Gods and Monsters (1998) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The story of James Whale, the Director of Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), in the time period following the Korean War. Whale was homosexual, and develops a friendship with his gardener, an ex-Marine.

  • Set in 1957, James Whale, the director of Show Boat (1936), _Invisible Man, The (1933)_, Frankenstein (1931), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), had long since stepped back from the glamor and glitz of Hollywood. A stroke triggers once buried flashes of memory of his life in Dudley, his film career, and, most influentially, the trenches during the Great War. Haunted and lonely, he recounts many of his experiences to his musclebound gardener, Clay Boone. Despite the divide that exists between them, their friendship develops. Reliant on his sternly disapproving housemaid, Hannah, the flamboyant director whose time has passed sees himself slipping away, unable to stop the decline, and indulges his fantasies by coaxing Boone to model for him.

    Dave F
  • The last days of Frankenstein (1931) Director James Whale are explored.

    Dave F


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Clay gets up from his trailer at the beach and drives to Mr. Jimmy's lush house, where he mows the lawn.

    Mr. Jimmy has a visit from David, who is concerned about his health. He then goes out to chat with Clay, his new gardener, and invites him to swim in the pool after he is done working. Clay says he needs to do another lawn later.

    An academic named Edmund Kay comes to visit Mr. Jimmy, and expresses his deep enthusiasm for his films. Jimmy takes him out back to the pool, and recalls his youth in London, and then his movement into movies and on to Hollywood.

    Mr. Jimmy becomes bored with Kay's questions, and suggests that Kay begin removing clothing in exchange for his answers. Kay begins disrobing to each of Jimmy's tales about homosexuals in Hollywood and making Frankenstein.

    Jimmy then gets lightheaded and needs Kay's help to get inside and lie down. His maid Hanna scolds him for chasing boys after just returning from the hospital.

    Jimmy goes to a doctor who explains that he had a stroke which has left his brain somewhat impaired.

    Jimmy sees Clay working out in the garden and invites him to talk over iced tea in his painting studio. Jimmy tells him he directed the first two Frankenstein movies, and they talk about his paintings. Jimmy tells Clay he has an expressive head and asks him to model for pay; Clay agrees.

    Clay arrives at Jimmy's house and Hanna asks if he is going to hurt him. Clay is confused, and she withdraws the question. Clay sits down in the studio to model for Jimmy, who asks him to remove his shirt, even though he only plans to draw his face. Jimmy begins to draw, telling Clay of a memory he has about eating fat drippings as a poor child. He explains how different he was from his family, more talented, more intelligent.

    Clay goes to a bar and boasts that a famous director is drawing him. Betty the bartender, whom Clay has slept with, turns on The Bride of Frankenstein on TV; meanwhile, Jimmy watches at home with Hanna. The others at the bar criticize the film for not being scary. Clay seems to understand the monster's feelings of loneliness.

    Flashback: Jimmy directs the performers on the set of Bride of Frankenstein.

    Clay and Betty talk outside the bar, and he gets upset that she does not want to sleep with him again.

    Clay calls his parents from a payphone but does not want to talk much.

    Jimmy dreams that Clay is Dr. Frankenstein, replacing his brain and electrifying him.

    Hanna tells Clay that Jimmy would like him to have lunch. The two talk as she cooks, and Hanna tells him he should be married. Hanna tells Clay that Jimmy commits unspeakable sins of the flesh, buggery. She is surprised that Clay did not know.

    Jimmy and Clay have a rather fancy lunch. Jimmy tells Clay that he had hoped Bride of Frankenstein would be seen as a comedy. Jimmy asks Clay to pose for an hour after lunch, and he declines. Jimmy explains that he had a "husband" named David, and Clay asks about his homosexuality. They smoke cigars, and Clay agrees to pose.

    During the sitting, Jimmy talks about how he made the successful Show Boat and then tried to make his WWI masterpiece The Road Back but the studio butchered it. He says he always wanted to go back to movies, but that was the end. He also broke up with David thereafter. Jimmy begins to describe how he used to have many male models, all naked, which upsets Clay so much he gets mad and storms out.

    Clay goes to Betty's bar but she is not there. He finds another woman and has sex with her in the parking lot.

    Clay returns to Jimmy's house and says he will sit for him again if he eases up on the locker room talk. Jimmy is curious that Clay has never known any gay men before, not even when he was in the Marines. Jimmy recalls a young soldier from WWI he mentored in the trenches, then becomes quite upset, looking at Clay intensely. After a calming moment, Jimmy asks Clay to drive him to a fancy party in another few days.

    Jimmy finds a gas mask and has another memory of the war.

    Clay drives Jimmy to the party, where they pay their respects to Princess Margaret and George Cukor. She is chatty but mistakes Jimmy for someone else; Cukor is more curt. David is there with Elizabeth Taylor, and he has an awkward chat with Jimmy.

    Kay also shows up, telling Jimmy he had Cukor invite him. Kay brings over Elsa Lanchester to chat, then Boris Karloff as well. Jimmy notices the resemblance between Karloff and Clay. A thunderstorm arises, and Jimmy asks Clay to take him home.

    They come in soaked from the rain. Jimmy offers Clay a baggy sweater, but he wears a towel over his waist. Clay confesses he never made it out of boot camp as a Marine since his appendix burst.

    Jimmy sketches Clay in the living room and they continue talking about fear and monsters. Jimmy describes how his beloved soldier was gunned down in the war and died. Clay reassures Jimmy that he survived the war. Jimmy reveals that his sketches have been nothing but scribblings, his mental powers are lost.

    Clay stands up and takes off his sweater, offering Jimmy to draw him like a statue. Jimmy grabs the gas mask and asks Clay to wear it, kissing his shoulders and trying to grab his penis. Clay reacts violently and beats him, but Jimmy asks Clay to kill him, placing his hands on his throat. Clay refuses and throws Jimmy to the floor. Jimmy apologizes. Clay helps him to bed.

    Jimmy has a dream of standing with Clay, looking over the bodies of dead WWI soldiers. Jimmy walks down among them, finding his beloved comrade, and lays down next to him.

    Clay wakes up at Jimmy's house. He finds the portrait of the monster that Jimmy drew for Frankenstein next to him. He then quickly dives into the pool when he sees Jimmy floating face down. Hanna runs out with a suicide note from Jimmy while Clay says he didn't do it. Hanna tells him to leave to avoid investigation, but Clay suggests they put his body back in the pool.

    Years later, Clay is watching a scene from Bride of Frankenstein on TV with his son, in which a blind man befriends the monster. Clay smokes a cigarette while the monster smokes one in the movie. After the movie, Clay shows his skeptical son the sketch of the monster. Jimmy has written on the back: "For Clayton. Friend?"

    Clay goes out in the street and starts to walk in the rain like the monster.

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