Oh boy. This movie.
Paul Morrisey’s 1973 feature Flesh for Frankenstein (AKA Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) is quite the dip into genre absurdity. Initially the film may look like a more sexed up Hammer production, but it quickly establishes itself as something far more perverse and darkly comedic than any of Hammer’s stately, gothic curios.
The plot is standard Frankenstein fare, just with a nice dollop of exploitation sleaze thrown into the mix. Played by indomitable international icon Udo Kier, Baron Frankenstein is an openly fascistic figure who is determined to create two perfect “zombies” from pillaged human remains. Once these zombies are complete, he plans to have them mate to create the perfect master race that will obey his every command.
Little does the Baron know that all is not well in the house of Frankenstein, as sexual deviancy and twisted desires work to undermine his grand designs.
Flesh for Frankenstein is campy with a capital C. The dialogue is exceedingly silly and the delivery from the cast is more than a little hysterical throughout.
Considering the film’s tone however, this Grand Guignol of near-farcical proportions feels largely intentional. Morrisey is keen to have you squirm as much as possible and giggle at the absurdity being displayed – sometimes both at once.
The sexuality in Flesh for Frankenstein is the driving theme. Phallic and yonic imagery abound in the film – one particular visual gag during the climax involving a wooden pike and an internal organ is so loaded with meaning I genuinely laughed out loud.
The good doctor is married to his own sister Katrin (Monique van Voreen) in a loveless relationship that bore them two children. Neither party are particularly interested in fulfilling their carnal desires with each other and seek it through other means – all the while casting damnation and judgment on everybody else’s sexual choices. Katrin lords her status about the castle, chastising hired hands for their sexual proclivities all the while indulging in her own under the nose of her husband-brother.
Frankenstein isn’t just interested in building his master race, he is also interested in screwing it. Literally. “To know death, Otto – you have to f**k life! In the gallbladder!”
For 1973, the sexual acts depicted in the film are enough to give you the vapors if you weren’t prepared beforehand.
While hardly the most explicit or shocking genre film to deal with the themes of death and sex, Flesh for Frankenstein still packs enough queasy perversity to make you uneasy.
Underneath the nudity, overacting, and vibrant splashes of gore – just what is Flesh for Frankenstein about?
Paul Morrisey hailed from Warhol’s Factory, so it’s safe to assume the social satire present in this film is no fluke. The narrative plays as one big piss take on the hypocrisy and moral decay of the wealthy elite.
Throughout the film both the Baron and Katrin are seen exploiting and manipulating the working class for their own gain. The two quite literally see these people as nothing but flesh to do with as they will. The Baron is convinced of his own ethnic and intellectual superiority and feels it is his innate right to conquer and rule. Morrisey takes the principle Frankenstein conceit Mary Shelley introduced in her seminal novel and stretches it to its extreme conclusion with all the trimmings lovers of exploitation cinema groove to.
If you haven’t seen Flesh for Frankenstein, do yourself a favor and seek it out. It’s full to bursting with camp entertainment, delightful gore gags, and enough satirical merit make it stand severed heads and maimed torsos above many other Frankenstein adaptations.