"To know death, Otto, one must fuck it in the gallbladder!"
The exuberant FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN with its pop art symbolism and convention shattering interpretation stands with the comedic delirium of BLOOD FOR DRACULA (1974) as the defining moments in Udo Kier's horror celebrity. Few times in motion picture history have comedy and horror been so perfectly blended, the other great successes being ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), Roman Polanski's DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES (1967) and Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974). Everything in FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN is over-the-top and outrageous.
The son and daughter of the Frankensteins have sequestered themselves in the Baron's laboratory and are experimenting on a doll. Naturally the lab has all the requisite atmosphere, cobwebs and creepiness. The doll is opened up by the young boy and stuffing inside removed. Then the doll is placed on a guillotine (sending up the Hammer Film classics CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN & others) and beheaded. One will easily recognize the little girl, Nicoletta Elmi, from the Mario Bava canon of features (BARON BLOOD (1972) and BAY OF BLOOD (1971); in addition she was one of the unforgettable faces in Argento's PROFONDO ROSSO (DEEP RED aka REAZIONE A CATENA (1971).
The blond, nymphomaniac Katrin Frankenstein (Monique Van Vooren) takes the children through the Serbian countryside in an open carriage. She spots some of the hired help on the estate grounds only to find Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) working on one of the maids as only the sexy servant can do! Katrin, feigning disgust, continues on.
Back at the castle, Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) makes his first appearance, admonishing his manservant Otto to be more diligent in his cleaning duties. The Star with Electric Blue Eyes reveals his Hitlerian mission: to search for the perfect "nasum" and propagate a new race of perfect Serbians.
Dr. Frankenstein believes he has found his true prototype when he goes down to the local whorehouse with Otto. Inside Nicolas is having his way while his redheaded sidekick (Srdjan Zelenovic) observes.
Upon seeing the Serbian leaving with Nicholas, Frankenstein believes he has found his perfect specimen with the perfect "nasum." The lad is beheaded by the doctor with pincers in a scene so over-the-top, blood flying everywhere, his body writhing, the viewer will be convulsed with laughter, disgust or both!
The film was operatically staged by director Paul Morrissey at Cinecitta which gives FLESH a wonderful irony as it celebrates the old Italian horror films of the 60s while it lampoons them in the same breath. In fact, many of the exterior locales look very familiar to anyone who loves this era.
There has been much controversy regarding Antonio Margheriti's participation in this film. Common practice in European co-productions was to utilize nationals from all financing countries (or at least their names!) Just as Andy Warhol had nothing to do with the film, Margheriti's participation was most limited.
FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN was presented in 3-D on US screens and titled ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN. Your reviewer saw it in 1975 in San Francisco and recalls the glasses as being made of gray plastic with some type of polarized lenses. The specs actually gave Yours Truly a headache but he's most happy to have experienced the film in this particular incarnation which was wonderful anyway! However the major flaw in this presentation is that not even a 3-D clip is shown; just imagine intestines, guts and other body parts flying out into the audience and you'll have some idea of the fun seeing it was.
As in BLOOD FOR DRACULA, the celebrated Claudio Gizzi is responsible for the melodies utilized in FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN. The score is available on CD from RCA/BMG/Ariola S.p.A and is on the same CD as BLOOD FOR DRACULA. The soft strains of piano with classic inspiration place its melodies in direct opposition to the visual gorefest this opus is. The CD is well worth owning.
Film historian David Del Valle was approached by the Criterion Collection to help secure Udo Kier's services for an audio commentary. Though a bit reluctant at first, Kier graciously obliged. The three principles were recorded separately. Maurice Yacovar is a Professor of Film and the author of a book about Paul Morrissey. He acts as moderator for the commentary and seems creepily obsessed with his subject.
Kier was feted by the Goethe-Institute in Los Angeles in April 2003. This reviewer and Del Valle spoke of old times with the actor who had just completed work on Spielberg's latest film (his hair was dyed blond if one can imagine). Kier was as fun as ever at the abundant spread the Institute gave him .There are 31 chapter stops. Visual and sound quality is variable and not always up to the high standards one would expect from The Criterion Collection, doubtlessly the finest purveyors of DVD product on the planet. Duration of the feature is 95 minutes and is uncut. Sound is Dolby Digital monaural and presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. (Christopher Dietrich)
BACK TO REVIEWS