Flesh for Frankenstein
flesh for frankenstein | frankenstein | paul morrissey | antonio margehriti | joe dallesandro | udo kier | dalila di lazzaro | united states | italy | france | remake | based on | novel | mary shelley | monique van vooren | mad scientist | monster | creature | monsters | nicoletta elmi
Film: Flesh for Frankenstein
Director: Paul Morrissey and Antonio Margehriti
Writer: Paul Morrissey
Starring: Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier and Dalila Di Lazzaro
This film is one that I learned about thanks to a horror movie encyclopedia that I’m working through. It took a bit of searching, but I was able to get my hands on a copy. I had only seen it that once and I thought it was odd. I’ve now given it a rewatch, being more cultured and more versed in cinema. It was my Traverse through the Threes for that week.
Synopsis: Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) creates two ‘zombies’ – one male, one female – planning to mate them to create a master race.
We start with siblings, Monica (Nicoletta Elmi) and her brother, Erik (Marco Liofredi). They are playing in a laboratory with scalpels and dissecting a doll. They end decapitating with a guillotine.
From here it shifts to these children with their mother, Baroness Katrin Frankenstein (Monique van Vooren). They ride in a horse drawn cart. They stops at a shack to find a man playing a weird instrument. She asks who is inside and Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) appears. He was making love to a young woman. Katrin is disgusted and leaves.
It then takes us over to meet her husband and brother, Baron Frankenstein. He is a scientist and he is assisted by Otto (Arno Jürging). We learn that the baron and baroness’ marriage was out of necessity. They have two children, but that is the most affection he shows for Katrin. The baron is completely absorbed in his work. Katrin is sooty and pulls their children out of school. She now must figure out what to do with them. The baron suggests that they be sent to a school abroad, but Katrin doesn’t want that. She instead has Olga (Liù Bosisio), their maid, teaching them now.
The baron has decided that he wants to create a race of slave people to bring Serbia, the country this film takes place in, back to prominence. To do this, he decides that he must create a perfect man and woman to mate. The baron believes that their children will be completely loyal and obedient to him. Along with Otto, they go into the night. They get confused when hanging outside of a brothel that Sacha (Srdjan Zelenovic) is a stud. He is only there due to his friend, Nicholas. Sacha isn’t interested though. He wants to become a monk.
When these two go to leave, they’re attacked. Nicholas is knocked out and Sacha is decapitated. The head is used to finish his male monster. The female monster here is played by Dalila Di Lazzaro. The baron’s plans are put into motion to create his master race. Katrin also has her own plans. She invites Nicholas to work in the mansion, teaching the children and making love to her. During dinner, he notices Sacha’s head on the monster and wants answers, stopping at nothing to find them.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that this is an odd little film. What I like is that this feels like a sleazy variation that you’d get from Hammer on this source material. There’s even a bit of social commentary that I can pull from it as well.
Where I want to start though is with this as a mad scientist movie. What I found interesting is that the baron believes that Serbians are the master race. He thinks that by selecting the ideal parts, he then can use them to breed and create people that he can control. This oddly seems like they’re borrowing what the Nazis believed. I don’t mind this as the reason for him doing what he is. I’ve just never heard Serbians being the ideal.
Now to delve a bit more under the surface. This movie is highly sexualized. Nicholas is sleeping with all the young women that meet him. He frequents the brothel and then Katrin takes him into her bed. He is the man that the baron is looking for to be honest. I get the idea that Sacha is a homosexual. It doesn’t come out and say that, but he look longingly at Nicholas. It would also be ironic since he is out to create the master race. It also feels like it is flipping the narration of Mary Shelley’s source material. The difference being that the bride there finds the monster hideous so she doesn’t want to be with him. The last bit for this concept is Otto, who is a deviant with how things plays out. Katrin and Olga know that he’s odd so they stay away from him. Otto also gets scolded regularly by the baron.
There is one other thing here that I want to discuss and it would be the children. They don’t have dialogue from what I remember. The baron doesn’t seem to what anything to do them. Katrin does, but not enough to take on the burden herself. It is interesting that the baron and her are brother and sister. I take this as royalty only married royalty and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else around. Seeing what the children are doing in the beginning and then how things play out, there could be a bit of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, where inbreeding has caused a sort of madness within them.
I’ll then go to the acting. It is interesting because no one is great. They work for what is needed though. Even though I say that I do think that Kier is great as this mad scientist. He’s just a legend. Dallesandro is good as this stud who sleeps with everyone that he can. It is fun to see Di Lazzaro here as I know her from a giallo film, The Pyjama Girl Case. We see her nude here if you’re interested. Van Vooren works as Katrin. There is a sootiness that fits her royal standing. I’d also say that Jürging, Zelenovic, Elmi, Liofredi, Bosisio and the rest of the cast also rounded this out for what was needed.
Lastly will be filmmaking. I think that this is well-made. There is an arthouse vibe that works. There’s also an exploitation feel that I enjoy. The cinematography is fine. What I do have to say is that The Rocky Horror Picture Show borrowed from this. The laboratories almost the exact same look. Even the tank to make the monsters in are as well. As a Rocky Horror fan, that made me smile. I’d say that the effects are good. They went practical, which I appreciate. Other than that, the soundtrack was fine. It didn’t stand out or hurt the overall product.
In conclusion, this is a different take on familiar source material. The sleazy take that this has is interesting. We get a fair bit of nudity, both male and female. There are undertones of social commentary that can be ignored or explored, depending on your views. I like the acting. It is fun to see a young Kier here. I also think this is made well enough. Not one I can recommend to everyone, but if you like exploitation films and want to see a variation of Frankenstein, then I’d give this a shot.
My Rating: 7 out of 10