Sunday, 16 July 2017

Flesh for Frankenstein

Paul Morrissey & Antonio Margheriti, 
1973, USA-Italy-France

Andy Warhol presents Paul Morrissey’s version of the Frankestein story as a mixture of Hammer Horror, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Carry On. Baron Frankenstein here is an unabashed deviant and madman, wanting to create a master race of pretty zombies to return Serbia to greatness as he fist-fucks corpses. Frankenstein is played by Udo Keir who starts on maximum ham and then tries to dial it up. But this is not a place for want of decent acting. Indeed, the line-readings of the pretty boy protagonists are often flat and laughable. But being laughable both intentional and unintentional is apparently the name of the game; that, and maybe causing vomiting as it offers a gluttony of atrocities as Frankenstein experiments in his lab and decapitates the wrong head for his monster. The head belongs to a dull gay farm hand that has no interest in procreating a master race with a zombie bride. It’s high camp for horror fans.

Kim Newman calls Morrissey’s films ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ and ‘Blood for Dracula’ “the definitive trash/kitsch horror movies.”* The Aurum Encyclopaedia of Horror is unabashedly scathing, concluding that the tongue-in-cheek and throwaway tone is “designed to absolve filmmakers and viewers alike from blame in for indulging in this venal spectacle of macho brutality.”** Exploitation often works in the realm of both the disposable and the extreme, with the knowing disposability relating to the so-bad-it’s-good get-out clause and earnest extremism as code for the poignancy of showing-it-like-it-is. ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ perhaps looks too good to be totally disposable – and Aurum cites Antonio Margheriti as the true director with Paul Morrissey mostly as supervisory – but too weak overall to be taken seriously. Although it does end on a high note with a wealth of gore and corpses heaped in the laboratory in a scene that reaches Horror farce.

Dr Frankestein is presented here shorn of all pretences of the sophisticate and shown as a ranting and snobbish necrophiliac. His wife is his bigoted and nymphomaniac sister – the films spends a lot of time with her berating the lower classes – and they have two children who watch all the goings on but have no dialogue at all (oh, the boy says “No” a couple of times). The children are ultimately Frankenstein’s true zombie offspring, which would quite possibly be poignant if the film wasn’t as daft as it is gory. 

         * Kim Newman, ‘Nightmare Movies: A Critical Guide to Contemporary Horror Films ‘ (Harmony books) 1 Oct 1989, pg 129 
**    ed. Phil Hardy, ‘Aurum Ency of Horror Hardcover’ (Hamlyn)  – 18 Sep 1986, pg 279

No comments: