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.
- Criterion Collection essay by Maurice Yacowar
- Eccentric Cinema Review (with plenty of stills)
- 1000 Misspent Hours Review