Dir: Paul Morrissey, 1974
There have been many adaptations of Mary Shelley’s infamous novel, so why wouldn’t art guru Andy Warhol have a bash?
No stranger to experimental films, Warhol had already ventured into the world of filmmaking with such films as Blow Job and Sleep. The films are, literally, what it says on the tin.
Previously, Warhol filmed his own version of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange called Vinyl, so injecting his own unique style of pop art into literary works wasn’t something new.
But, Flesh For Frankenstein isnt your average Warhol flick. Despite the alternative title and his name featuring prominently on the posters, Warhol was only responsible for producing the film. This explains the more traditional approach the movie takes.
Flesh For Frankenstein takes the basic outline of Shelley’s novel, and then turns it into a raunchy tits, arse and gore film that was typical of the 1970’s.
The film is enjoyable in its own right. It doesn’t drag at a snail’s pace and the flow is fairly consistent. Aside from some inane dialogue and necrophilia, it, pretty much, plays like a Hammer or Amicus production. Morrissey and Warhol, even tried to cash in on the then-current trend of releasing films in 3D.
Udo Kier is the titular character, and hams it up spectacularly. Utilising his strong German accent, Kier looks and sounds the part. Coming across like a reject from ‘Allo, Allo, Kier chews the script up with such lines as; “to know death, you must first fuck life in the gall bladder” and “my work was not in vwain”. By the way, that’s not a typo. He really does talk like that.
Accents aside, he puts in a fairly accomplished performance, with its high end camp and theatrics aptly fitting the film. Unfortunately, he isn’t supported by the remaining cast. Seventies model and Warhol favourite Joe Dallesandro, can’t act for toffee and is only there for the hunk factor.
The film suffers from some unintentional hilarity with very sub-par special effects. Mannequins are used for the cadavers, and it’s plainly obvious. A decapitation shot is particularly amusing. Yet, Flesh For Frankenstein isn’t all overly gory. The bloodletting is kept to a fairly low minimum, with only a handful of scenes containing anything you could consider gory.
However, the poor special effects didn’t stop the film from being caught up in the “video nasties” debacle of the early eighties.
Seized by police for possible obscenity, the video release stayed on the Director of Public Prosecutions list of obscene videos.
A later video release in 1995, saw the British censors award the film an ’18’ after 56 seconds of cuts were made. The film is now available on DVD in it’s full uncut version.
All in all, Flesh For Frankenstein isn’t an original take on an old idea, nor is it original in the film’s style.
At best, Morrissey’s movie is a mediocre stab at a classic story, full of cliches and familiarities.