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Flesh (1968)

Flesh article

From the Underground USA issue of
Films and Filming magazine (August 1969)

Colour/89 mins.
Directed by Paul Morrissey

Joe Dallesandro/Geraldine Smith (Geri - Joe's Wife)/Maurice Braddell (the Artist)/
Louis Waldon (David)Geri Miller (Terry)/Candy Darling/Jackie Curtis/
Patti D'Arbanville (Wife's Girlfriend)/Barry Brown (Hustler)/
Bob Dallesandro (Hustler)/John Christian (Young John)

Joe Dallesandro:

"I consider myself bisexual. It wasn't that I was sexually attracted to men per se, but you know, if you do something for awhile you can acquire a taste for it." (JOE82)

Andy Warholline graphic

Flesh was shot by Paul Morrissey while Andy was recuperating from his gunshot wounds. Warhol never actually attended any of the filming.

Previously, some of the Factory crowd had been invited to appear in in Midnight Cowboy for a party scene which was being filmed, but spent much of their time just waiting around on the set with the extras. Both Paul and Joe were there and came up with an idea for a film that would be about a boxer, incorporating some of the stories that Joe told Paul about his life or the people he had met on the street. (JOE72)

Paul kept in touch with Andy during the filming of Midnight Cowboy. Warhol thought it might be a good idea to make their own film about a hustler (even though they had already made one in 1965 - My Hustler), and release it before Midnight Cowboy was released. (Ibid) So, instead of making a film about a boxer, they made another film about a hustler, with Paul Morrissey saying that his inspiration for the film came from the 1960 Mauro Bolognini film, La Giornata Balorda (script by Pier Paolo Pasolini). (JOE 81)

Flesh was shot mostly on weekends during August/September 1968 at a cost of approximately $1,500.00. (JOE72). The scene between Dallesandro and Louis Waldon was filmed in the Greenwich Village apartment of art critic David Bourdon. (DB311) Joe was nineteen at the time. The film followed Joe's character as he turned tricks in order to pay for his wife's girlfriend's abortion. (One of his fellow street hustlers was played by Joe's real life brother Bob Dallesandro.)

The artist who picked Joe up in the film and took him back to his apartment to pose for him was Maurice Braddell, an old British actor who appeared in the science fiction film of H.G. Well's Things To Come (1936). Morrissey later used him in his own first feature length film Sleep Walk (1964). At the time that Braddell appeared in Flesh, he was working restoring paintings for museums. (JOE74-5).

The film also marked the debut of transvestite superstars Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis who Andy had met on the streets of Greenwich Village in August of 1967. Geri Miller, who gave Joe a blow job while Candy and Jackie sat reading movie magazines in Flesh, was a stripper in real life who had worked at Al Goldstein's M & M Club and the Metropole, as well as once popping out of a birthday cake for Mick Jagger. (JOE76) (See Geri Miller Interview)

Flesh opened at the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre in the last week of September 1968 and played there for seven months before moving to the 55th Street Playhouse in May, 1969. At the Garrick, its average gross was $2,000 per week, making $10,000-12,000 during the first six weeks. (JOE 79)

It opened in London at The Open Space on January 15, 1970 to mostly negative reviews. The Open Space was raided by the police on February 3rd, three minutes before the end of the film, after a complaint by a member of the public. The police confiscated the print, the projector, the sound equipment, the venue's membership book and correspondence files under the Obscene Publication Act. They also detained members of the audience for questioning. (JOE83)

In the House of Commons, one MP publicly expressed his "greatest exception to being told what I may or may not see by some half-educated bigot at Scotland Yard." Scotland Yard's response was "We aren't zombies," pointing out that the decision to raid the venue was made by a local precinct captain. (JOE83) By the end of the week, with the Director of Public Prosecutions saying that they would not pursue it as an obscenity case, the police changed their investigation to "fire code violations." (Ibid)

In February 1970, Morrissey went to London to join the British distributor, Jimmy Vaughn in a meeting with John Trevelyan, director of the British Board of Film Censors who came out in support of The Open Space and the film. However, the University of Edinburgh cancelled their showing of the film fearful that they would be prosecuted by the Scottish authorities. As a protest against this decision, twenty students locked themselves inside the University's theatre for two hours. (JOE84)

Due to the controversy in England, the film made a return engagement in the states at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York, with the theatre announcing that "all persons with British passports will be admitted free." (JOE84)

It turned out that it was Jimmy Vaughan, the UK distributor, who had arranged for some of his friends posing as general members of the public to complain to the London police in the first place in order to gain as much publicity as possible for the film. (JOE85)

In June of 1970, Jimmy Vaughan arranged a deal with Constantin, one of the largest film distributors in West Germany, to book the film into mainstream cinemas throughout Germany where it became one of the top five moneymakers of 1970. (JOE87)

Gary Comenas

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