Plot: What’s it about?
Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) has some big plans, but in order to pull them off, he’ll need all the tumblers to fall into place. He seeks to create an entire race of a new kind of human, one which will serve his needs and do little else. This would give him massive amounts of power and control, which would enable him to do as he wished. But to accomplish this goal, he needs to assemble together a couple of “humans” from deceased body parts, which is no simple task. Once he has created his male and female specimens, he plans to mate them and as a result, his waves of servants will be born into his control. He knows his male creation will need to be an ace with the ladies, so he tries to find the brain of a ladies’ man, but ends up with the brain of a monk. So his male creation shows no interest in the female, but the Baron’s wife wants to hook up with the creation, nonetheless. Can the Baron somehow piece together his plan and make it work out, even with countless errors and all sorts of bad luck & such?
This is one odd movie from start to finish, but I like it a lot and think it is a wise choice for The Criterion Collection. Flesh for Frankenstein has a lot in common with Blood for Dracula, so if you enjoyed that one, chances are you’ll be at home here also. But this is a more gruesome and extreme picture as well, so if you’re queasy around bad gore effects and buckets of the red stuff, this isn’t the flick you should watch. I mean, we have severed heads by the dozen, ample naked bodies, and even shades of incest & necrophelia, what more can a motion picture deliver? All the elements of classic exploitation can be seen here, but Morrisey also includes some subtle touches, things that make you wonder if there’s more to this film than blood, sex, and naked chicks. But even if viewed as a mindless exploitation flick, it comes through on all counts and is wildly entertaining, which is enough to make this worth a look. And if you’re still not sold on this release, just think of Udo Kier and his accent, as he is given some hilarious lines here, his performance alone is worth the price of admission. I recommend this release to all those interested, as Criterion has covered the basics here, although a new anamorphic transfer is more than welcome down the road.
There have been some memorable turns in Frankenstein themed films before, but never has one man given such an unforgettable performance, as Udo Kier. I didn’t say his work was good or even close, but if you’ve seen this picture, I’d gamble that you’ll never forget his hilarious turn as Baron Frankenstein. Kier is such an odd choice to handle the role, but he makes the best of it and is quite entertaining, though some might be annoyed by his antics. I think his accent drives home the lines with such humor and outrageous tones, it makes them twice as good as they would be, if stated by anyone else. So no, this is not a great performance in the usual sense, but Kier is memorable and his work here never fails to make me laugh. Other films with Kier include Blood for Dracula, End of Days, Breaking the Waves, Barb Wire, and Johnny Mnemonic. The cast also includes Joe Dallesandro (Blood for Dracula, Trash), Monique van Vooren (The Decameron, Ten Thousand Bedrooms), and Arno Juerging (Blood for Dracula).
Video: How does it look?
Flesh for Frankenstein is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. As with Blood for Dracula, this title was released prior to Criterion’s dedication to anamorphic releases, which is a real shame. I think a new anamorphic transfer could have cleaned up some the problems here, such as shimmering, jagged edges, and on the whole, just produced a more refined overall image. The picture is solid in terms of non anamorphic transfers, but on a larger screen television, these problems are enhanced and lessen the viewing experience. I’d rather watch this disc than the previous laserdisc presentation, but I’d love to see Criterion return to this title and issue an anamorphic edition, of course.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track has no bells & whistles, but sounds very good and I doubt fans will let down in the least. The track is quite clean and I noticed no serious signs of age flaws, aside from some minor instances here and there. I love the musical score, so I am very pleased it sounds terrific here, while sound effects are in fine form, to the levels that a 1973 mono option allows. The vocals are clear and well presented too, which leaves me to score this one as a good, but not quite great mono track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a nice montage of still photos, as well as a very informative commentary track from director Paul Morrisey, actor Udo Kier, and film historian Maurice Yacowar. The comments are very interested and as with most Criterion tracks, the participants are recorded apart, then edited together to ensure a smoother, complete session.