Morrissey, having worked with him previously in Flesh, Trash
, as well as Blood for Dracula
, another horror spoof. Fortunately, the production is always kept upright by Udo Kier, who does a great job as Baron Frankenstein, and he always perfectly balances the role, making the character seem crazy without turning him into a clichť. If nothing else, see Flesh for Frankenstein
just for Kierís great performance.
Due to the various problems with presenting a 3-D movie on a home system, Flesh for Frankenstein
is presented flat. The transfer, letterboxed at 2.35:1, exhibits natural colors and fleshtones and a very good level of detail. On the downside, the transfer is not 16x9 and there is noticeable grain in many scenes. Although the print was in good condition, there were numerous vertical lines throughout, and some blemishes here and there. Overall itís a pleasing transfer, which Iím going to give a B rating too - itís good, but it could have been better.
The 1.0 Mono soundtrack is regrettably noisy. Thereís a frequent hiss in the background. If you keep the volume at reasonably low levels, the noise is only audible during quiet moments, with the dialogue and music usually drowning it out. However, if you do turn up your speakers, even just a little bit, it becomes real noticeable, real annoying, real fast. Iím disappointed, as Iíd expected a better cleanup job from Criterion.
The main attraction here is a very good running commentary track with Paul Morrissey, Udo Kier and film historian Maurice Yacowar (who also writes the liner notes), which was originally recorded in 1996 for the Criterion laserdisc. The three men were recorded separately and then edited together. Yacowar discusses the various themes and subtexts running through the movie, while Morrissey tends to focus on his various philosophies as a filmmaker. For his part, Kier is charming, and very easy to understand, despite his thick German accent, going into detail about working with Morrissey, and talking about just how much he enjoyed making this film and Blood for Dracula
. My only complaint with the track is that Yacowarís overly-intellectual approach can get very irritating at times.
The disc also features an 18-minute slideshow presentation of various stills and production photographs from the film, set to various excerpts from composer Claudio Grizziís music score. The still gallery is nothing special, but music is in stereo, and Iím glad to have it, since I doubt Iíll ever come across a soundtrack CD for this film.
I found Flesh for Frankenstein
a very good, underrated little black comedy/horror film, that deserves at least one viewing. Although the disc isnít up to the standards of some of Criterionís latest releases, that should not stop anybody whoís a serious fan of Paul Morrissey or Udo Kier, or just looking for a good, gory flick, from picking this one up, as they will definitely be pleased.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - B
Sound - C+
Supplements Ė B
- Running Time - 1 hour 35 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 31 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 1.0
- Commentary by director Paul Morrissey, star Udo Kier and film historian Maurice Yacowar
- Still gallery
- Liner notes by Maurice Yacowar