Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Lost Worlds and Rubber Monsters Part 1: The Last Dinosaur (1977)

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be doing a short series on good old-fashioned monster movies from the pre-CGI days. Now, by "good," I mean "entertaining", not necessarily "good" in the more... uh... conventional sense. I'll also be looking at why these films, populated with puppets, plasticine stop-motion monsters and grown men in rubber suits are better (or at least more fun) than their more up-to-date counterparts. Today, we'll cop a butchers at...

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

Prepare to meet a man irresistible to women, a man of the world, a billionaire, raconteur, big-game hunter, industrialist, explorer, adventurer... every woman wants to be with him and every man wants to be him. Even his name sounds manly; Masten Thrust! Actually, if the cover of top international magazine Newswe-- uh... I mean Newsworld is to be believed, his full name is Masten Thrust Is He The World's Richest Man? Which sounds like a bloody funny name to me, so we'll call him Masten Thrust for short. No, no. It's such a manly name, we'll call him MASTEN THRUST! since it deserves capitals and an exclamation mark.

Oh yeah. He looks like this;

MASTEN THRUST!
So irresistible, he doesn't need
to give a shit.

Naturally, we are introduced to Mr. THRUST! Whilst he is in the company of a lady. Take note here; if you ever find yourself in the position of trying to impress a hot red-headed lady in a pink 70s trouser suit, take a leaf out of MASTEN THRUST!'s book of seduction techniques and show her slides of the defenceless animals you've killed on Safari. Weirdly, when the slide show is finished MASTEN THRUST! thanks some bloke named Charlie, who is off-screen. Evidently, this is why giving a lecture on hunting animals I cannot eat  and whose death serves no other purpose than for sport never works for me. I need a bloke named Charlie gawping at us both from the shadows to get the girl really turned on.

Such is the mystery of MASTEN THRUST!.

Oh, and, when she compliments you on the fact that you've done everything, remind her that you haven't done her and go in for the kill. If you get bored halfway through, just walk out. Oh yeah, and toss her your scrapbook; that'll seal the deal. Go on, you know you want to. It's what MASTEN THRUST! would do.

Such is the opening of The Last Dinosaur (1977), a really weird international co-production between Rankin/Bass Productions in the US, and Tsuburaya Productions in Japan. While released theatrically in Japan and in other markets, it was cut from 106 minutes to 95 minutes in the US and went straight to TV. Obviously, this film was too good for western cinema goers.

Anyway, we jump cut to an Airfix plane (marked THRUST! INDUSTRIES, naturally) in a painted sky, dangling its way on piano wire to somewhere or another--presumably Japan because we get a shot of Mount Fuji through the window, but wherever it is, it's the most cosmopolitan place I've ever seen. Either that or the movie does a lousy job establishing a sense of place. The hot redhead (OK, according to the IMDB, her name is Thrust's Girl on Plane) is sat on her own in the plane, flicking through the scrapbook as Nancy Wilson belts out an amazingly 70s ballard  out over the main titles.


A ballard that includes such lyrics as, "His time has past/They are no more/He is the Laaaast/DIN-O-SAUR!" Followed by lots of bow-chika-wa-wa's, etc.

Anyway, once they arrive, THRUST! dumps Thrust's Girl on Plane, saying his farewells with a plane ticket back to Portland and a solid gold bullet. Mr. THRUST! then proceeds with all haste to a division of THRUST! Industries, whilst important, international businessman music plays, telling us that Mr. THRUST! is an important, international business man.

THRUST! Industries--where they do... um... stuff?

Once at the office/lab/industrial complex/whatever-the-hell-this-building-is-supposed-to-be, THRUST! meets intrepid reporter Francesca "Frankie" Banks (Joan Van Ark), whom he immediately assumes is a prostitute (it was the 70s, after all). Before she can correct him, THRUST buggers off upstairs to the lab, where he is met warmly by Clich├ęd Japanese Scientist (you know, thick-rimmed glasses, comb-over, briefly concerned with doing something or other in the name of science). OK, so his name is Dr. Kowamoto (Tetsu Nakamura) but the lab coat tells you all you need to know. Dr. Kowamoto introduces MASTEN THRUST! to Chuck Wade (Steven Keats), who is  supposed to be brilliant young genius, but looks like a gap toothed yokel who sees dinosaurs. Unsurprisingly, he claims to have seen a dinosaur.

So they all hurry away to an exposition conference, which takes the form of a press conference, where reporters ask each other, "is he really the world's richest man?"

Boy, does this press conference go on, but in a nutshell, MASTEN THRUST! has been drilling for oil using, for no god-damn reason whatsoever, 5-man underground burrowing machines that look like the Mole from Thunderbirds. Chuck is, unbelievably, a geologist and the only survivor of an accidental excursion by one of these drilling machines into a hidden volcanic valley. Everyone else was eaten by a dinosaur.

The Last Dinosau--oh, you get the idea. Of course, it's a T-Rex. It's never one of those little dinky ones with the hands or one of those huge turkey jobbies. It's a T-Rex.

Still, there is one thing fascinating about this press conference; MASTEN THRUST! is played by raging alcoholic Richard Boone and boy, in this scene, is he drunk. Really, really drunk. And as the film goes on. He just gets more drunk. The other fascinating thing is that when Mr. THRUST! introduces the team that will go hunting for the dinosaur (apparently to study its habits), he announces that he has hired his old friend, the best tracker in the world, Bunta (Luther Rackley). Bunta, being a Masai, is tall. I mean, really fucking tall. But the fact that he's tall does not warrant the reaction the reporters give. They don't bat an eyelid at notions of lost valleys, drilling machines or dinosaurs but show them a rather tall man? They go fucking nuts for it. It's like Kate Middleton got her tits out.

Again.

Naturally, the press association has chosen a reporter has to go on the expedition, and... actually, do I need to even explain where this is going? Do I even need to tell you that Frankie and MASTEN THRUST! will eventually hit it off trading hunting stories? And that she'll even have romantic night alone with the drunken old bastard? Well, not quite; she interrupts their tryst with he Pulitzer Prize winning slide collection (what is it with these people and their holiday snaps? ) and then she starts snogging the drunken old bastard. Like I said, he's irresistible.

Say! Ever wonder what movie inspired The Core (2003)? No, no one else has either! But now we know anyway; remember how the ridiculous, laser-powered drilling machine in that film was launched from an oil rig? Well, guess how they launch the ridiculous, laser powered drilling machine in The Last Dinosaur? In fact, once the THRUST! Polar Borer, as it is known, is dropped in the water, the scene plays pretty much shot for shot as it does in the later film (except, while The Core has crap CGI, The Last Dinosaur looks like it was filmed in a fish tank). Also, while Chuck, Dr. Kowamoto, Frankie and Bunta all wear spacesuits and helmets for the voyage, MASTEN THRUST will have none of that sissy, health and safety nonsense. He's a man's man and if he wants to dress up as Hemingway, he'll bloody well dress like Hemingway.

But finally, after a tense drilling sequence that only lacks tension, and one third of the way into the movie, the team emerge in a prehistoric land in the crater of a massive volcano (or something) and we see our first dinosaur! And it's... well, a rubber pteranodon on strings with matt lines around it, from where its been pulled from the blue screen.

No matter, as our intrepid heroes come ashore, they encounter a much more impressive beast;



It may not be the T-Rex, but at least it's two blokes in a pantomime horse arrangement. You can't go wrong with that. Also, the above clip is not the last case of complete idiocy the team displays. Straight after nearly getting killed by standing in front of a massive-fucking-angry-beast and not getting out of the way for a very long time, they make camp for the evening. Next to the lake. The lake populated by pteranodons. That swoop down and try to eat things. Things that include idiots.

The next day, they leave Dr. Kowamoto back at the camp because he has equipment to set up (Translation: so that he can get killed) and go exploring. Chuck displays his credentials as a gap-toothed yokel... sorry... brilliant scientist by muttering about the fauna, which must turn Frankie on because they suddenly and without warning develop sexual tension. T-Rex tracks are found, Frankie once again gets herself into another hilarious jam involving a giant turtle and some leeches, and a cave girl who I think we're supposed to find sexy follows them at a discrete distance. Ultimately, we don't find her sexy, because she not only has a mono-brow, but also because she adopts a strange Granddad walk (assuming your Granddad walks like an imbecile because mine certainly didn't). This, combined with her constantly frightened expression, makes her look like she's had a pants-related accident.

So finally, after nearly forty minutes and a lot of buggering around looking at tracks, discussing "spawn" and Bunta climbing a tree, the T-Rex finally makes and appearance.

It's a man in a monster suit. And it's glorious.


One of two things can happen when you're watching an old monster movie; you either think, "that looks crap" and turn it off; or your eyes widen, your mouth hangs agape and you regress to the state of a child, filled with wonderment at the magic of cinema. Naturally I fall into the latter category. Why? Well, let us examine the problem of CGI.

I have never once seen a shot using CGI that convinced me. I mean, sure, I've seen CGI that was photorealistic, but nothing that actually struck me as real. As far back as 1993, the T-Rex in Jurassic  Park was impressive, as were the raptors; there were times when you genuinely couldn't tell the difference between the full-sized, animatronic replicas and their CG avatars. Interestingly, Suitmation (yeah, really, that's what it's called) was used for the raptors, but mainly for when they were hidden in the bushes. So what's the problem?

Well, CGI creations lack personality. They lack, if you'll indulge me, a soul.

When you see a puppet dinosaur, or a man in a monster suit, or a stop-motion creature, you don't just get the illusion of a living creature. A little of its creator's personality comes across as well. It's not just a special effect, it's a three-dimensional, tangible work of artistry that you can admire, in and of itself. There's something kind of endearing about a none-CGI monster; Godzilla (and I mean Godzilla, not that crap American abomination that was ret-conned into a completely different monster in the Japanese films*) may stomp cities,  the Xenomorph may lay eggs down your throat and rip your crew-mates to shreds,  the 1933 King Kong may wreck El-trains and carry women off to the top of the Empire State Building, but we love them because they are tactile; they are there, on-screen, for real; they have little bits of the personalities of the people who designed, sculpted and animated them. They may be monsters but they are imbued with a sense of humanity. A CGI creation, being removed from its creators by a mouse and a keyboard, has no personalty. It doesn't help that modern effects personnel working with computers aren't artists; they are technicians and thus do not understand that no matter how hard you work on visual details, you still won't imbue your creation with a soul. Interestingly, some film makers understand this and call in someone like Andy Serkis; Gollum, King Kong in the 2005 version and Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) are all imbued with life by his motion-capture performance to the extent that we forget about the CGI. It is the state-of-the-art equivalent of putting a man in make-up and a monster suit.

Getting back to The Last Dinosaur, after the T-Rex kills Dr. Kowamoto in a hilarious scene that involves a 40-foot lizard (raptor? Bird? What exactly are dinosaurs?) creeping up on a Nobel Prize winner and stamping on him without said Nobel Prize winner noticing, MASTEN THRUST! becomes less interested in documenting the beast and grows more and more obsessed with bagging it with his rifle. This is everything his close friend Dr. Kowamoto would not have wanted but, hey, he's MASTEN THRUST!. "This forty-foot monster with the brain the size of a dried pea has... sob... just destroyed a man with one of the great minds of this century," he laments.

Even the backward Chuck objects; "But Masten, you told me... you swore to all of us that we were not going to harm the dinosaur!"
"You DING-DONG!" Screams MASTEN THRUST! in response.

Thus, most of the rest of the film is taken up with various cartoonish schemes to fell the not-so-last-dinosaur. At one point, they tie a boulder to the thing's tail, just to fuck with it;


In another classic moment, they build an elaborate catapult to fire a rock at the poor thing's bouncy rubber head. In slow motion.

Naturally, all this effort is wasted. Even MASTEN THRUST!'s home made bombs don't work, and Bunta gets killed when the expert tracker falls victim to the T-Rex's habit of sneaking up on people and squishing them. One suspects that the T-Rex must be sniggering to itself every time it does this but who knows what goes on in the mind of such a proud and mighty beast?

Actually, the T-Rex seems to delight in high jinx, steeling the Polar Borer at one point just to get back at the annoying individuals who keep doing vaguely annoying things to it. Whilst the T-Rex is playing football with it, this, for some reason, happens;


What was the triceratops doing lurking in a hole in the ground? Why does the T-Rex sound like Godzilla? Why do the characters keep reffering to it as the Last Dinosaur when it clearly isn't? What does a monster the brain the size of a dried pea want with a drilling machine anyway? I can only answer one of these questions; since the film was produced in collaboration with Tsuburaya Productions (the people who do the special effects for all those Japanese men-in-monster suit wrestling matches) they evidently decided to use stock sound effects of one of the most iconic and recognisable monster roars of all time, instead of using something less noticeable. Why did they do this? Well... I don't know. Think of this film as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Sort of like Inception but with dinosaurs. Or not.

The film climaxes in a bizarre non-ending where everything turns into a race against time for no reason whatsoever (batteries or something), and while Chuck and Frankie elect to escape in the Polar Borer, MASTEN THRUST!, still obsessed with hunting the dinosaur elects to stay, walking off into the sunset as the cave girl gives him a suspicious look. The god awful theme song kicks in and it is then that we realise, "Oh yes! Now I see! MASTEN THRUST!, Great White Hunter, was the Last Dinosaur all along!" Genius.

Is this film a classic? Well, that depends on what you mean by the word "classic." But, by God, it's better than a Roland Emmerich movie any day.


*The american "Godzilla" is now known in the Toho cannon as "The Zilla" and is mentioned several times as a creature that attacked New York and was mistaken for Godzilla himself. She (as Roland Emmerich and his crew called her) finally faced off against Godzilla himself in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). It is conspicuous that "The Zilla" was the only monster in that film to be rendered in CGI and not Suitmation. In addition, it was rather half-arsed CGI, almost as if Toho were insulting the very fabric of the monster's existence itself. Godzilla destroyed it in a battle lasting less than two minutes, prompting one character to decry, "I knew that tuna-eating lizard was no good!" Roland Emmerich, of course, continues to make films. Really, really bad ones; those that aren't boring like 10,000BC (2008) or 2012 (2009) are just plain bullshit like Anonymous (2011). It's telling that his highest rated film from the last ten years on the IMDB relies on historical revisionism. One suspects that his one good movie, Stargate (1994), was just a happy accident.


Friday, 9 November 2012

World War Z Trailer is Finally Here.

After a much, much troubled production, surrounded by rumour and gossip, the first trailer for World War Z is finally online and available at Apple:

http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/paramount/worldwarz/

While passing judgement on the trailer is purely a case of subjective opinion (and it's only a few glimpses of the film), it certainly appears to be a long way from the book, but at least it looks epic in scope (if not extremely CGI heavy).

Personally, I got sick of zombie movies a long, long time ago and don't usually watch them any more as rule. There's only so much you can do with swarming masses of the walking (or running, or, in this case, falling over themselves in a massive wave) dead, but although I have to confess finding Max Brooks's writings a little over-rated, he at least did what few people have been able to do, and that is to depict a zombie apocalypse (or near apocalypse) on a truly global scale. One of the themes of the book is the idea that the zombies wouldn't be much of a threat if it weren't for the fact that governments and corporations are too incompetent and arrogant to take effective action. Judging by the trailer, this theme has been thrown out the window, since they've gone from shambling hoards to literal waves of 28 Days Later style, people-shaped monsters who seem to clump up, en masse, like ants in super glue. This either looks awesome or ridiculous, depending on who you are and what drugs you're taking.

What is a real mystery is why there was a bidding war between Brad Pitt's Plan B entertainment and Leonardo Dicaprio's Appian Way. The book is made up of interviews and anecdotes set 20 years in thefuture and 10 years after the zombie menace has been eliminated. It's a series of flashbacks with no central character as such and no real 'through-line'. Never-the-less,  J Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) was commissioned to write a screenplay that met with universal approval, Paramount set a release date for December 2012. It was to be the first of a trilogy.

Then things started to go a little bit down the toilet.

Pitt, as producer, lobbied for director Marc Forster. That's right, the Marc Forster who directed Quantum of Solace (2008). Now, Forster is actually pretty good at drama. He directed such well-received movies as Monster's Ball (2001), Finding Neverland (2004) and The Kite Runner (2007). Trouble is, most people think of him as the guy who directed one of the most badly received Bond films ever. In actual fact, Quantum of Solace went into production just as the writer's strike started and according to Daniel Craig, that's what scuppered them. World War Z started to go wrong when a ground-up rewrite was ordered; why is hard to define. Maybe it was because Straczynski's draft was leaked, maybe it needed to be honed down to make it more manageable to film, maybe it fell victim to the Hollywood practice of rewriting everything to death. Ultimately, the draft they shot with was penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan. Regardless, after spending time with his family between films, Pitt arrived to find that, three weeks before production, Forster hadn't even made basic decisions, such as what the zombies should look like, or how they should move. Forster only seems to work well when he goes into production with the screenplay locked. In addition, he was forced to work with a crew he was unfamiliar with.

It was reported that Cinematographer Robert Richardson asked to leave the production several times and was frustrated by the lack of order.

The production was massive, but 2nd Unit Director Simon Crane was, apparently, given only a fraction of the time he asked for 2nd Unit photography (something like 20 days as opposed to the 60 he'd requested).

Then there was the notorious incident about customs officials in Budapest seizing 85 prop weapons imported into Hungary for the section of the film to be shot there; local laws dictated the weapons had to be decommissioned. They were, in fact, still live. In other words, they were gun-guns, not prop guns. Fortunately, no charges were brought, but only because the authorities could not discern who was liable. It is said that Pitt was furious.

The budget shot up from $125 million to a reported $175 million and when the first rough cut was assembled, it was realised only the first 52 minutes of the film worked. Re-shoots were needed. 3-7 weeks of them. The release date was put back to June 2013, making it only one of several major films this year to be delayed (other's being 47 Ronin and G.I. Joe: Retaliation).

At least we'll get to see Tom Cruise and Werner Herzog battle it out in World War Z's original release slot, since Jack Reacher (2012) will open in its place.

Contrary to reports, co-creator of TV's Lost, Damon Lindelof was not hired to write a new third act but was asked to view the film and give 'notes'. Many have despaired over his connection to the film, due to them perceiving him as the man who 'ruined' Prometheus (2012), but the actual writing was carried out by Drew Goddard, the man behind Cabin in the Woods (2012). He is named as a writer on the IMDB but since the IMDB is an unsourced, user-edited site (much like Wikipedia but with not notability), we can ignore this.

By the time re-shoots began in September, and for reasons that remain unknown, Pitt and Forster were no longer talking to each other but for contractual reasons, and DGA rules, Forster had to be kept on. Wild rumours regarding the actual process of the re-shoots were abound; it was said (by some of the more gossip-based film magazines) that Pitt was consulting with George Clooney and that Drew Goddard was more involved than the studio was willing to admit. The Clooney rumour seems like a load of balls and Goddard has downplayed his involvement, saying he did a small amount of work as a favour and didn't contribute enough to even get credited (credits in Hollywood are dictated by the unions, in the case of screenwriters, it's arbitrated by the Writer's Guild of America).

Despite the troubled production and lack of resemblance to the book, the film may still be a hit. Other films, such as Fitzcarraldo (1981) and Apocalypse Now (1979) went on to be sizable hits after being plagued with massive production problems. Others, such as John Carter (2012), Cutthroat Island (1995) and Heaven's Gate (1981) flopped mercilessly. It's worth noting that both Fitcarraldo and Apocalypse Now were massive super-productions shot in the jungles of third world countries; they had to deal with sever environmental factors and wars (seriously), rather than a lack of a good script or indecision.

In the film industry, things get tough and go wrong all the time. It is only when the world at large gets to hear about it that we start to smack our lips at the idea of an overblown multi-million dollar production crashing and burning, or get angsty about a movie we've been looking forward to for years turning out to be a piece of wank-splat.

In the end, World War Z may turn out to be a massive flop or a massive hit. The biggest disappointment at the end of all this is if it just turned out to be bland.

And, regardless of it's troubled history, we must keep in mind Werner Herzog's maxim; 'all that matters at the end of the day is what you see on the screen'.




Monday, 20 August 2012

Tony Scott

For Tony Scott,

You gave us The Hunger, Top Gun, Crimson Tide, True Romance...

Wherever you are now, may you be at peace.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Flesh for Frankenstien

How does one describe Paul Morrissey's Flesh for Frankenstein (aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, 1974)? And what does it have to do with Andy Warhol? To give the answer to the second question first; not much. Warhol himself is quoted as saying that his role was just 'to go to the parties'.
The answer to the first question is... complicated.

Maybe we should start with the director; Paul Morrissey (and not, as some prints would have us believe Antonio Margheriti, but more on that later).

At first glance, politically conservative, Catholic Morrissey seemed like an odd partner for notorious New York-based Pop artist Warhol. Indeed, while Warhol was busy holding drug-fuelled salons (though Warhol himself was apparently something of a teetotaller) and the occasional orgy at his 'Factory', Morrissey was working his ass off making underground films produced by Warhol and marketed on the strength of his name. Ironically, most of Morrisey's output was highly moralistic and his outlook on life was the very antithesis of Warhol's (although Warhol himself was raised a Catholic). It is unfortunate that, even today, most of the films Morrissey directed during this period are often attributed to Warhol but let us set the record straight; the Factory's most famous cinematic outputs, Flesh (1968), Trash (1970), and Heat (1972) were entirely the work of Morrissey and, indeed, he has reiterated many times that he alone developed his cinematic style and Warhol merely signed the cheques.

Anyway, in 1974, Italian producer Carlo Ponti was looking for a director suited to make a 3D horror film. Upon asking Roman Polanski (who had briefly considered making What (1972) using the process), Polanski passed but suggested, much to everyone's surprise, Morrissey.

Upon receiving his commission, Morrissey turned up at Cincitta Studios in Rome with a two-page outline for what would become Flesh for Frankenstein, and Joe Dallesandro, his favourite actor, who had portrayed sympathetic hustlers and low-life's in his previous productions.

Joe Dallesandro: Twink

However, the first actor actually to be cast was the great Udo Kier, whom Morrissey had met once on a plane. He had immediately been struck be Kier's Teutonic other worldliness and decided that he would be perfect as Baron Frankenstein.

Udo Kier: Pretty Boy

The rest of the cast was filled out with Belgium born actress and New York socialite Monique "sure I have a sex life. What girl with my equipment wouldn't?" van Vooren as Katrin, the Baron's sister and um... wife...


Monique van Vooren: MILF

...Serbian artist and arthouse actor Srdjan Zelenovic...


Srdjan Zelenovic: Confused

...and, as the Baron's crazed assistant Otto, Arno Juerging, who was apparently pushed into acting by his mother, who apparently turned up at the Warhol Factory one day and ordered them to use her son. As German mothers can be quite persuasive, they did.

Arno Juerging: Making Mom proud

Getting her big break, in the role of the Female Creation, or, as dear Udo puts it "mein Feee-male Zam-beee", was spectacularly beautiful Italian model and actress, Dalila Di Lazzaro.

Dalila Di Lazzaro: Nice workmanship, Herr Baron

Now, the thing about Flesh for Frankenstein is that it is not only the most outrageous Frankenstein movie ever made, being a cross between The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and A Serbian Film (2010), but also a rather astute satire on class values, eugenics and human sexuality. That's right; a movie most famous for a scene were Udo Kier literally fucks a not-quite-dead woman in her gall bladder through a huge, gaping stomach wound actually has some brains behind it.

Of course, I could go in to an in-depth analysis about the moralistic position of Aryan "Serbian ideals" in relation to their genetic and racial background, which the film so deftly and critically analyses and satirises a full 20 years before the outbreak of Bosnian War, or I could do what everyone else does when discussing this film and make fun of the silly accents.

Fuck it. Accents it is.

So, the film opens on two creepy children skulking through an equally creepy section of the castle. We can tell they're creepy children because they proceed to dissect a doll and decapitate it with a guillotine. We can tell we're in a creepy part of the castle because it's filled with cobwebs, a really big spider (in 3D!) and a guillotine. Why anyone would have a guillotine lying around in their basement or garage is beyond me. Doesn't matter anyway since this is Castle Frankenstein we're talking about here, and the place is probably filled with shit that'd make Dr. Harold Shipman blush.

Seriously, these kids need counselling

Anyway, after a bizarrely protracted scene of Baroness Katrin riding with the children through the woods in a cart pulled by a ridiculously dinky pony (where she stops to berate Dalesandro's character, Nicholas the Stable Boy for "korryink Orn" mit ein... sorry, with a young shepherd girl, whom Katrin describes as "zuch twash"), we get to meet Frankenstein himself and his assistant, Otto, who discuss their plans in the Baron's study. It's a very nice study, I might add, because Gustav Klimt did the decor. The Baron dreams of finding "der purfekt narzoom" because apparently, the Serbian race is descended from "der glowry ov der ancient Gveeks" and they have the world's finest noses. Or something.

Later, at dinner, we discover that the Baron and Katrin are not only husband and wife but brother and sister as well. Nice. Also, Katrin is a catty bitch. Their children continue to be creepy and silently refuse to "eat zom zoop". Katrin has removed them from school because the other kids have been telling stories about her and because her creepy children are apparently too beautiful to mix with the riff-raff. This means that they will be spending even more time in this unhealthy environment.

That evening, the Frankenstein's groundsman, Sacha (Zelenovic) is digging a deep hole when Nicholas wanders by. It turns out that the two are friends. It also turns out that while everyone else speaks with an exotic Eastern European accent, Nicholas, despite claiming that Sacha and he have been friends for years, talks like a male prostitute from The Bronx. It actually takes a while for this to sink in, since it's so out of place we don't quite believe what we're hearing. It's also played so, so completely straight that it is only at this point we realise that we are not, in fact, watching a bad horror movie but a very camp comedy.

Sacha dreams of giving up working on the land and becoming a monk. "Arr ya really soyerious? About wannin' ta ba-come a Monk?" asks Delasandro. "Ja. Ja. I am. I wanna liff a cloy-streed life", is the reply. So Nicholas pursuades Sacha to visit "the gyurls in town".

In the morning, Katrina and the children are out having a picnic when they happen upon Nicholas yet again involved in sexy shenanigans. Seemingly annoyed, Katrina decides she wants to see Nicholas the next morning at the castle.

Meanwhile, in the laboratory (or should I say "lavatory" -some critics have even speculated that this was a deliberate mispronunciation; all the characters make it sound this way, regardless of accent. Certainly, the laboratory, with its slightly stained white tiles, resembles and gentleman's convenience. The "experiments" he performs in there certainly belong in the gutter), Frankenstein and Otto are busy cutting up their victims, removing organs and "pweparink" them. I think they mean "preparing" them, except that "pweparink" these delicate organs seems to involve holding them up to the camera (in 3D!) and sticking them is jars before carelessly mixing them up like yesterday's stew. This is all done while Frankenstein and Otto try to out-do each other in what appears to be a competition to see who has the fakest German accent. Considering both actors are German, this competion seems a little redundant to me. Anyway, with their perfect female creation nearing completion, they still need to find a head for the male with which to mate her. He must not only have "der purfekt narzoom" but also be a bit of a stud. This prompts the following exchange;


So off they go to stake out the local bordello, where, of course, Sacha and Nicholas are busy enjoying the girls. Well, at least Nicholas is (two of them, in fact). Sacha isn't really interested. In fact, he complete ignores the girl attempting to arouse his manly ardour and spends an unhealthy amount of time staring at Dallesandro's ass. It's certainly a very nice ass, but Sacha seems to be interested in more than its aesthetics. A lizard drops onto the bed (in 3D!) and prompts the prostitutes to scream and run outside. Frankenstein and Otto see this and, while Nicholas deals with the pest, Sacha goes to retrieve the girls. Of course, this comedy of errors leads Frankenstein to believe Sacha "must be veeerrrrry powerfoooll". The Baron also gets the hots for Sacha's "purfeckt narzoom".

Later that night, Sacha and a very drunk Nicholas make their way home, whereupon Otto twats Nicholas round the bonce with a club and Frankenstein removes Sacha's head with a huge pair of comedy garden shears (in 3D!).


For Frankenstein, it's Christmas; "Itz jooost vhat I vanted! It'z maknificent! I knooooo ve vould fint it! Otto! Look at eeet! Finally ve fint der right head mit der purfekt narzoom! Fur mein male zambeeee!"

While Nicholas wakes up to find his best friend hideously murdered in a bloodbath of carnage, Frankenstein and Otto proceed to transplant the head onto the body of their "male zambeeee". Wagner's stirring overture from Tannhauser swells as the Baron eleaborates on his ambitions in a proto-Nazi rant that may well qualify Udo Keir an award for Most Bonkers German Scientist Ever to Grace the Screen (even though, in the movie, he's supposed to be Serbian); "Zoon here in Zerbia und in mein lavatory, perfection vill bekomme ein weality! Yez, yez! Dat's right! Der twoo embodyment of Zerbian youth vill fint expwession! Mein vork ist der kontinuation ov der unfinished business hoff man on Earth! A fuuurrrzzzzeeeer refinement! But dis time I must corz der life! Dis ist der thresh-holt, Otto, ov der cweation dat vill weplace der vorn aus twash dat now poopoolates und wepoopoolates dat planet! Der loyalty vill be doo me only! I vill be der object ov der Ally-G-ience!"

Nicholas arrives at the castle as arranged and is shown to Katrin's bedroom. At first, he declares his intention to leave, on the grounds that he's a bit put out by the murder of Sacha. Then, this happens;


Dallesandro's ass (in 3D!)

So while Katrin and Nicholas get better aquainted, the camera tastefully pans away to reveal that the creepy children are reinforcing our impression of creepiness by spying on their mother (who is also their aunt, when you think about it) and her New Yorker lothario from behind a mirror.

Things go from perverse to completely-beyond-the-fucking-pale when we see what the Baron and Otto are upto in the laboratory. In a rather long and graphic sequence, Frankenstein operates on his Female Creation. At first all this seems fairly standard for a Frankenstein movie, although it is kind of creepy when the good doctor says "I go in to her digestive partz!". Turns out, he's not kidding.


In painful close-up we watch as each stitch is slowly snipped away and the huge scar on the Female Creation's torso is pulled open. Oh, and while all this is going on, it turns out she's semi conscious. Also, the Baron gets a bit, shall we say, hot under the collar...


"Spleen... kidneys... GALL BLADDER!" Even Otto looks a little freaked out when he pulls out her liver and starts fondling it. All the while, romantic piano music plays and the Baron gets more and more... ahem... excited.

Back in her bedroom, Katrina compliments Nicholas on his "remarkable" love making skills and hires him to be the family's new buttler. "By der vay", she says, "ve haff in der castle der most modern available plumbing facilities. Und I vont you to use dem. Every single day". Blimey, this dame has a way with pillow talk. I wonder what the Baron up to?

Oh! Holy Mother of Fuck!


Yep, the Baron got a little carried away. Any other surgeon would get struck off for that. Oh and, he's not plugged himself in anywhere normal, oh no. Welcome to the concept of torso fucking. "Zoon I vill kiff you life! You'll like zat!". Otto tries to cop a butchers at this but Baron is not impressed; "You filzy tink! Vhy are you lookink at me? Turn arount!". Otto leaves the two lovebirds alone and Frankenstein gets romantic; "My male zambeee ist almost cweated! I only need der bloot! Maybe tonight! Zoon you vill giff me der right  chiltren! Der chiltren I vont!" Otto, at this point, is polish his scalpel.

And how does the Baron justify spilling his seed into a barely concious woman's chest cavity? With this little gem of wit and widom;



I can only hope he showered afterwards.

Actually, this line was supposed to be the other way around (with life and death reversed). But Udo Keir gave the wrong reading and Paul Morrissey decided to leave it be, since, he realised, it didn't make sense however he said it. Bare in mind that they were actually making this stuff up as they went along, with Morrissey dictating the days pages to a secretary on the drive to the studio every morning. No wonder it's a little anarchic. No one had time to realise what they were doing. Oh, and this scene is what got the movie put on the Video Nasties list. It wasn't released in its uncut form in the UK until 2006. If you've seen the film, you'll know how rediculous that is.

So, after the creey children have observed more slutty business with Nicholas the Man-whore and Katrin the Nympho, who, ironically enough, explains that she and the Baron are together for the sake of their children, "to brink zem up right"...


...Frankenstein and Otto finally stop dicking around and do what mad scientists are supposed to do, in that they wire up their creations to some daft-looking machinary, pull some switches and get some sparks flying.

Science!

Also, Frankenstein takes the oportunety to have another rant, just for good measure; "No von hast komm as klose as I in unterstantink der zeekret ov life intelligently cweated! My mistakes haff been few but I luurrrned from every von! Let ust make zurtain dat der electrodes are place pwecise as alvays! At der cvitical en-ur-gy points! Apply der electwicity!" So switches are thrown, electricity crackles and bodies shake. Success!
"I'm zo happy fur you Baron!"
"I'm fulfilled!", screams the Baron, "Boot not yet! Ve haff to vait fur der final triumph! Der bweedink! Und den, der chiltren! If der be only zome vay to wedoooce der gestation per-wii-od! How can I vait fur nine momffs from tonight 'til sie bares me der fuuuurrrrst chilt? I must! Zer's zome tinks even science konnot modify!"
Otto looks up at his master with abject adoration "Ze honour you do me to share in dis incvedible twiumph ist more than I deserved, Bawon!".

For some reason, Frankenstein decides it would be a good idea to take his creations to the table. This leads to an extremely awkward family dinner. As Nicholas serves, he recognises Sacha (or at least his head) and, naturally enough, becomes extremely suspicious. The Baron notices this and becomes suspicious himself.


No one looked forward to dinner in
the Frankenstein household

Later, Nicholas voices his suspicions to Katrin. Obviously, she's not to impressed by his nonsensical ramblings about his dead friend's head on someone else's body (the male creation being much taller than Sacha) and insists that Sacha's murder must have been some drunken nightmare.

The creepy children, meanwhile, have crept into the laboratory. They piss about for a bit, nick a disembodied hand (Lord knows why) and come across a rather impressive set of lungs kept breathing in a tank under the Baron's desk (in 3D!). When the Baron and Otto return with the creatures, the creepy children skitter off, ending up in the catacombs beneath the castle, where they are attcked by rubber bats (in 3D!). At this point, we should breifly digress into the world of tax evasion. No, bare with me. Remember I said some prints (specifically, Italian ones) bare the name Antonio Margheriti as director? Well, the disembodied lung contraption was his work, left over from one of his own films. He did, apparently do some second unit work, shooting a handful of special effects inserts. Now, Ponti had a practice of crediting Italian directors on prints released in his native Italy in order to qualify for tax breaks. These directors would receive a sum of money for the use of their name but often had minimum involvement in the films themselves. It was such a successful practice that Ponti wound up in jail, along with his wife, Sophia Loren.

Anyway, with the creatures put safely away, Frankenstein has a good old bitch to Otto; "Vhy, Otto, dey zeem zo iterested in mein vife's new servant? Der moozt be zum qvality dat attwcts dem?" Otto swears Nicholas looks familiar but the Baron is dismissive. "Vhy shouldn't he? Dey all looook der zame? Except mein Zerbian! I alvays look fur der noble idealz und artifacts of ancient zivilization! My zizter und I are verrry mooch alike! But Sie... zomehow alvays likes to keep her noooze alvays in der GUTTER!".

Actually, Katrin actually seems to prefer keeping her nose in Nicholas's armpit, giving it a good lick, complete with comedy slurping noises. Nicholas, on the other hand is rather distracted, imploring Katrin to help him to get into the lab but she is to busy indulging in musky underarm action to heed him.

With the children missing, their nanny, Olga (Liu Bosisio) comes into the laboratory looking for them. Unfortunatly, Otto corners her and chases her into one of the store rooms where he rips open her corset, presumably in attempt to emulate the Baron's wound fucking ways. This does not go very well and leads to her guts falling out (in 3D!).


Oh, well done, Otto!

Nicholas tries to find a way into the laboratory but the Baron catches him and gives him a good ticking off for wondering around where servants are not permitted.

The Baron returns to the laboratory and, like most incompetant rapist assistants, Otto decides to hide the body and pretend nothing has happened. 

In the mean time, Nicholas calls upon the creepy children to help him in his quest and they show him another way into the laboratory.

While Nicholas evesdrops from the vaulting above them, The Baron and Otto attempt to get the two creatures to mate. "Kiss heem! Kiss heem! KISS HEEM!", but the male isn't too interested and can't get it up.

Nicholas goes back to Katrin and tries to tell her what her husband... brother... I loose track... anyway, he tries to tell her what he's been up to. "Oye just hyad a lyook at ya' hyusband's wyork! Da lyabratory! Da bootcha's shap!" Katrin asks how he got there. "Ya children! Day knoo da way!".
She is not best pleased.
"How dare you! How dare you vake me in der middle of der day vhen you know I haff inzomnia! Zince vhen are der lower klass alowed zuch prezumption?!"
Realising Katrin's priorities aren't in too good an order, Nicholas declares that he's not going let all this continue and resolves to stop the Baron. "How dare you kontrdikten me! Who are you? You Nosink! You low life! You zcum!"
Nicholas replies with "You byatch!" and gives her a good slap before storming out and slamming the door in true soap opera style.
"You vilth! You varmer! How dare you valk aus on me!"

Pissed off that his experiments have gone pair-shaped, Frankenstein throws a hissy fit.


While Nicholas investigates the laboratory, The Baron questions his son, who is not forthcoming, so he and Otto confront Katrin.


Katrin, being a "zex maniak", arranges to tell the Baron everything in return for a night with the male creature. Frankenstein agrees and Katrin reveals that Nicholas is in the laboratory at this very moment.

None of this ends well. I'm talking Greek Tragedy stuff, believe you me. It wouldn't be seemly to ruin the ending but we're talking piles and piles of bodies, more gallbladder fuckery (though that, in itself, goes a bit wrong) and Udo throwing a hilarious sissy fit (again) while throwing severed hands at people. Oh and, the liver on the end of a spear as to be seen to be believed. All in glorious 3D, ladies and gentlemen, glorious 3D. Ultimately, even the children get involved in this bloodbath, making me think the Baron shouldn't have left his Eli Roth collection lying around for the infants to see.

So is the movie worth checking out? Well it's certainly one of those movies that has to be seen to be believed. It's outrageous, it got itself onto the Video Nasties list, it's an witty critique of the class system and 70s morality masquerading as trash. It has silly accents. And it's the only film to feature a guy sticking his junk into a gaping stomach wound to receive a DVD release by the Criterion Collection (that is unless Ingmar Bergman went in for this sort of thing, but I highly doubt it).

Go into it accepting the film on its own terms and you'll have a ball, though just make sure you smoke a little something first. Oh, and you may need a drink and a sit down afterwards.