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Dr. Polidori says I look remarkably old for my age.
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A two part television movie which claimed to tell, for the first time anywhere, the genuinely faithful tale of the man who made a creature, exactly as its writer, teenaged Mary Shelley, first concocted it. Well, it may be helpful going in to be forewarned that this isn't really the "true story," but it comes close and what matters most is that it's a good film, albeit one that's three hours long.
In this version, young Victor Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting) is a medical student thirsting for knowledge, which he gets from the wildly eccentric Dr. Henry Clerval (David McCallum). Clerval has devised a method of restoring dead insects back to life, and his greatest achievement comes when he reanimates a man's severed arm. Frankenstein teams up with Clerval and they are just about to proceed with the ultimate experiment of assembling a complete man from dead bodies and making it live, when Henry dies and Victor is forced to work alone (I'll bet you never knew it wasn't all Frankenstein's idea). The final product is a perfectly attractive male creation (Michael Sarrazin) who has been given Clerval's brain and instantly bonds with Victor, his creator. Frankenstein begins to neglect his fiancé Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett) while taking the time to refine his new Adam. Unbeknownst to Victor, before Clerval died he tried to warn Frankenstein that the animation process performed on the first severed arm was actually reversing itself and the flesh was deteriorating. In a short period of time, the once-handsome creature begins to show signs of his skin rotting and upon witnessing this, Frankenstein suddenly loses all interest in his creation and abandons him. The rest of the film carries on with the scorned monster's journey to punish his master. He meets up with a nasty and cunning former associate of Clerval, the elder Dr. Polidori (James Mason), who blackmails Frankenstein into constructing a female named Prima (played by Jane Seymour).
This is a lush and well-crafted Victorian period piece, and the story of unrequited love between the creature and his creator is at the core of it. For those who up till now have only been familiar with the classic Boris Karloff image of the flat-headed monster with big boots and bolts in his neck, this is something else entirely. It's touching but also horrifying at times, with a good cast. In addition to Michael Sarrazin's sympathetic work as the creature, David McCallum's obsessive Clerval and James Mason's unscrupulous Polidori (presumably the Ernest Thesiger character in this one) are the best performances. *** out of ****
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