Color, 1973, 95 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by Paul Morrissey
Starring Joe Dallesandro, Monique van Vooren, Udo Kier, Arno Jürging, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Srdjan Zelenovic, Nicoletta Elmi, Marco Liofredi
Vinegar Syndrome (UHD and Blu-ray) (US R0 4K/HD), Cinema Cult (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia R0 HD/PAL), Happinet (Blu-ray & DVD) (Japan RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), Criterion (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) (2.35:1)

The world simply wasn't prepared when it got Flesh for Frankensteinsmacked in the face with Flesh for Frankenstein, a 3-D collision Flesh for Frankensteinof European horror and Andy Warhol's Factory under the guiding hand of director Paul Morrissey, who brought over his most famous underground star and trailblazing male sex symbol, Joe Dallesandro (Flesh, Trash, Heat). Released with an X rating for its outrageous dollops of gory body parts and softcore sex, the film is essentially a twisted black comedy of manners at heart that turned out so well a non-3-D successor started shooting right away, Blood for Dracula. It's no coincidence that Hammer Films was about to wrap up its own Frankenstein cycle when this film opened as the entire game had changed by this point; when confronted with the spectacle of Kier's delirious climactic monologue complete with an innard about to plop in the audience's lap, we clearly weren't in classic monster movie territory anymore.

The aristocratic Baron Frankenstein (Kier) lives a perverse domestic life at his family estate with his sister and wife, the Baroness (van Vooren), and their two silent, creepy kids (Elmi and Liofredi), both of whom seem intrigued by their dad's grisly experiments in his laboratory with his wild-eyed Flesh for Frankensteinassistant, Otto (Jürging). Their current project is assembling the perfect race by assembling male and female parts into a Nietzschian couple, which means using the head of a man with the perfect libido. However, a misunderstanding at a brothel has them using their beheading Flesh for Frankensteinshears on Sacha (Zelenovic), a sexless would-be monk dragged there by his Brooklyn-accented best friend, farmhand Nicholas (Dallesandro). Neglected in bed by the Baron, the Baroness decides to bring Nicholas into the household as her own domestic servant and lover, a situation that turns into a bloody family comedy when the Baron starts to unveil his latest creations including a perfect female (The Pyjama Girl Case's Di Lazzaro) to the household.

First of all, it has to be noted that this is easily one of the greatest 3-D films ever made, pushing the format to its absolute limit with every scene making inventive use of foreground and background when it isn't shoving everything from severed heads to Dallesandro's bare butt in the audience's face. Seeing this in a theater with a paying audience wearing glasses is an experience you can't replicate anywhere else, but the film is still wholly unique and wonderfully bizarre no matter how you see it. The mishmash of accents and acting styles somehow works like a charm, particularly the unbeatable mad scientist team of Kier and Jürging who brought that same magic to their Dracula follow-up. As a horror film it also delivers with an unprecedented level of explicitness in the lab scenes, complete with the Baron deriving sexual pleasure from his work in progress in one of the film's most notorious scenes. However, it's also remarkably beautiful with elegant decor and scope camerawork by Luigi Kuveiller (Deep Red), not to mention the gorgeous score by Claudio Flesh for FrankensteinGizzi, who had just debuted with What? for Roman Polanski, reputedly the instigator of the idea for a 3-D horror film to producer Carlo Ponti (who would later become a brief tabloid sensation for Flesh for Frankensteinhis reported affair with Di Lazzaro).

Advertised in the U.S. by notorious mob-connected Bryanston Pictures as Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (a title evidently never used on any existing prints), this film followed an identical trajectory on home video as Blood for Dracula including a badly pan-and-scanned but uncut VHS from Video Gems in the '80s and a heavily censored and cropped recurring presentation on USA Up All Night in the '90s. Morrissey's retention of the ownership rights led to a laserdisc from Criterion in 1996 and a not terribly impressive non-anamorphic DVD two years later, featuring a hit-and-miss commentary mixing together separate contributions from Morrissey and Kier stitched together in a stiff fashion by author Maurice Yacowar. Image Entertainment gave the film a much better DVD release in 2005 with a considerably improved anamorphic transfer and the commentary, plus a still gallery with Morrissey commentary (23m44s) and screen tests for a much darker-haired Zelenovic with Morrissey commentary (4m12s). That release came about due to a production department member at Image being friends with the notoriously cranky Morrissey and a huge fan of the film, which means the chapter title menu is peppered with wonderful names like "Make Him Unconscious," "A Man Whose Overriding Urges are Sensual," and "You Filth! You Flesh for FrankensteinFarmer!" and of course, "To Know Death, Otto..." After that things got sparse for a very, very long time, with Morrissey holding onto the rights apart from legally dubious Blu-ray editions in Australia (featuring a Flesh for Frankensteinhighly unconvincing upscale of the SD Image master) and Japan (with fogged-out frontal nudity). Of course, anyone pining for a 3-D release of any kind was also left out in the cold for decades apart from a scarce Japanese VHS, letterboxed and looking quite nice for the time with effective use of a process also used for stereoscopic editions of films ranging from Friday the 13th Part 3 to Rottweiler.

Fortunately the long wait for a really worthwhile edition of Flesh for Frankenstein was finally rewarded in 2021 thanks to a three-disc edition from Vinegar Syndrome, featuring a gorgeous new 4K scan of the original camera negative and finally doing full justice to the film even more than the theatrical experience. You get multiple viewing options here: a flat 4K UHD (since the spec doesn't allow for 3-D playback), a standard flat Blu-ray, and a 3-D Blu-ray featuring the option of true digital 3-D (accurate to the theatrical experience and wonderful here in all its extreme glory) and the red-and-blue anaglyph version for those who don't have real 3-D playback, complete with a pair of branded glasses. If you can watch the film in true 3-D though, do not miss the opportunity under any circumstances; it looks spectacular and makes for one of the most joyous Blu-ray viewing experiences you'll ever have. The UHD is extremely vivid and detailed as well, and it'll be interesting to hear the reactions to the HDR color grading as it pushes the colors here to an extreme that could jolt fans used to its standard appearance. The greens and flesh tones here are particularly blazing, and in the process the inherent grainy, gritty texture in the film Flesh for Frankensteinis Flesh for Frankensteinconsiderably heightened, resulting in an experience that could be described as Flesh for Frankenstein on steroids. If you really want this movie in your face with clarity straight off the neg, here you go! The standard Blu-ray looks gorgeous throughout with no issues and replicating the theatrical appearance perfectly, improving tremendously on the older transfers by leaps and bounds. Basically, try any of the formats you possibly can and see which one fits your sensibilities best. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono audio sounds great (armpit slurping has never been so clear) and is identical no matter which version you watch, with optional English SDH subtitles.

The 3-D disc features no supplements, understandably opting to max out the bit rate on the dual-layered disc given the presence of both versions. Both the UHD and standard Blu-ray come with a new audio commentary featuring Samm Deighan, Heather Drain, and Kat Ellinger, who are understandably giddy about tackling one of the all-time cult movies supreme. There's a lot to cover here including Italian horror, the incorrect crediting of Antonio Margheriti as the director in Italy, the manipulations of Gothic tropes, the sex comedy elements, the erotic allure of Kier's close-ups, and tons more. It's all brisk and great fun, though the characterization of the extremely right-wing Morrissey as a Democrat is a bit of a head scratcher! Otherwise the UHD is bare bones (again allowing the film itself to breathe through the entire disc), but the Blu-ray comes jammed with bonus features. Previously seen on Severin's Blood for Dracula release is the hilariously candid 2005 Morrissey interview "Trans-Human Flesh and Blood" (35m35s), and the Image disc's still gallery with commentary (now called "Audio Recollections with Paul Morrissey") and screen test with commentary have been ported over.

The new stuff kicks in with the great Kier featurette "The Ecstasy of Frankenstein" (17m50s), with Flesh for Frankensteinthe actor in fine storytelling form as always Flesh for Frankensteinas he recounts his childhood path to his chosen career through England and Germany before going into his first meeting with Morrissey, the belated call that led to his casting, and the cinematic adventure that would lead to a pair of masterpieces. As with most other accounts of the film, he verifies that there wasn't really a finished script per se as much as an outline was scripted out each day, a bit of a challenge for the performers who weren't entirely comfortable with English. Next up is Dallesandro for "In the Flesh" (12m48s), explaining how his U.S. films with Morrissey and Warhol paved the way to this film and his European career, noting the difficulty of shooting in 3-D and providing the cutest moment about how he had to tap his toes to signal his European costars when to say their lines. In "Dimension in Fear" (11m16s), producer Andrew Braunsberg starts off with the whole Polanski genesis before recalling the pleasant collaborative working process with Morrissey and the efficient shooting process apart from the 3-D issue, due to Morrissey's bad vision in one eye. In "Andy's Shadow" (15m31s), Stephen Thrower provides a fine companion piece to his appearance on Dracula with an appraisal of Morrissey's directorial style and the importance of his work, evolving from the ragged shock of Flesh to the film at hand with a couple of aborted projects along the way (Cruising! Sherlock Holmes!) before settling into the story behind this film including its European financing, the complete lack of Warhol involvement, the shooting locations including Cinecittà, the divided critical reaction, and more. "Building the World of Frankenstein" (28m31s) Flesh for Frankensteinfeatures art director Gianni Giovagnoni explaining how the rare 3-D process at the time impacted the project, the appeal of working on what he thought would be a Warhol film, his memories of the shoot, the concept of shooting those insane long dinner table scenes, Flesh for Frankensteinand a gradually shrinking souvenir he kept that now resides by his bed. Then in "Don't Say a Word" (13m1s), actress Liù Bosisio notes how she insisted on a silent role because she couldn't speak a lick of English for the role of mute housekeeper Olga, though she definitely enjoyed the experience of the film. Finally in "Feed My Frankenstein" (16m27s), assistant director Paolo Pietrangeli relates how he made the two Morrissey films in a joyous contrast to his usual work with Italian cinematic maestros, the annoyance of the Italian tax requirements that led to him being credited on the Margheriti material, the Italian crew members' phallic nickname for Dallesandro on the set, and the bittersweet nature of how much he actually got to interact with the two visiting Americans. (For some reason this segment has full English SDH subtitles instead of just translated ones, which plays oddly.) Morrissey pops up again for raw Q&A footage from 2012 (33m37s) chatting more generally about his career and memories of Warhol and the music scene with Art Ettinger and Louis Paul; it's roughly shot on a VHS camcorder but worth seeing for posterity, especially since it closes out on a very goofy note about his TV viewing habits. You also get the the scope European theatrical trailer in gorgeous quality; absent here are the original Bryanston U.S. trailer and the fantastic 1982 reissue one, but you can find them in fine quality on Trailer Trauma and Trailer Trauma 2. Finally you also get 1m7s of radio spots from the U.K. and the U.S., plus a 7m26s gallery of international poster art and stills.

Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Flesh for Frankenstein Flesh for Frankenstein Flesh for Frankenstein Flesh for Frankenstein Flesh for Frankenstein

Image Entertainment (DVD)

Trauma Trauma Trauma Trauma Trauma

Reviewed on November 25, 2021.