Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) lives with his wife Katrin (Monique van Vooren) in their rambling castle with their two young children. Katrin also happens to be his sister, but apart from staying together for the sake of their estate, the couple have very little to do with each other: take today, when she complains about the school their offspring have been sent to and how she is to take them out of there because she disapproves of the company they have to keep. The Baron could not be less interested, as he is obsessed with his experiments; frowned on by the regular scientific community, he has been forced to branch out on his own and in secret...
Udo Kier won the hearts of trash movie fans the world over with his near-hysterical prortrayal of Mary Shelley's famous character, going further in the role than even Peter Cushing would have dreamed of. The performance was all the more remarkable for not being in his native language, but he displayed a feeling for the extreme that not only brought out the depravity, but more importantly the sick humour - many of his line readings are laugh out loud funny, although considering the dialogue he had to speak, it would have been hard to take him seriously. This was also known as Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, as the famous pop artist branched out into more conventional filmmaking.
Well, more conventional than pointing a camera at the Empire State Building at any rate, as there was a definite tawdry approach to the subject matter and methods that Warhol's followers brought to the movies made in his name come the seventies. Nowhere was this seen as obviously as in the two horror films he put his moniker to, this and Blood for Dracula, which shared a director who fancied trying comedy, Paul Morrissey, and a few other staff such as Kier in front of the lens. Joining him was Arno Juerging as Otto in this, the Baron's assistant who may not have a hunchback yet is very much in the Dwight Frye mould, and Joe Dallesandro as the hero figure in both shockers. Needless to say, twentieth century New Yorker Dallesandro sticks out like a sore thumb amidst all this European nonsense.
And that's not all that looks sore here, as it was probably the first film to depict gore for its own sake, as the setpiece highlight of the production. Sure, George A. Romero had begun the modern blood and guts movement in horror cinema with Night of the Living Dead, but it wasn't until Dawn of the Dead that he truly embraced the aesthetic as it was seen in this. The gruesome images are exploited for all their worth, either to churn the stomachs of the audience or to present them with such crimson absurdity that they cannot help but laugh, and with Udo leading the actors' charge on the sensibilities of the viewer many have found much to set them off chuckling over the years.
The plot is constantly distracted by the possibilties of the medium, no, not the makeup effects exactly, but the three dimensions it was shot in. Yes, to achieve the full effect from the Grand Guignol show you had to don your glasses and endure various internal organs being thrust at your face, something Morrissey was so in love with that he took every opportunity to employ them as a special effect. The most famous of these is a truly excellent liver pushed in the face of the audience on the end of a pole, which seems to last a minute as if to say, "isn't this convincing?!" and it is, it's just that it speaks to a somewhat exclusive audience whose sense of humour is as strong as their constitution. A satirical element is present, with the upper classes all perverts and the lower only interested in sex (with one blatant exception), but it's those ludicrously over the top moments this was made for, armpit sucking and all. Music by Claudio Gizzi.
Rubber bat attacks directed by Antonio Margheriti! Have to say this is one of my weirdo-horror favourites. Not sure which was filmed first, but I like to think this is set inhabits the same world depicted in Blood For Dracula and that Joe Dallesandro is playing the same character. Partly because the clod rapes a thirteen year old girl in that film so the closing scene in Flesh implies he's due to get his comeuppance! Both movies are sort of gory sendups of pretentious (although actually decent) art movies, aren't they?
20 Nov 2009
I think they were at the start of a new genre of the intentional trash comedy that, say, John Waters was pioneering, although I find myself laughing more here than at Pink Flamingos.
Both FFF and BFD were filmed one after the other on the same sets, or so it looks, but I think FFF was released first (and was a big hit for a Warhol-connected movie, I'm pleased to say). Oddly, the slightly later Andy Warhol's Bad tried to emulate Waters and failed miserably.
16 Sep 2011
I watched a ton of clips from this with my 3D glasses and the effect is darn effective for this. One can't help but enjoy that beheading scene. This is a suprisingly cool film, even if the baron does seomthinge with a corpse that i never wished to see in 3D.
~To know death, you must fuck life in the gall bladder *i don't think thats right* The baron
17 Sep 2011
I watched it on the TV with the 3D glasses and it looked surprisingly great, useful when that was the main selling point. The pole at the end with the liver on it was especially fine.