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I remember seeing the original broadcast of this two-part miniseries back in
'73, and how impressed I was by the cast and the writing. Witty, literate,
touching and horrifying by turns, it definitely set a pretty high standard
for itself just by the title alone, yet then proceeded to exceed that
standard, which is something that few movies ever do, let alone those made
The all-star British/American cast and the production design gave it the old-time feel of early films from both the Universal and Hammer Studios genres, yet the sharp writing by Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood lent an almost Merchant-Ivory sense of credibility that most films of this kind can't even hope to pull off.
Even more surprising that the director, Jack Smight, was better known for his work on television series and disaster films than on something as well-crafted as this.
And the performances...In a cast of well-seasoned veterans, it's almost impossible to cite stand-out favorites, but if I had to, Michael Sarrazin's Creature is one of the most outstanding to be introduced out of the many versions, and definitely the most multi-layered and sympathetic, (which would not be equalled until twenty-years on, by Clancy Brown in the less-superior THE BRIDE.) Worth equal praise is the rivalry between David McCallum, Leonard Whiting and the always-dependable James Mason as the brilliantly twisted Dr. Polidori (affectionately known now and forever as "Polly-dolly.")
And what review would be complete without mentioning Jane Seymour as Prima. I won't spoil the shock and surprise involved with her character and Sarrazin's, but needless to say that was ONE scene that made quite an impression on my young mind, (and for those who remember, you know EXACTLY which part I'm referring to!) It was quite an introduction to a lovely young ingenue, who would become even more memorable to American audiences less than a year later with her big screen debut, as Bond girl Solitaire in Roger Moore's initial 007 outing, LIVE AND LET DIE.
It may not exist in its original form, as previous reviewers have pointed out, but one can only hope for a newly restored and uncut DVD version of this classic TV gem. In an age of bloated, overproduced blockbusters like TITANIC and PEARL HARBOR, the 240-minute version of this outstanding drama would be more than worth your time. Now here's hoping we'll get the opportunity to see it again, as it was intended.
I first saw this film on television at age 12 or 13, in black-and-white (we didn't have a color television at the time). I recall it being shown in two parts, but even in black and white and at a young age I could see it was a rather lavish production. The cast is excellent. I found the entire story fascinating and I was mesmerized by it. As with most television films of that era (prior to home video recording technology) I was afraid I'd never see it again. I was oh-so-pleasantly surprised when it was run on a premium cable network in 1997 while I was living in California! Watching it in color made it even more fascinating than before. It is certainly a departure from more "traditional" treatments of this story, which makes it even more of a true gem captured on film! The viewer receives a more graceful, romantic treatment of a fascinating story.
Every film version of FRANKENSTEIN has taken tremendous liberties with
Mary Shelly's celebrated 1818 novel, and although it retains the core
idea of the book this one is no exception. Produced for television by
Universal Studios in 1973, the film contains a host of characters and
ideas that draw more from previous film versions than from the original
novel. More interestingly, however, it introduces a number of
distinctly original concepts as well.
Simply stated, the film has a highly disconcerting and surprisingly overt homo-erotic edge. Instead of the inevitable "mad doctor" typical of films, Victor Frankestein is a remarkably handsome young man in the form of actor Leonard Whiting, a performer best known as Romeo in the famous 1968 ROMEO AND JULIET. He is seduced into the experiment by the equally handsome but distinctly odd Henry Clerval (David McCallum)--and not only do the two actors play the relationship in a disquietingly touchy-feely way, Clerval takes exception to Victor's fiancée Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett) and she returns the favor, demanding that Victor choose between them.
Lest any one miss the implications, the creature is played by none other than Michael Sarrazin, and while many men may be described as handsome, Sarrazin is among the few who can be justly described as beautiful. He arises from the laboratory table barely decent in a few strategically placed bandages, and when his facial covering is pulled aside by the eager Dr. Frankenstein we are treated to a lingering image of glossy black hair, pale complexion, remarkably liquid eyes, and lips that would make Vogue model weep with envy. Dr. Frankenstein takes him to his own apartment, where he educates this child-like innocent and very generously allows the creature to sleep in his own bed.
But, as in all FRANKENSTEIN movies, the experiment goes awry, and when it does the same disconcerting homo-erotic overtones take yet another turn. Due to some unknown error in the creation process, the creature begins to deteriorate in appearance--and instead of continuing to treat him kindly, Frankenstein keeps the creature locked up, becomes verbally abusive to him, and no longer allows the creature to sleep in his bed, relegating him to a cramped mattress on the floor. At the same time, Frankenstein is approached by the mysterious Dr. Polidori (the legendary James Mason), an oily scientist with a flair for hypnosis who claims to know what went wrong.
Polidori insists that they abandon the creature and create a new one: a woman, and when this new creation emerges from an entirely different process she too is remarkably beautiful; indeed, she is none other than Jane Seymour. But whereas the original creature was a gentle creature who only learned violence from Frankenstein's hateful rejection, this new entity is strangely icy, almost snake-like from the very beginning--and the male creature, now both vicious and wildly jealous, will exact a horrific toll upon all concerned.
It is worth pointing out that the script for this version of FRANKENSTEIN was co-authored by Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986), one of the few openly gay writers of his era. Sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular forms a theme in many of Isherwood's works, so it would seem reasonable to assume that he was responsible for the homo-erotic elements of the film. Jack Smight's direction does not offer anything nearly so interesting as the script, but it is workman-like, and while the production values tend to be a shade too baroque for their own good one never lacks for something to look at on the screen.
The cast is also quite good. At the time, the film was looked upon as a "television event," and it drew a host of noted actors, including John Gielgud and Agnes Moorehead. No one would accuse Leonard Whiting of being a great screen talent, but he acquits himself very well; so too does David McCallum, Nicola Pagett, and the always memorable James Mason. But the real knock-out performances here are by Sarrazin and Seymour, who truly blow the lid off our ideas of what a FRANKENSTEIN movie should be--and when they square off the result is unsettling in a truly unexpected way. In terms of the DVD itself, the film quality is considerably better than the rare late-night showings I've occasionally seen on television, but I would not describe it as pristine, and I found I frequently had to bump up the volume on the soundtrack.
If you are looking for something with which to scare yourself silly, you might want to give this version FRANKENSTEIN a miss; although it has a few visceral moments, the jolts involved are largely psycho-sexual. But if you are open to the sexually subversive, which is particularly unexpected in a made-for-television film from 1973, you couldn't make a better choice. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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 ****
It's a shame that this spectacular TV movie (which originally ran in two 2-hour parts) is only available in a much abbreviated 2 hour version (actually this is the version released in theatres in the UK and abroad, while the full version played on US TV) from the cheapie distributor Goodtimes. Hopefully, the full version will one day make it onto DVD (the way it took quite a while for the original SALEMS LOT two-part TV movie to get released on tape and dvd, when it also was only available as a 2-hour abridgement). Written by Christopher Isherwood, this literate, beautifully filmed retelling of the Mary Shelley classic is a must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie when it was originally aired on TV in 1972. It was aired in two parts, each night 2 hours long. It was either October 30 & 31 or October 31 & November 1 1972.( I think it was the later) Anyway I loved it. Even though this film was made by Universal, it is a different kind of film from 1930s the Karloff incarnation. Anyway I was delighted to see it available on video and snatched it right up. Ugh! It was a 2 hour edited version that was shown theatrically in Europe back in the early 1970s. AVOID this version! If you have only seen this edited version, you don't know what your missing. Unlike a lot of what today we call "mini series'" Frankenstein the True story really moves and the story is not padded. The screenplay by Christopher Isherwood is much better than the usual mini series. With the movie cut by 40% you miss so much. In fact watching it edited, it seemed just plain choppy. The full version significantly adds to the audiences' understanding of the monster's actions and reactions to his maker and the female creation Prima. Possible spoiler:(Jane Seymour plays Prima as part of a dual role. She is very good in this film. I have been a fan of hers ever since. You'll swear Prima has real evil in her eyes. Also in a small part is the fourth Dr. Who, Tom Baker as a Ship captain.) Bottom line: If possible find the COMPLETE version and avoid the 2 hour video. If you liked the edited version, finding the full version( if its even commercially available) will be well worth the search.
Although this film may digress in many ways from the book, it is nonetheless superb. A fine cast, including Leonard Whiting, Nicola Padgett and guest appearances from many others, rounds out the experience. One empathizes with the monster, who begins his new life as a beautiful, sensitive creature only to physically and aesthetically deteriorate as time goes on. An interesting twist is the subplot of Prima, the second creature, created by Dr. Polidori (Victor's nemesis) with the assistance of Victor...I first saw this movie on television when I was about 9 or 10, I seem to remember it being shown in two parts, the second part beginning with Polidori's attempt to bring Prima into elite society, followed with the downfall of Victor, the monster and Polidori. Really one of my favorite re-tellings of the Frankenstein story.
This is my favorite version of the Frankenstein stories and I have seen them all. I remember sitting up late to watch this movie in the 1970's. I have the very edited version on VHS. I would love to see the entire film released on DVD. The all star cast and period costumes were excellent!
I rented this movie the other night. I was impressed by how many well known actors were in it. The acting was very good. Leonard Whiting was very convincing and seemed to really share a bond with his monster. The monster didn't seem to be all that evil until people started being mean to it. I think the movie tried to show us that beauty is only skin deep. Jane Seymour was excellent. I recommend this movie highly, it is very well done.
I remember watching this movie as a child and not really understanding it
until years later when the transformation from something beutiful to
something ugly happened as Sarrazin was exposed to all the evils and
negativity of his creatr and others.
An excellent movie for anyone wanting to know just what goes wrong on this planet...........
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