VIDEO: Dracula and Frankenstein Revisited

Flesh For Frankenstein
Voyager Co./The Criterion Collection

Blood For Dracula
Voyager Co./The Criterion Collection

Guillermo Del Toro, a hardcore horror-buff, art-schlock auteur, and former film critic who knows his splatter movies inside and out, recently tipped me to the fact that Paul Morrissey's monster-mash doubleheader from 1973 ("presented" by Andy Warhol) is to die for. "You have a miserable Count Dracula in the streets wiping up the blood of an accident victim with a piece of bread," Del Toro (Cronos, Mimic) says. "And Frankenstein is equally transgressive--the Baron is married to his sister, who's a nymphomaniac." Suffice to say that Morrissey's brand of genre necrophilia isn't for every taste. But, as reanimated in these razor-sharp, "director's cut" laser discs (both of which fully earn their X ratings), this pomo Frankenstein and Dracula look like the missing link between the '60s-era Hammer films and Del Toro's own baroque splatter-pulp.

On the other hand, this is uniquely sick stuff in which toxic levels of "art," camp, satire, and sleaze occasionally approach the visionary. Frankenstein's gross-out climax has the mad-scientist Baron (Udo Kier) screwing his undead Bride on a gurney, then ravaging Marlon Brando with a spot-on parody of Last Tango: "To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life in the gall bladder." The even livelier Dracula opens with a shot of Kier's primping Count doing his eyebrows and makeup in the mirror--sans reflection, of course. Desperate for virgin blood, this wan, fussy vampire strategically heads to Catholic Italy, but the food sucks ("They put so much oil here on everything!"). Even worse, a neo-Marxist handyman/devirginizer (Joe Dallesandro) forces him to learn the hard way that religious abstinence isn't what it's cracked up to be.

During one of Dracula's blood-vomiting scenes, the laser disc's supplemental audio track features this anemic analysis from film scholar Maurice Yacowar: "The toilet is Morrissey's personal metaphor for the moral vacuum that has been created by liberal self-indulgence." Kier is more succinct: "Vomiting looks so great if you have a tuxedo on." (Rob Nelson)

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