Monday, September 27, 2010

FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)

Another TV movie, this one another version of the old tale, screenwritten by novelist Christopher Isherwood. And, for a small-screen effort, it's quite sprawling and impressive. As in, you will need a whole afternoon to watch the three hours plus of this film.

At the outset, there are warning signs. The first half is not a thrill ride and some of the dialogue is worrisome. When the creature debuts looking like a male model and Dr. Frankenstein proclaims, "Now you shall be the greatest dandy in town!", my stomach turned with fear. Surely this wouldn't be a TWILIGHT-style whitewash job! The usage of solar power rather than lightning also seemed like an all-too-modern alteration. Thankfully, things get more excited midway through...

...once the Creature starts losing his looks. He's so horrified that he runs away, momentarily
befriending the world's best-dressed blind hermit. This series of scenes also leads to the introduction and flourishing of the two awesomest characters, Dr. Polidori and Prima, the lady creature.

Prior to this point, the movie had merely been adequate. The dialogue in particular was no great shakes. But clearly they'd just been saving the WIN for James Mason as Dr. Polidori! He's wonderfully bitchy and boorish ("Violence is unavoidable, but clumsiness is inexcusable!!!"), while still saying the things the audience wishes to say ("You and your SOLAR ENERGY!!"). I was confused as to why the guy who plays a minor character got top billing until I saw this performance. It's so fun and splendid and it's a real shame that you have to wait ninety minutes to really see it.

The other thing that makes the second half oh-so-much-better than the first is Jane Seymour'sportrayal of Prima. I'm not going to bring the curse of Elsa Lanchester down upon myself, but I will say that Seymour is ONE OF the best lady creatures to ever hit the screen. She chokes cats and licks blood out of her claw-wounds and doesn't just scream, but goes full ninja on the creature when they meet.

This is a good film. It's not a revelation that mandates a shifting of favorites, as the Langella DRACULA was, but it's a decent enough entry. The main stumbling block for most is going to be its length. It was aired as a miniseries and tends to drag in places, particular in the first portion of the film. But it's far better to finish strong (as this does) than exhibit promise and taper off (as the creature does).

#3 of 31.

2 comments:

nokatonotnow said...

Hey, I appreciate your review. This flick is epic in my memory probably more because I was 9 than by it's crtitical merits, but eff it! it was movie magic to this fan. There's a tenderness that pervades, and the frenemy dynamic of Victor and the monster ("Beautiful, Victor?"), is totally sold by the betrayed, dreamy-eyed lead Michael Sarrazin. As for Jane Seymour, her wickedness made you cheer when her noggin gets plucked off and rolls. Super performances for a TV joint, and the final iconic scene, well, I've never been able to shake it.

CWL said...

Thanks for the awesome comment (and your epic screen name)! I agree that it was exceptionally well-performed for a TV film and it's definitely one of the most inspired (and enjoyable) adaptations of the tale. So jealous that you saw it as a kid!