Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

reviewed by
Sue Roberts

                       MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN
                       A film review by Sue Roberts
                        Copyright 1994 Sue Roberts
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 
Written by Steph Lady and Frank Darabont.

Starring Robert de Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham-Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese,Tom Hulce, Aidan Quinn, Robert Hardy.

Magnificently theatrical and exceptionally gung-ho. Branagh's direction (and acting) captures the excitement of a swashbuckling adventure story.

De Niro's humane performance as the "Creature" allowed the horror of the ideas behind the film room to breathe. I loved the inclusion of John Cleese as a doctor on the edge of a fearsome discovery. It rewound the Monty Python "Organ Donor" sketch back to it's origins.

After THE SECRET GARDEN, Ford Coppola seems to have hit his stride, portraying revolting antiquated medical techniques.

The action was played out on vast operatic sets and this is one of those rare films where everything comes together to create a cohesive whole (and I don't just mean the monster).

The screenplay is a clever synthesis of the Monster's tale within Mary Shelley's book, and the early experiments with electricity which so fascinated her husband. The tale as written is fairly circumspect. Much of the horror portrayed hints at biographical details in the authors own life.

Branagh's performance is of a student obsessed with science for the benefit of mankind. He sets out with the best of intentions, never considering the practical consequences, should he succeed!

What makes this tale of 1816 contemporary is that his relief at not being discovered makes him keep silent.

Central to the whole piece though, is the discussion of ethics. Should portions of one human be used for another? Whether it is Frankenstein, as the handler of raw materials, is responsible, or those who cannot accept deformity. The father of a son who is violent, and beyond his control.

I was really shocked that this film has a "15" certificate. If you are not a vegetarian when you go in, you may be by the time you come out. The Hollywood competition is perhaps measured in pints of red ink, but the lighting on the creature's attempts to stand almost hint at God wrestling with his conscience. Shall he allow this ambitious young man to feel the burden of creation with all it's triumphs and it's terrors?

"I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper," was Mary Shelley's comment on her work....

Sue Roberts.

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