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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994).

November 12, 2010

The Scoop:
This is the most faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s seminal gothic novel yet made (as proudly trumpeted by including her name in the title), yet it lacks the energy and horror of the best Frankenstein movies.

This is not the fault of director/star Kenneth Branagh’s work so much as it is a shortcoming in the novel itself. While it has given birth to one of the most durable demons in our collective psyche, the novel in its original form is a pre-Victorian curio, its story-within-a-story structure serving as an elaborate China box to isolate the readers from the true horror at the heart of the concept. By dispensing with that, the successful adaptations (most notably those by James Whale and Hammer Studios) deliver the goods.

Still, Branagh and his cast put forth a valiant effort to save the material from itself. Branagh tells the story on a grand scale and Robert De Niro gives a wonderfully non-traditional rendition of the monster. And the rest of the cast – including John Cleese, Ian Holm and Richard Briers – does well too. It’s just too bad that the luscious Helena Bonham Carter, as Elizabeth, is not given more to do.

In the end, this may be the definitive adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. But it’s not the definitive version of the Frankenstein story.

Best Line:
“Did you ever consider the consequences of your actions? You made me, and you left me to die. Who am I?”

Side Note:
In his usual quest for perfection, De Niro studied the speech patterns of stroke victims to prepare for this part.

Companion Viewing:
“Frankenstein” (1931), “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), “The Bride” (1985) and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992).

The original novel.

Take a Look:
Teaser trailer:

A slightly longer trailer:

Creator meets creation:


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