Flesh for Frankenstein [3D] (1973)

aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein

2009 #75
Paul Morrissey | 95 mins | TV | 18 / R

Flesh for FrankensteinFlesh for Frankenstein is thoroughly daft. But it’s also in 3D, so let’s start there.

The best thing about the extra dimension is that it provides some genuinely impressive visuals throughout, and not in the gimmicky, thrust-stuff-into-the-audience way — naturally there are some of those shots, but they seem to work quite poorly here. That could be the fault of Channel 4’s chosen 3D system, or perhaps of watching on a TV rather than a huge screen. Either way, there are also shots that demonstrate why 3D could be genuinely valuable, to visuals if not necessarily to storytelling. For example, early on the wife/sister (a discussion for another time) and her kids go for a picnic. It’s shot from a distance through branches in the foreground, which highlights that there’s a realistic sense of depth to every element of the frame that just isn’t present if you see the same shot in 2D — I know, I checked. For perhaps the first time, I got a sense of why some people harp on about 2D flattening composition.

Unfortunately, while the 3D system used is sometimes flawlessly brilliant, at others it seems to have gone wrong. There’s an odd green ringing in some shots, while at others it appears they’ve used the wrong shade of blue for monochrome-depth because it shows up (in scenes that work, the blue is clearly visible if you take the glasses off, but invisible with them on). Such problems are intermittent in the stuff shown during 3D Week, leading one to suspect it’s as much a fault of the age of the film elements.

I can also now see why people have been complaining so much about 3D — it feels like a constant struggle and strain to watch, like you’re always having to make it work. Perhaps that’s partly down to the technical flaws described above though, because I didn’t suffer as much during an hour of Derren Brown’s Magic Spectacular, whereas here I could feel the strain after just 15 minutes.

As for the film itself… The plot doesn’t make any sense for about 20 minutes, then Udo Kier’s Frankenstein (I presume he’s Frankenstein, I don’t think he’s ever addressed as more than Baron) has a bit of a monologue to explain his Hitler-ish Cunning Plan — to someone who already knows it, naturally — and suddenly most of what’ll happen for the rest of the film is abundantly clear.

The acting is uniformly atrocious. Despite that, it also provides the film’s best moments: the European cast are unable to pronounce “laboratory” — every time it’s uttered it comes out as “lavatory”. Childish I know, but it’s one of the film’s few enjoyable moments. “I had to work for two years before I could even stick my nose in the lavatory” is an instantly classic line. (As is “To know death, you have to fuck life in the gall bladder” — literally, apparently.) Continuing the accented madness, the good-guy serf sounds to be from Brooklyn. At least he can say “laboratory”.

Gratuitous nudity and gore belie some critics’ apparent view that it’s only with the emergence of torture porn that operation-level gore has become a selling point of horror movies — it’s only become more realistic. Just as the gore’s silly, so the sex seems misguided — whoever cast the whores seems to have found believable rather than attractive ones. Oops. That said, whoever in the sound department thought the most realistic sound effects for various sex acts could be found by having someone suck on a balloon, loudly, was even more misguided.

Apparently it’s all meant to be satirical or Pythonesquely humourous. Well, maybe, but it sails too close to the winds of genuine crapness to let such a defence fly — though, as noted, that certainly makes it laughable. Weak in just about every way imaginable, if you’re after a horror, gore, porn or 3D fix, look elsewhere. For “so bad it’s good” value, however, I’ve kindly given it an extra star.

2 out of 5

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