There are a couple of other threads in the movie that will eventually stitch themselves into the main storyline. In one of them, Frankenstein’s sister and wife (!), the beautiful but austere Katrin (Monique van Vooren), ambles around her and her brother-husband’s crumbling mansion, icily disciplining their children while suffering from sexual repression. (She and her incestuous hubby only see each other at dinner, for which they’re seated, what seems to be miles apart, at a comically long dining table.) In the meantime, a muscled stableboy named Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) tries to discourage his best friend, the Serbian Sacha (Srdjan Zelenovic), from joining a monastery — a decision that can be blamed on, it seems, sexual frustration. (Unclear in the film is if Sacha is asexual, gay, or just wary of sex; but when Nicholas and Sacha visit a brothel and start getting busy, Sacha gazes at Nicholas longingly as the latter is having sex with one of its workers. This, naturally, made me think that the second option was probably the correct one.) 

 

These threads are sewn together pretty deftly. Nicholas, who works adjacent to her estate, is seduced by Katrin and they begin having an affair. Katrin’s constant ridiculing of his class status render their rendezvouses something of a series of hate-fucking sessions. As he’s leaving the brothel, Frankenstein and his devoted assistant, Otto (Arno Juerging), who have been stalking the premises in the name of their sacrilegious experiment, accost Sacha. They look hungrily at his just-right Serbian visage (his nose is a particular draw) and approve of what they perceive to be a great sex drive, given his location. They don’t need his body, just his head, so they cut it off with a pair of gardening shears. 

 

The comedy of Flesh for Frankenstein is most pronounced at the end of the movie, when Nicholas figures out what’s going on and tries to stop it and when Frankenstein realizes that the brain of his new Rocky isn’t going to be all that much more interested in sex with a woman than his previous toy boy. Dallesandro maintains his thick New York accent throughout the film, so when he starts spelling out what he thinks Frankenstein is up to, I started thinking he was a private dick rather than a blue-collar worker, only his version of a detective here is part of a cartoon and not a conventional noir story. The doctor’s frustrations are hilariously evinced in a scene where he commands his female monster, over and over again, to kiss her male equivalent, whose reaction is so nonexistent that he might as well be a marble statue. 

 

The shortcomings of the title character in Flesh for Frankenstein make us reconsider how the set pieces of the classic Frankenstein story could look if to be humorously rejiggered. In much Frankenstein-centric lore, the doctor’s failures are at once horrific and tragic — more so for the monster than anyone. But in this movie, they’re turned tragicomic for almost everyone, with added dark humor injected in the way that the victim, even after being victimized, cannot be exploited the way he's supposed to be. Flesh for Frankenstein also works as a sharp parody of the nudity-laden exploitation films of the era. Whereas most lasciviously doled out skin-flashing as a cynical way to make money, this movie makes nakedness so unsexy that you can almost sense Morrissey and his collaborators laughing at audience members who paid for their tickets thinking they’d be in for something unorthodoxly titillating.

Joe Dallesandro and Arno Juerging in 1973's Flesh for Frankenstein.

and Joe Dallesandro — has a cerebral dispassion to it. Yet it never feels cold. The film stars the sharp-cheeked and bug-eyed Kier as, I suppose, the infamous Dr. Frankenstein. (In the movie I don’t think I ever heard him or his relatives call themselves or respond to the surname.) In the original Mary Shelley novel, the doctor becomes obsessed with making life through unconventional methods, mostly out of feverish curiosity. In this film, Frankenstein has a more streamlined goal. He’d like to create a perfect Serbian-looking specimen to start for himself a new, putatively physically flaw-free race. But Frankenstein is having difficulties when we first meet him. While he has what he thinks is a nice female product (Dalila Di Lazzaro) to work with, her male counterpart is increasingly, to his eye, mediocre — something not helped by what now can be concluded to be a flagging sex drive on the latter's part. (But is it possible to maintain an active libido, anyway, when you’ve been killed and then re-animated against your will?)

lesh for Frankenstein (1973) — the first of a pair of horror movies that were produced by Andy Warhol, directed by Paul Morrissey, and starred Udo Kier

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Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol do "horror"

Flesh for Frankenstein Blood for Dracula

Reviewed October 22, 2019

  

Double Feature

Cara Delevingne and Rihanna behind the scenes of "Savage X Fenty Show."

intellectual frost covering it that can make it hard to fully embrace it. Blood for Dracula, by contrast, is a buoyant satire of the Dracula mythos and the decade’s skin flicks that never has the same feeling of bookish separation as its forebear. I’d almost call it Mel Brooksian if it weren’t also, characteristic for Morrissey, tawdry-feeling, with dubiousness lying under the laughs. (Some lines and plot twists are obviously meant to get us all giggly, but others make it unclear. What's truly earnest, and what's actually meant to be comedic? After a while, I couldn't really tell.)

 

Continuing the short-lived monster-playing tradition, Kier is the eponymous count in Blood for Dracula. Film portrayals of the bloodsucker have been uneven for about a century now. In Nosferatu (1922), Max Schreck made the vampire the closest thing to a demon promenading around Earth — a tried-and-true monster who should perhaps be treated as a legendary creature of the Chupacabra sort. In Dracula (1932) and any subsequent follow-ups in which he starred, Béla Lugosi makes the count sort of funny — a glowy-eyed eccentric people aren’t immediately suspicious of because they figure he’s just odd. And in Hammer’s Dracula movies, Christopher Lee provides the vampire with a menacing sexiness. 

 

In Blood for Dracula, Kier makes the fanged aristocrat a joke. The opening montage sees him carefully applying makeup, gazing at himself in the mirror like Norma Desmond; the sequence ends with him assiduously painting his white hair black, with what we assume is wall paint. He’s skinny and sniveling; his quest in the movie — descending on Italy to find a beautiful virgin he can marry (or, to be transparent, drain the blood of) — is made fun of.

 

He settles on a family with four young daughters — the di Fores, a formerly rich clan that’s been beset by hard financial times in recent years — and one of the girls, at one point, pointedly assumes that this man has got to be a classifiable weirdo after hearing what he’s planning on doing. The others fairly uniformly agree but play along anyway.

 

The count lives up to the inferences made about him after he’s become the guest of the house. I found the ensuing shenanigans very funny. Two of the oldest daughters are having twin affairs with Mario (Dallesandro), the studly and Marxist handyman on the estate. Again, the rampant nudity feels like a joke more so than exhibitionist display on film. And these characters are farcical. Mario is Italian, I guess, but like in Flesh for Frankenstein Dallesandro markedly maintains his East Coast accent. The two daughters, who are the most beautiful of the quartet, are quickly waylaid by Dracula. But the gag is is that even though they repeatedly tell him that they’re virgins because they want to get hitched and thus have a reason to leave claustrophobic Italy, he discovers that they decidedly are not when he bites into their necks and immediately throws up. (What sex can do to hemoglobin I’m not exactly sure; I’m not even sure Dracula himself knows. But still, his face during the initial neck-biting session turns booger green.)

 

Dallesandro, like in the preceding film, also starts playing shamus after a while. One of my favorite parts in the movie is when he, in a robotic expositional style, calls out the di Fore patriarchs for being money-hungry dopes and tells everyone, who for some reason have not realized that their pale, weird, and biting-prone guest is a vampire, that their pale, weird, and biting-prone guest is a vampire.

 

That moment is one of my favorite parts because my actual favorite part is the ending, where Mario chases the rodent-like count around the di Fore grounds with Point Break (1991) ardor. Instead of just beheading the caped succubus and getting it over with, Mario cuts off a limb every time the chase stops briefly on a new part on the property. It’s a bloody mess, but the Grand Guignol spectacle is so over the top (think Monty Python) and akin to a regular old tongue-in-cheek shock tactic that I couldn’t help but laugh at Morrissey ending the feature on a crazed note. It’s a comic reversal of the over-the-top violence and the tongue-in-cheek shock tactics you’re used to getting in exploitation movies.

lesh for Frankenstein is a blast, but even more of a good time is Blood for Dracula (1974), another movie made by much of the former film’s cast and crew. Flesh for Frankenstein is fun, but there’s an

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Velvets in many ways catered to that hard-to-impress crowd, Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula are movies designed in many ways to impress the same bunch. The films clearly aren't in favor of tradition and have in them a need to undercut established horror tropes in a way that’s both boldly funny and subversive. They aren’t quite as intellectually stimulating as a lot of the music of the Velvets could be, but the basic appeal of Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula lies in how readily they cleverly, but also thoughtfully, compromise genre familiarities.

 

They simultaneously feel like analytical exercises and particularly plucky games of live-action role-play; they both belong to comedy and horror while also seeming to be above or away from them. They’re products of anti-horror horror made by anti-horror-filmmaking horror filmmakers. I wish this troupe did a film for every movie monster there ever was.

 

Flesh for FrankensteinB+

Blood for DraculaA-

t was antiart art made by antielite elitists,” the critic Ellen Willis once said of the output of the Warhol and Morrisey-connected Velvet Underground in an essay featured in Stranded (1979). If the music of the

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