I’ve struggled with what to say about Flesh for Frankenstein for several days now.  Should I talk about how I once taught The Bride of Frankenstein in a film class?  Or about gay adoption?  My interactions with tall, lumbering men with “abby normal” brains (or, for that matter, my love of Young Frankenstein)?  None of these seemed to work.

Now, I realize why:  in the classic monsters of Hollywood pantheon, Frankenstein runs dead last.  Behind vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and zombies.  Behind the mummy, for God’s sake.  All the other creatures have had recent spates of popularity.  Zombies, for instance, seem to rule the direct-to-DVD horror movie market lately; vampires see their fortunes come and go but are, for better or worse, omnipresent.  And both werewolves and the mummy have had big-name remakes, as well as mini-resurgences here and there.  But Frankenstein?  Frankenstein is the red-headed step-child, sitting quietly in the corner, waiting to be picked to dance.

This is why I have to go way back to Bride of Frankenstein to find a Frankenstein movie that has stuck with me.  The Bride nearly killed Jennifer Beals’ career (what a feeling!… but somehow Sting continues to find work?).  Frankenstein Unbound veers towards the ridiculous.  Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 version is, much like Coppola’s Dracula, too pretentious and overwrought for its own good.  Certainly, films deploy the Frankenstein tropes often:  the  mad scientist meddling with God’s law, genetic overreach, the creature escaping from its master’s plans.  Any movie in which the government creates the perfect bio-engineered killing machine tips its hat to poor, doomed Victor.

Part of the reason might be that other subgenres are packed with symbolic possibility.  Vampires are, of course, all about seduction, while werewolves struggle to contain the beast within.  Zombies nowadays can represent almost anything (and those who argue that zombies aren’t erotic merely haven’t watched the right films).  But Frankenstein is and will always be a creation myth — Mary Shelley’s subtitle to Frankenstein is, after all, A Modern Prometheus).  The horror of Frankenstein isn’t the fact that the doctor created life out of death, but that he created life outside out sexual activity.

Flesh for Frankenstein gleefully tosses all this aside and instead introduces scopophilia, nymphomania, scar tissue fetishism, necrophilia, and — I’m not sure what the psychological term for an untoward sexual attraction for gallbladders is, but there it is.  Our poor Slavic Frankenstein makes longing eyes at lusty peasant Joe Dallesandro — possibly the gayest Frankenstein movie since Dr. Pretorius pranced across the screen in The Bride of Frankenstein.  All of which is to say that Paul Morrissey has somehow stitched together this movie from numerous spare parts.  And it lives!  It lives!

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