After the Fall of the Hammer:
Frankenstein films from the early 1970s to the 1990s
Frankenstein: The True Story (1972)
The made-for-TV movie Frankenstein:
The True Story (USA, 1972) ranks among
the better efforts from the
Later the Monster runs into scientist Dr. Polidori, who blackmails Frankenstein
into helping him make a companion for the Monster. Using Agatha's head,
they create the beautiful, yet truly evil Prima. Frankenstein falls in love
with his new creation and introduces her to the upper circles of
society on a ball. Unfortunately, the Monster also turns up at the event and, envious
of Prima's extraordinary beauty, brutally kills her by knocking off her head.
After his brother's tragic death by drowning,
Dr. Victor Frankenstein
leaves for London to continue his medical
studies. There he meets Dr. Henry Clerval
who is obsessed by the idea to create a living man from dead
body parts. Clerval shows Frankenstein
that he has already achieved
reanimation in dead insects and the induction of life into human limbs using
electricity and solar power. Frankenstein is enthusiastic and
decides to assist Clerval in his experiments. But shortly before the
two scientists are able to bring their creature to life, Clerval dies from a
heart attack. Frankenstein
transplants Clerval's brain into
his creature (Michael Sarrazin)
and successfully reanimates the creature, a handsome, intelligent man.
Victor introduces him into society,
but after a short time the Monster's skin and
face begin to decay, rendering
disfigured. In order to hide
this process of decay from the Monster, Frankenstein
all mirrors in the laboratory and attempts
to reverse the process, but is unsuccessful. When the Monster
eventually discovers his ugly facial features, the vain creature
attempts suicide by throwing himself off a cliff.
Thanks to his extraordinarily strong body the Monster survives the plunge
and flees into the woods, where he befriends a blind man. The Monster
falls in love with the blind man's daughter Agatha (Jane Seymour), but he is
chased away by her brother Felix. Agatha, fleeing into the forest in panic, is
run over by a carriage and dies.
a case for the beauty parlour:
Michael Sarrazin as the Monster,
slowly falling apart
The Monster later boards a ship, where he kills Dr. Polidori and
Frankenstein's wife Elizabeth. Without a crew the ship reaches arctic
regions, where Frankenstein finally confronts his creation. In a final
attempt to kill the Monster, Frankenstein sets off an avalanche that buries both him and the Monster.
Trust them - they are doctors: Leonard Whiting and James
Mason as Frankenstein and Polidori
| Directed by Jack
Smight, written by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy and starring
James Mason, John Gielgud and Jane Seymour, this
3-hour adaptation is
truly above average. Renown film critic Leonard Maltin described it as the
"thinking man's horror movie"
it concentrates more on the
psychological aspects of the story than on pure horror effects.
Although called "The True Story", this movie
is surely not a 100% adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, but in fact only
contains elements from it.
is true for the basic story of Frankenstein creating a monster, who is
responsible for his creator's demise. But many
other aspects from Shelley's original novel have
been changed or were even mixed with elements from previous Frankenstein movies.
This time the Monster is not the brutish
creature from many Hammer and Universal films, but an intelligent,
handsome man, who is educated and changes his attitude in the
course of the story. This makes Sarrazin's Monster a lot like the Monster
in the novel and distinguishes The True Story from most of its
cinematic predecessors. But when the Monster begins to degenerate, he
becomes quite the opposite of what he was intended to be: no longer the
perfect, flawless male human, but a caveman-like abomination with
putrefying skin. In some way his fate reverses that of another
Frankenstein monster: In
Frankenstein Created Woman Christina Kleve transforms "from
scarred and limping freak to ravishingly beautiful woman." (1)
also tries to increase the viewer's sympathy for Victor Frankenstein.
his wish to overcome death is triggered by his brother's tragic death. Unlike in
most other films, later the driving force behind Frankenstein's work is not the
wish to create artificial life, but the attempt to preserve his friend Clerval
by transplanting his brain into the body of the creature.
It is also important to note that Frankenstein does not immediately reject and
desert his creation - unlike in the novel and many other movies. This time
he attempts to
educate the monster and even introduces him into the upper circles of society. Of
course one could argue that Frankenstein keeps his creation only as long
he thinks he has created a seemingly perfect man. And indeed, at first Frankenstein's experiment
seems to be successful and only later turns out to be a failure when the
Monster decays and consequently turns into a murderous fiend. Here the film
differs substantially from the novel, where Frankenstein realizes from the first moment that he has failed when he
describes his creation:
"Oh! no mortal could support the horror of that countenance.
A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as
that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly
then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable
of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have
conceived." (Shelley 1992: 57)
Here Clerval is a completely different from the character in the novel.
In fact, in The True Story it is Clerval who convinces Frankenstein to work with him,
not the other way round. Clerval is driven by the desire to "create a new man" and to
"create a new race". He is like Mephistopheles in Faust when he
asks Frankenstein if he wants to challenge the Gods. Early on in
the movie there is a scene where Victor admits to his fiancée Elizabeth,
that he would even join forces with devil if he could bring back his dead
brother. At that moment he does not yet know that he would soon meet
his own devilish temptation, his own Mephistopheles: Dr. Henry Clerval.
the actual villain in The True Story is not the Monster, but Dr. Polidori, a typical mad scientist figure analogous to Bride of Frankenstein's Pretorius.
After Clerval's death it is him, who is responsible for Frankenstein
continuing his work. Of course he only achieves this because he has
control over others by using either old-fashioned blackmail or his
special hypnosis techniques. In the end Polidori meets his just fate when the
Monster hangs him from the mast of the ship, where Polidori is
vaporized by a flash of lightning, ironically the natural force he
feared most all his life.
movie's ending, while inspired by the Artic setting of the novel, is surely
taken from Brinsley
Peake's theater play Presumption: or the Fate of Frankenstein,
where the Monster also dies in an avalanche.
Monster before everything went wrong
In the end it was up to two comedies to revive the Frankenstein genre and
provide new impulses. Both Mel Brooks'
Young Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show were
parodies of older Frankenstein films and also brought new ideas into the
Cast & Crew:
Hunt Stromberg jr
Picart,Caroline Joan. "Visualizing the Monstrous in Frankenstein Films." Pacific Coast Philology 35.1 (2000):
© 1999-2005 Andreas Rohrmoser