MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION: Frankenstein (TV) (Roman Voytek, 1968) ***
I first heard of this via a positive review of a R2 Network DVD set of the surviving episodes of the series in question (incidentally, though originally shot in color, the copy I acquired of this and the same year's Dracula were in black-and-white). For the record, this is the 13th straight adaptation I have watched of the Mary Shelley classic, the others being made in 1910, 1931, 1952 (TV), 1957, 1958 (TV), 1970, 1973 (TV), 1973 (TV), 1974, 1977, 1994 and 2004 (TV)!
The film (running 79 minutes) follows the novel pretty faithfully and, while the end result will not dislodge the memory of either Universal's James Whale/Colin Clive/Boris Karloff or Hammer's Terence Fisher/Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee versions, it at least contributes a very interesting novelty in that the same actor (a remarkable Ian Holm who, apart from appearing in the 1994 version, had also starred in an adaptation of R.L. Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher" from this same series!) plays both Frankenstein and his creation a literal play on the notion that God made Man in His own image! As ever in this type of fare, the creation sequence is a particular highlight (as is the meeting with the Blind Hermit, though here he is rather less sympathetic than usual!).
It obviously also draws on previous cinematic interpretations of the tale (such as Frankenstein having a hunchback assistant named Fritz, though here we get an additional handyman) but, at the same time, cuts corners (presumably for budgetary reasons) whenever possible: the creature learns to talk almost immediately and of its own accord, Frankenstein disowns it just as quickly (that is to say, before it had committed any crime), etc. On the other hand, it bafflingly downplays certain aspects, such as Dr. Waldman's atypically passive involvement in the proceedings, nor is Elizabeth given that much prominence!
The finale, of course, see creator and creation facing-off after the former has first accepted then destroyed the latter's prospect for a mate. All things considered, this is a worthy addition to the Frankenstein legacy but, for obvious reasons, is largely devoid of the respectively Germanic and Gothic styles that Universal and Hammer lent so effectively to the source material.
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