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Flesh (1968 film)

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Directed byPaul Morrissey
Screenplay byPaul Morrissey
Produced byAndy Warhol
StarringJoe Dallesandro
Geraldine Smith
CinematographyPaul Morrissey
Distributed bySherpix
Release date
  • September 26, 1968 (1968-09-26)
Running time
105 min
CountryUnited States

Flesh (alternative title: Andy Warhol's Flesh) is a 1968 American film directed by Paul Morrissey and starring Joe Dallesandro as a hustler working on the streets of New York City. It highlights various Warhol superstars, in addition to being the film debuts of both Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling. Also appearing are Geraldine Smith as Joe's wife and Patti D'Arbanville as her lover.[1]

By the time Morrissey made Flesh, he had already made a dozen short, silent films in the early 1960s and several films alongside Andy Warhol including My Hustler (1965) and Chelsea Girls (1966). Flesh marked his feature film debut.[2]

In his book Film as a Subversive Art, Amos Vogel writes that the threadbare plot belies something "far deeper and funnier in Morrissey’s unsentimental, accepting attitude toward life, embodied by Joe Dallesandro’s brooding, disaffected performance".[3]

Flesh was first shown at the Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre at 152 Bleecker Street in Manhattan on September 26, 1968.[4][1] In January 1970, the film premiered at the Open Space Theatre in London, but due to controversy surrounding the film's censorship, it was pulled from the theater and wasn't publicly shown until 1971.[5]

Joe Dallesandro in the opening shot of Flesh (1968)

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 was seen by three million people, becoming one of the top five moneymakers of 1970.[6][7]

Flesh is the first film of the "Paul Morrissey-Joe Dallesandro Trilogy" produced by Andy Warhol. The other films in the trilogy include Trash (1970) and Heat (1972). All three have gained a cult following and are noted examples of the ideals and ideology of the time period.

An image of Joe Dallesandro in Flesh was used on the front cover of The Smiths, the debut LP by The Smiths released in 1984. [8]

In a 1973 interview with Fusion magazine, Morrissey said of Flesh:

"In Flesh, the man at the end talks about the wound he’s got on his arm, that his flesh is scarred, and he’s going to pot and getting fat by not going to the gym. One girl wants an abortion- wants her flesh removed. Everyone is in a predicament relating to their flesh. Joe’s predicament is that his flesh is attractive. It was all very deliberate."[9]


As the film begins, Geri ejects Joe from their bed and insists he go out on the streets to make some money for her girlfriend's abortion. This leads to Joe's various encounters with clients, including an artist who wishes to draw Joe, played by Maurice Braddell, Louis Waldon as a gymnast, and John Christian.

Scenes filmed on the streets of New York City show Joe spending time with other hustlers, one of whom is played by his real life brother, and teaching the tricks of the trade to the new hustler, played by Barry Brown. The film includes a scene of Joe interacting with his real life one-year-old son. Flesh concludes with Joe in bed with Geraldine Smith and Patti D'Arbanville. The women strip Joe and begin to get intimate with each other. In turn, Joe gets bored and falls asleep.



Warhol and Morrissey conceived Flesh while Warhol was convalescing following the attempt on his life by Valerie Solanas. John Schlesinger was filming Midnight Cowboy, which featured several members of Warhol's entourage, including Viva and Ultra Violet who, with Morrissey, shot a separate short film during shooting of Midnight Cowboy's elaborate party scene.[10]

Warhol initially endorsed the participation of his people but grew resentful at what he perceived as Schlesinger's poaching of Warhol's scene. Warhol decided to undercut Schlesinger by filming his own story about a male prostitute.[11]

The film was photographed by Morrissey, using a 16mm Auricon camera favored by Warhol for his earlier films. This camera permitted the recording of sound directly onto the film and had a maximum run time of 33 minutes. This allowed for long improvised scenes. Morrissey often included the camera's flash frames and pops, which occur when starting and stopping the camera, as an aesthetic choice. Assisting Morrisey on Flesh was Jed Johnson, who had recently begun working at the Factory and would become Warhol's longtime partner.[12]

UK censorship controversy[edit]

Flesh premiered in London at the Open Space Theatre on Tottenham Court Road on January 15, 1970.[13] British censor John Trevelyan was wary of issuing the film a cinema certificate but had suggested it to distributor Jimmy Vaughan for club screenings.[14] On February 3, 1970, following a complaint by a member of the public, authorities raided the Open Space Theatre because the film did not possess a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certificate.[14] After a public protest, the BBFC passed Flesh with an uncut 'X' certificate on October 27, 1970.[14] The film re-opened at the Chelsea Essoldo in 1971.[5]


Flesh was originally not well received in the US and the UK, but it garnered popularity in Germany–being among the top 5 grossing movies of 1970.[13][1] Over the years, the film has gained a cult following. Flesh ranks 478th on Empire's 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time,[15] and in 2007, The Guardian picked Flesh as one of its "1000 Movies to See Before You Die".[16] It holds an approval rating of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 8 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Weiler, A. H. (September 27, 1968). "The Screen: Paul Morrissey's 'Flesh':Movie by Associate of Andy Warhol Opens Male Prostitute's Story at Garrick Theater". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-22.
  2. ^ https://warholstars.org/flesh.html
  3. ^ Vogel, Amos. Film As A Subversive Art. Random House. 1974.
  4. ^ Garcia, Alfredo (11 October 2017). "Andy Warhol Films: Newspaper Adverts 1964-1974 A comprehensive collection of Newspaper Ads and Film Related Articles". WordPress.com. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b Harmsworth, Madeleine (April 4, 1971). "Flesh". Sunday Mirror.
  6. ^ https://warholstars.org/flesh.html
  7. ^ https://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/the-bitchy-humor-feels-fresh-in-conversation-with-paul-morrissey-archivist-michael-chaiken
  8. ^ https://www.nme.com/photos/the-smiths-the-stories-behind-all-27-of-their-provocative-album-and-single-sleeves-1424816
  9. ^ https://www.roxycinemanewyork.com/stories/the-gospel-according-to-paul-morrissey/
  10. ^ Hofler, p. 63
  11. ^ Hofler, pp. 74-5
  12. ^ Warhol, Andy; Hackett, Pat (1989). The Andy Warhol Diaries. New York, NY: Warner Books. pp. xi. ISBN 978-0-446-51426-2.
  13. ^ a b "Andy Warhol". "The Body beautiful"a web exhibitionARH5897. Retrieved 2022-02-22.
  14. ^ a b c "BFI Screenonline: The Flesh Raid". www.screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 2022-02-22.
  15. ^ "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Empire. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  16. ^ "1000 films to see before you die". The Guardian. June 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  17. ^ "Flesh (1968)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 11, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hofler, Robert (2014). Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange - How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos. New York: itbooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-06-208834-5.

External links[edit]