Flesh for Frankenstein

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Flesh For Frankenstein

A part of this view­ing listCriterion Collection Spine #27: Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein.

Also known, for ob­vi­ous mar­ket­ing rea­sons, as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, this film on­ly us­es the name “Frankenstein” as a pop cul­ture ref­er­ence to go along with the oth­er clichéd hor­ror tropes; mad sci­en­tists, castle lab­o­ra­to­ries, sundry chunks of corpses, creepy as­sis­tant, etc. This film isn’t a hor­ror film, it is gore-com­e­dy, like Dead Alive (Braindead) with side help­ings of nu­di­ty and sex fetishism. It is high-brow de­lib­er­ate­ly act­ing low-brow; an an­tithe­sis to Sam Fuller films, which are low-brow serendip­i­tous­ly be­com­ing high-brow. The twist­ed Teutonic (even though he’s Serbian, are Serbians con­sid­ered Teutonic? I couldn’t man­age to find an an­swer…) sex­u­al mono­ma­nia present in the Baron is one large piece of the puz­zle, and Nicholas, the near­ly amoral sta­ble­boy cum stud (this could al­so be writ­ten as “sta­ble­boy cum-stud” for added fla­vor) is the oth­er. The rest of the char­ac­ters flesh out (I should stop with the puns al­ready) ad­di­tion­al an­gles on what clear­ly be­comes the point of the film; we’re all vi­o­lent, sex­u­al so­ciopaths in one way or an­oth­er. The Baron says: “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life… in the gall blad­der!” right af­ter he has done just that.

Well, okay, but what then, or what else? There isn’t re­al­ly an an­swer given, un­less it is present in the voyeuris­tic in­ces­tu­ous off­spring of the Baron and his sister/​wife. The film be­gins and ends with them in­volved in tor­ture, first at play, but ful­ly re­al­ized at the last. If any­thing, the chil­dren are even less hu­man than every­one else. They (al­most?) nev­er speak, and of­fer no jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for their acts. No mat­ter how de­based or ex­is­ten­tial­ly dead any of the oth­er char­ac­ters are, they al­ways speak their piece be­fore con­tribut­ing to a body count that would do a Shakespearean tragedy proud.

Like the tank of pi­ran­ha that we see oc­ca­sion­al­ly, the chil­dren have been re­duced to blood­thirsty beasts, who act as their na­ture de­mands, and feel no need for sophistry to jus­ti­fy them­selves. If there’s a moral here, it’s that the ab­sence of em­pa­thy and al­tru­ism is com­pound­ed gen­er­a­tional­ly. Your ob­ses­sions can be­come your chil­drens’ and more like­ly worse.

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