The Video Nasties #22 – Flesh for Frankenstein (1973, Paul Morrissey)

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‘To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life

in the gall bladder.’

Wise words, Udo. Wise words. Flesh For Frankenstein is a bit of an oddity amongst the Nasties. For a start it was shot in 3D (although the banned video was naturally the 2D version). Secondly, it had strong associations with legendary pop-artist Andy Warhol. Warhol had produced three of Morrissey’s earlier films, Flesh, Trash and Heat, all of which also starred Joe Dallesandro. This led to the film being renamed Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein in some markets, though in reality he had little to do with this film.

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Flesh For Frankenstein casts German nut job Udo Kier as the Baron, who has already created the ‘perfect Serbian female’ and only needs a head with a nice, errr, ‘nasum’ (pronounced ‘Nah-zoom’ by Kier) to complete his work. Talk about beginning in media res! The film’s just started and already it’s almost over. Luckily, Kier and his equally mad assistant Otto are like the Laurel and Hardy of the grave robbing business and nothing ever quite goes to plan. For a start, instead of murdering the sexually promiscuous Joe Dallesandro (who, true to form, never once lets that thick Brooklyn accent slip, even when playing a 19th Century European farmhand), the Baron instead takes the head of his friend, who, like the rest of the cast, only has eyes for our Joe.

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Eventually, after a series of misunderstandings and miscommunication, the film ends in a wild orgy of bloodletting and an ambiguous ending that doesn’t seem to bode well for our hero.

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Flesh for Frankenstein has a lot going for it, though sometimes getting through it can seem like a real chore. Often people acting in a second language can come across as stiff and wooden, but here we have the opposite. Udo Kier and Arno Juerging as his assistant overact with great aplomb and carry the film in every scene they appear in, making for a very amusing double act. Sadly, half of the film is taken up with Dallesandro and Van Vooren laying around in bed talking, and while attractive, neither of them has much in the way of screen presence and these scenes tend to drag.

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With the exception of the very gory decapitation early in the film, much of the violence is kept for the climax, where no less than three characters end up with their guts spilling out of them. The gore lacks impact though, as because the film was shot in 3D, the intestines are thrust out towards the camera and left there for too long. It’s a common problem with early 3D movies, such as Jaws 3D or Friday the 13th Part 3, little moments that probably worked really well at the time, but on home video just felt oddly uncomfortable. For the same cast and crew’s follow-up movie, Blood For Dracula, the 3D was dropped and the film was noticeably better for it.

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It’s fun, and it’s always a pleasure to see a Nasty that obviously had some money spent on it (dig that wild laboratory set!) but if I had to choose, Blood For Dracula is a much better film. In a fabulous demonstration of how arbitrary this list is, you will not be surprised to know that that particular film was never on it, while this one was successfully prosecuted as obscene.

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