Frankenstein: The True Story was made in 1973, and made it's DVD debut on the tenth of March 2014. Originally broadcast in two parts as a television series, it was edited down to a two hour run time for a theatrical run in the United Kingdom. While the film doesn't run close to the original story at all, it managed to re-invent the story of Frankenstein for a new generation.
In 19th century England, Dr Victor Frankenstein, played by Leonard Whiting, bitter over his brother's untimely death, voices his wish that men could have power over life and death. Following a chance encounter with Dr Henry Clerval (David McCallum), a surgeon experimenting in this very field, they join forces and Victor achieves the impossible, the creation of life. He creates a handsome, highly intelligent young man (Michael Sarrazin), but unforeseen problems and the involvement of evil scientist Dr Polidori (James Mason) lead to shocking, unimaginable horror.
While you may think that a three hour running time is far too long, and the fact that it is a TV movie might very well hinder the production, you couldn't be more wrong. The running time speeds by, and the relationship between creator and monster is both touching and frightening as the creature learns all about emotion, all the while Frankenstein becomes ever more repulsed by his creation.
To top off this amazing film, all of the creature make-up was handled by Hammer veteran Roy Ashton, and the way the creatures face becomes ever-more hideous as the film goes on is yet another effective tool this film has at it's disposal, as well as the incredibly well realised characters and spooky settings usually seen in British horror.
The film manages to draw the viewer in to each of the relationships developing in the story, making the viewer invest emotion, and feeling the trials and tribulations each of the characters go through. It also makes you feel incredibly sorry for a number of the characters, not least the creature, as he is so eager to please, so eager to be loved and do good. I also sense a slight Homo-erotic tone between Dr Frankenstein and the creature, as the beginning of their relationship does play out like a romance (this could just be me though, so don't take it too seriously).
While it is a rather unusual take on the original Mary Shelley book, it is a surprising and thoroughly refreshing take on the story, and one that begs to be seen by fans of the original novel. There are a few recognisable nods to the original story, such as the escape to the North, the blind man in the cottage, and the hiss Agatha/Prima (played by English rose Jayne Seymour) lets out when she is threatened.
Filmmaker Seb Godin offered to make comparisons to Frankenstein: The True Story and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (the book, of course). So without further rambling from me, here they are:
- In the book, Victor's brother is very young and only dies later on when the Creature finds him.
- Clerval is Victor's best friend from their childhood, and not a mad doctor.
- Polidori isn't a character in the novel.
- The Creature is monstrous, and doesn't slowly degenerate as he does in Frankenstein: The True Story.
- The Creature in the novel commands Victor to create him a mate, which he refuses to do.
- Elizabeth is strangled by the creature in the book, which sends Victor on a hunt after him, instead of the Creature killing Elizabeth on the boat and crashing it into the ice.
- Instead of the ending where the Creature and Victor forgive each other, the novel ends with the remorseful creature mourning Victor's death and escaping into the Arctic.
Many thanks to Seb Godin for taking the time to point out these comparisons.