Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974)



Thanks to Rod Barnett and his podcast, The Bloody Pit, I finally took a plunge into the gory guts of Flesh for Frankenstein (1973.) Both it and its companion film, Blood for Dracula (1974), have always hidden deep in my watch list, mostly due to fear of what I might find. Rod and his delightfully garrulous guest, Mark Maddox, convinced me not only that the former would be accessible, but that the time had come to watch it. I was not disappointed.

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Rod and Mark emphasize that Flesh for Frankenstein is a comedy and that only when you watch it through that lens does it make any sense. I agree that it’s very funny; however, it’s certainly not structured like a typical comedy, even a dark one. As obsessed as I am about categorizing almost anything, I don’t think I’d call it a “comedy.” Instead, it defies assignment of any genre and is like a piece of art that you can interpret as you wish.

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The movie is undeniably artistic, lush and beautiful to watch. No expense seems to have been spared on production design, cinematography, or music. The same goes for the people, perhaps with more of an emphasis on the men than the women. Joe Dallesandro as the hero Nicholas, and Srdjan Zelenovic as Sacha/”Male Monster” are sweet eye candy for women and men of a certain persuasion, but only Dalila Di Lazzaro as the “Female Monster” exudes the same sexuality.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Monique van Vooren as Baroness Katrin Frankenstein is more… mature, and her moral character detracts from any physical appearance or tastes about beauty. She’s the type who isn’t “in the habit of conducting business from bed,” but does exactly that when she hires the young hunk she publicly scolded to be her bodyguard now that there are “murderers lurking around.”

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Her marriage to Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) is in name only and… she appears to also be his sister?!? There are two children whose parentage I question and living in an isolated country mansion may have made them the true monsters of the story. They are constantly watching what’s happening, whether in the bedroom or the laboratory. When you see your mother having sex with other men and your father having sex with a corpse, you’re bound to be affected.

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Yeah, the Baron has some disturbing ideas about sex, as well as a disdain for mankind. His pair of “zombies” will start a new race that’s more likely to meet with his approval… if he can wait the nine months it takes for a baby to be born. However, it’s not likely to go that far because, while Sacha has a gorgeous head, face, and nose, he seems to be gay, and he can’t quite rise to the occasion when the Baron orders the Female Monster to kiss him.

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Flesh for Frankenstein is sexy, but not explicitly like you might think its original X rating would indicate. It’s also gory, but in an over-the-top, Monty Python sort of way. You might be shocked by either, but I don’t think you’ll be offended. You might want to dismiss the plot, but one does actually exist and it offers some interesting ideas. The execution plays more like a stream of consciousness, but one that has the potential to fascinate.

 

Written by Paul Morrissey

Directed by Paul Morrissey

Starring Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Vittorio De Sica, Maxime McKendry, Arno Jurging

RT 95 min.

Released Nov. 30, 1973 (West Germany); March 17, 1974 (USA)

Home Video (Blu-ray) Vinegar Syndrome

Rating 7 possessed children (out of 10)

 

You don’t know me at all if you thought I wouldn’t turn right around and watch Blood for Dracula (1974) after Flesh for Frankenstein. While the two are similar, and I like them for the same reasons, this one feels more like a revelation because I didn’t first listen to Rod and Mark talk about it on a podcast. I may slightly prefer the situation around which the plot revolves in Blood of Dracula; it seems less like it will conclude with a punch line.

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Dracula (Udo Kier) isn’t doing too well. He’s depleted the supply of virgins in Romania and, encouraged by his faithful servant, Anton (Arno Jurging), decides to travel to Italy to find a new bride. She must be a virgin and the joke is that of the four daughters in the house of Di Fiore, two of them are secretly sleeping with Mario (Joe Dallesandro.) When Dracula bites them, we graphically learn why “unclean” blood just won’t work.

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Kier plays Dracula in the similarly crazed manner in which he played Frankenstein. He’s overly dramatic, but in a way that somehow belongs in the film rather than distracts from it. His line readings provide much of the humor, and I’d say the character is more in the forefront. This means you’re either going to love it/him or hate it/him. I view his Dracula as insecure, neurotic sad sack, and that’s certainly a fresh interpretation of the fearsome Count.

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Both films share an upper-class disdain of the lower class. Often, the less fortunate are bluntly called, “trash.” More so in Blood for Dracula, the side of the underprivileged is seen through the eyes of Dallesandro’s character. He’s read all about the Russian Revolution and anticipates something similar happening in his neck of the woods. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to do much about it other than simply wait.

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Mario is more cruel than Nicholas was in Flesh for Frankenstein. The disdain of another class flows both ways as he calls the sisters whores and sometimes acts violently toward them. He’s not as heroic, although he’ll eventually become the Van Helsing to Kier’s Dracula. He also seems different because his connection to the daughters is of a different nature than Nicholas’s connection to the “Male Monster.”

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Blood for Dracula is sexier, but not as gory as, Flesh for Frankenstein. In a way, both are built around unique views about the physical act, but virginity is an ever-present point in the former, while procreation is a more intangible point in the latter. In both, sex seems ridiculous, perhaps commenting on prudish perceptions of it. I think the true meaning of the films lies here, rather in the obvious statement that the rich are monsters, although there is that, too. Rod? Mark?

 

Written by Paul Morrissey

Directed by Paul Morrissey

Starring Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Vittorio De Sica, Maxime McKendry, Arno Jurging

RT 106 min.

Released March 3, 1974 (West Germany); Nov. 6, 1974 (USA)

Home Video (Blu-ray) Vinegar Syndrome

Rating 7 possessed children (out of 10)


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