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In Blood for Dracula, the titular count suffers withdrawal and cries out for “wergins!  I must have the blood of wergins!”  Anything less makes him puke.

I can relate.  Until this evening, I had a sealed, mint condition copy of Blood for Dracula (now out-of-print).  With trepidation, I peeled away the skin of cellophane like it was a prom dress and picked away the top edge sticker.  The DVD breathed a sigh of relief, and it was done.  Breaking that seal lost me $50 on the resale market — it was no longer pure.  I had deflowered my DVD.

I blame the fetishization of purity on comic books — the collecting habit for young obsessive-compulsives.  I had never worried about keeping my toys in pristine condition.  Out of the package they came, and I abused them until their decals wore off and the plastic weapons broke off in their hands.

But once I got into comic books, it was less about the content than the condition of the object.  Bent spine?  That’s $5 out of your pocket.  Corners bent?  30% of value gone.  Accidentally spill your drink on the cover?  My friends, you now hold nothing more than colorful wood pulp in your hands.  I referred to the price value guide books like they were a holy codex.  The book itself became sacrosanct, something to protect, reliquary-like, in poly bags outfitted with acid-free backing boards.

Then, in the early 90s, comic book publishers decided it would be a good idea to pre-bag comic books with trading cards or such.  But that meant you couldn’t read the comic book without opening the bag, which would downgrade the value from mint condition to near mint, at best — much like taking your clothes out of the dry cleaning bag make them slightly less clean.  So for those of us obsessed with intact comic book hymens, that meant buying two copies.

But the real problem was that I had fooled myself into thinking that these comic books would be worth more than I had spent on them initially.  Someday.  I heard stories all the time about secret treasure troves of comics, worth sums that would comfortably pay for major surgery in the  United States.  The comics I had organized and filed away in long, white cardboard boxes were a retirement fund.  A four-color 401(K).

Of course, I hadn’t counted on that fact that millions of other kids probably had the same idea.  As well, their comics books were most likely in better condition because they had had turned the pages with tweezers under a low-radiation light bulb.  In short, the market was flooded and my four-color investment was entertaining but worthless.  Better I had learned about complex derivatives instead.

But all this presupposes that the primary motive for collecting is for financial gain.  People collect things in order to enjoy them (psychological disturbances notwithstanding).  With that in mind, I undertook this project knowing that all those perfectly sealed discs would have to be opened.  I had two choices:  I could be snobby and say that I own the entire Criterion Collection, or I could be unbearably pretentious and say that I’ve watched the entire Criterion Collection.  Let it be said that I’m always interested in ways I can be more insufferable.

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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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