Flesh for Frankenstein

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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