These two films are often placed on a double bill together, and frankly share so many themes, actors, set pieces, mise en scenes, etc. that it has become impossible to separate them. Taken as a whole, the films represent Warhol’s bizarre sensibilities which saw fit to combine the 1950s B-movie with the the sexually charged European Art film. Think Ed Wood working with Bertolucci and you are halfway there. These certainly are bizarre, memorable films. I suppose that is a compliment. But do they succeed as works of art?
Blood for Dracula does more than Flesh for Frankenstein. Of course, they both must be taken together as they are essentially the same film-a deconstruction of Hollywood’s fascination with Victorian pulp fiction that infused the 19060s free love mentality. Hollywood had romanticized these monsters when there was really nothing romantic there. And that is what Andy Warhol tried to do: take the romance away.
Flesh For Frankenstein follows Dr. Frankenstein (Udo Kier) who is seeking to create a new race. He has created a female, but needs to create a male with the right libido so the two creations can breed and he can take over the world. Instead of choosing the farmhand, he inadvertently chooses a soon to be monk who is captured after he is leaving a bordello following a disastrous experience. The experiment doesn’t work and Frankenstein is left to figure out what went wrong while the monk’s friend is trying to deduce what happened to him.
Blood for Dracula follows Count Dracula (Kier again) who is slowly dying. He needs to drink the blood of virgins (or, as he pronounces it-were gins. Did I tell you half Kier’s dialogue cannot be understood? He taught Tommy Wisseau everything he knows) and goes to Italy to seek them out. He finds three potential candidates and pretends to desire marriage yet merely wishes their blood. They lie about their virginity in order to get a potentially large dowry, leaving the count very sick when he tries to take them. Eventually, a farmhand that works for the family the daughters belong to and seeks to stop Dracula.
Now, these films are clearly B-movies. The acting is terrible, the effects laughable, the message not clear. These are, by any measure, poorly made films. Yet when an artist such as Andy Warhol is involved, maybe that is the point. Certainly, the monster movies that these are based on have their share of flaws, including some shared by this film. Is it acceptable to include bad stylistic choices if the idea is a joke?
Well, perhaps. It is similar to those parodies of poorly dubbed films in which the dialogue ends long after the actor’s mouths have stopped moving. On the other hand, their still terrible design choices and a man who is as smart as Warhol was should certainly know better.
Yet the satire of the 1960s free love movement is still present. The film treats celibacy and free love with equal heroism. Frankenstein is defeated due to the former, Dracula the latter. Warhol simply wants to discuss sex and violence. He does so. He even manages to do so somewhat effectively-well, in Blood Dracula anyway. That film actually discusses how Dracula uses sexual promises to commit horrendous violence. What was subtle about the vampire myth was put into focus. Flesh For Frankenstein merely punishes the doctor for attempting to act like a voyeur by having his desire to rule the world fail when his creations refuse to cooperate.
But honestly, there is nothing really to say about these films. They are perfectly fine when they are playing but, beyond that, they won’t really stick with you. Fans of extreme gore may be intrigued. Everyone else will be turned off. I guess that means the review is a bit shorter than usual. But then again what more can I possibly say about a movie where half of the dialogue is rendered inaudible? Pretending to be stupid for a laugh by itself doesn’t work-you need something to work off of. Blood for Dracula almost worked because it tested our endurance levels for voyeurism. Frankenstein does not.