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Andy Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein


Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein (1974)

     After viewing Flesh for Frankenstein , I have to wonder if Producer Andy Warhol had said to himself, “How do we modernize Frankenstein. I know! Add loads of breasts and sex!” For that really is all that Flesh for Frankenstein is. It follows the same concept of the mad scientist in Bride of Frankenstein in desiring to create a human race derived from reanimated humans, it just goes about it in a much more graphic fashion typical of the times.

     Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) has created in his lab a woman assembled from a couple individuals and brought back to life. His next endeavor is to create a man with an immense libido. He has most of the body assembled from a handful of people but needs the head and brain of such a sex maniac. To find the perfect brain, he and his assistant Otto (Arno Juerging) lurk outside a brothel where two blonde blokes are having their fun. One of these men is a sex addict, the other is his chaste friend who desires to be a monk and needs some tutelage in the ways of the ladies. Despite their visit to the whore house, however, he remains unmoved by the variety of breasts. Unfortunately, Frankenstein observes him outside the brothel with two naked women and thinks he is engaging both their services at once. As the men walk home, Frankenstein and Otto knock out the actual ladies man and cut off the head of the celibate one.

     Meanwhile, Lady Katrin Frankenstein (Monique Van Vooren) –who is both the Baron’s sister and wife– has hired the ladies man Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) to work as her body-guard and lover allowing for plenty of bedroom scenes, many of which are watched secretly by the Frankensteins’ strange children. When Frankenstein brings his female monster and newly animated male monster to the dinner Nicholas is serving the family, the servant is disturbed by the tall man with his friend’s head. He later shares his concerns with Katrin, but she’s too busy wanting sex. The mad scientist is confused about why his male monster has no sexual desire and cannot understand why both his wife and his female monster are so interested in the servant.

     SPOILER Katrin is permitted to try to draw some sexual desire out of the male monster, but he ends up crushing her in his arms instead. Nicholas has meanwhile been caught snooping in the lab and is being held captive by Frankenstein. Otto at this point is desiring a sexual exploit of his own, and following the example set by his master earlier in the movie (“To know death, Otto, you have to f— life in the gallbladder.”) fornicates with the female monster’s stomach incision, disembowling and killing her in the process. This enrages Frankenstein who dispatches of Otto, but the scientist too is eliminated, this time at the hands of the male monster. Nicholas wishes to free his friend, but the monster declares he cannot live in this alien body and instead digs his hands into his own incisions and kills himself. Nicholas is left dangling from a crane and when the Frankenstein children enter, it looks as though they plan to continue the family business. END SPOILER

     The version of Flesh of Frankenstein I viewed is one of the edited versions. When it was originally released in 1974, it was given an X rating for the sex and vivid violence/gore. Much of that happens away from the camera’s eye in the R-rated cut. Despite the gruesomeness of it all, the movie is laugh-out-loud horrible. All characters have soviet-style accents except Nicholas, who despite having “grown up” with his sexless friend has a New Jersey accent. What was worst was a scene between a horny and nude Katrin and an uninterested Nicholas during which the woman makes horrible sucking sounds while kissing the man’s armpit area while he is trying to convey his suspicions regarding his friend’s head. This drags on for several minutes and is impossible to not laugh at. Anything that is not a laugh riot will likely creep out any audience member through this terribly uncomfortable film. I am not a fan of anything Andy Warhol has done, so count this among them.


Torch Song


Torch Song (1953)

     Oh, Torch Song, how can I describe thine flaws; let me count the ways. Your star is dreadful, your plot full or sorry similarities to All About Eve, and your racist musical number far outdated.

     One would have thought that Joan Crawford’s return to MGM for a two-picture deal would have brought with it the glamor that studio embodied when Crawford lived out her contracts with the powerhouse at the start of her career. Instead we got that strange aging, yet ageless Joan that would haunt the sad flicks that marked the end of her career. Both Torch Song and Johnny Guitar that followed it at MGM would flop, and it is easy to see why. Crawford had “minor” surgery prior to Torch Song to improve the look of her face and breasts –the rear end remained all her’s, she bragged. Although, Crawford would retain some image of youthfulness for far too late into her life, she certainly lost the beauty. I have found it hard to put a finger on just what is wrong with her look in these later years –her figure was great, her face free of lines– but the sexyness was long gone, and she looked more of a brute than anything else.

     A brute is essentially what she plays in Torch Song as Jenny Stewart, an older stage musical star who finds her personal life far too lonely. The story has tones of rival Bette Davis’ All About Eve except without the meddling Eve character. Instead, Jenny finds herself fighting and falling for a blind pianist hired to help her rehearse. Michael Wilding‘s Tye intrigues and infuriates Jenny by being rather uninterested in her.

     Crawford’s look and performance might be what kill this picture the most. She sings and dances and while the movements are good, the singing was allegedly dubbed by India Adams, although Crawford boasted she did her own vocalizing. The voice does sound unnatural on Crawford, despite her adroit lip synching. The star also sports in this her fist color film an ugly strawberry blonde page-boy hair cut that also reduces her sex appeal. Frankly, it is hard to grasp through her nearly emotionless performance that a romantic plot is under development in Torch Song. Thankfully the love making is limited to a single kiss at the film’s close.

Good thing Tye can't see her new hairdo and facelift.

     Also digging a grave for Torch Song is a totally unnecessary number performed with the entire cast in blackface. I thought this practice was long gone by the 1950s, but I was mistaken. Nevermind that Crawford looked absurd in the makeup and bejeweled eyebrows; she makes the whole look worse by tearing off the black wig in anger and exposing the red hair against the black makeup. Pure terror for those watching.

Chin up, Joanie. Your routine wasn't that offensive. No, you're right. It was.


     I understand Torch Song holds a special place in the hearts of Crawford fans for its pure camp nature. How tragic that such a huge star in the golden age of cinema would go on to rule the kitsch film arena (see Strait-Jacket and Berserk). This is, however, a so-bad-it’s-good sort of movie, so it is sure to attract many viewers. Ironically, the film did garner an Oscar nomination for supporting actress in the mother character played by Marjorie Rambeau, a part that was rather thin.

Source: Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine

House on Haunted Hill


House on Haunted Hill (1958)

     It has happened at last: I have issued the dreaded Yipes! rating to a movie. Ryan and I had planned to see a showing of House on Haunted Hill Saturday at Columbus, Ohio’s historic venue (that started as a movie house), the Ohio Theatre. We got a bit bogged down with dinner and were not going to make it on time so we watched the film at home instead. Ryan warned me the movie would be bad, but golly it is a disaster.

     Aside from poor acting on the parts of everyone except maybe Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill has more plot holes than anything I have ever seen. As I rambled the next day to the tune of “…and what about when…” Ryan responded with, “Don’t try to analyze it.” And perhaps that is the only way to take House on Haunted Hill — with a grain of salt knowing the picture is an absolute wreck.

     Instead of engendering fright, this flick only induces laughter. Possibly the only moment a viewer might find frightening is the sudden appearance of an elderly, crazy-haired woman with milky eyes who stands with claw like hands raised before one of the characters. If only the woman had not stayed in that unmoving position long enough for the viewer to conclude how absurd she is. Then one might be scared. My favorite bit of dialogue comes from Richard Long. Upon being informed by the young woman that she is the sole breadwinner for the family because they were all in a horrible accident, Long opens a door. “It’s a closet,” he says before opening another door, “Bottles.”

     Ryan informs me that to his knowledge House on Haunted Hill was the first picture to use the plot scenario of “if you can stay all night in this haunted house I will give you X dollars.” Possibly everyone has seen some movie or show using that plot basis (I seem to recall a cartoon episode of some sort. Scooby Doo maybe?) and, coincidentally it was even part of the story for the TV special “Scared Shrekless” that aired last week. So if nothing else, the movie world would be deprived of ripping off that theme if House on Haunted Hill had not been made.

     House on Haunted Hill is not worthless. It is great for a laugh, but do not attempt to analyze it, as Ryan advised, because you will only end up frustrated.

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