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Image Entertainment presents
"I need his brain for my zombie!"
DVD Review"No one has come as close as I to knowing the secret of life, intelligently created." - Baron Frankenstein
After making a name for himself with his Flesh trilogy (Flesh, Trash, Heat) in the late 1960s and early '70s, experimental filmmaker and Andy Warhol collaborator, Paul Morrissey, was offered the opportunity to do a film for producer Carlo Ponti based on the story of Frankenstein. Initially reluctant, fearing expectations of another Hammer style production, the project became more attractive when it was suggested that he film in 3D (Spacevision). Things got even more interesting when, at his first meeting with Ponti, Morrissey delivered an on the spot budget—$300,000—to which Ponti suggested that instead of one film, they should make two, and thus began the pair of Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula.
As the film begins, we are introduced to Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier), a scientist who lives in a grand castle with his wife (who is also his sister), Baroness Katrin (Monique van Vooren) and their two children (Nicoletta Elmi and Marco Liofredi as Monica and Erik). The Baron spends most his time in his laboratory with henchman Otto (Arno Juerging), where he is nearing the completion of his life's masterwork. He has created a pair of zombies assembled from various bits and pieces harvested from the local townspeople, who he intends to breed to create his perfect children, subserviant to him alone. His female (Dalila Di Lazzaro) is just short of perfection, but her mate requires a head, with a sex drive to match his virile body.
Enter Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro), a studly farmhand who services the local maidens. He is just the sort the Baron is after, but things go awry when, while surveying the local whorehouse for a suitable specimen, the Baron spies Nicholas' best friend, Sascha (Srdjan Zelenovic), bound for monkhood, and mistakes him for the man he is after. Instead, it is the Baroness who retains Nicholas' services as her sex toy, after he awakens from a drunken stupor to find his friend headless, but while serving dinner at the castle, he recognizes that the Baron's new guest bears a striking resemblance to his deceased sidekick. With the help of the kids, Nicholas is determined to get to the bottom of things.
"To know death, Otto..." - Baron Frankenstein
Both Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula are unique in many ways, but most notable is that they were shot literally back to back—Frankenstein wrapped at noon, the principle actors were given new haircuts, and Dracula began shooting an hour later. Morrisey had originally intended to have his actors improvise, but ended up scripting each day's material on the way to the set. Despite its low budget, the film has excellent production quality, from elaborate sets to exquisite cinematography.
It should be stated from the start that Flesh for Frankenstein is not your typical horror film, in fact it is as much a parody of the genre as anything else. While there are conventional elements; the lab, the slab, and the electroshock revitalizations, Morrisey takes the concept to new heights (or depths, depending on your viewpoint), and there is nothing subtle here. From the gigantic loppers used to cut off Sascha's head, perverse sexuality, and multiple shots of dangling innards, Morrissey creates a spectacle. The humor, which will not be to everyone's taste, is abundant. Kier and Juerging give wonderful, over-the-top performances, and their master and servant relationship contains some priceless dialogue, including a scene where Frankenstein displays just how much he loves his work. Dallesandro plays it straight, whether lying naked in bed while van Vooren slurps at his armpits, or confronting the Baron in the final act. In all aspects, it is deliberately excessive and absurd, which only adds to the entertainment value.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Presented in a new anamorphic transfer, the image quality here is superb. Colors are full and rich, with deep blacks, and excellent contrast. The image is crisp and very clean, with only minor source defects, such as specking and the odd scratch. Detail level is high, grain is fine and naturally rendered. This is a substantial upgrade from previous video releases.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is well presented. Dialogue is clean and clear, and easy to discern despite somewhat thick accents. Claudio Gizzi's score comes across nicely. There are no technical issues to report.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Paul Morrissey, Udo Kier, Maurice Yakowar
Packaging: unknown keepcase
Newly recorded Morrissey commentary accompanies an expanded stills gallery (24m:44s), and Srdjan Zelenovic's original screen test (4m:08s). Both provide more information on the film and its stars.
There is no booklet included.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsWith its thematic elements, frequent nudity, and abundance of gore, Flesh for Frankenstein will certainly not be for all tastes. It shares, however, a uniqueness with its companion, Blood for Dracula, delivered in a humorous and absurdly outrageous style, ripe with brilliant performances from its cast. The improved transfer easily bests its Criterion predecessor, while retaining the most critical supplements from the prior release. I have no hesitation recommending this as an upgrade for fans.
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