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FRANKENSTEIN 1994

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Movies E.C. McMullen Jr. Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Frankenstein - 1994
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Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN - 1994
Zoetrope Studios / Tri-Star
Rated: USA: R

Hot off of the success of his interpretation of Bram Stoker's DRACULA, Francis Ford Coppola was ready to attack another icon of Horror - Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN.

Now the thing that both Science Fiction fans and Horror fans know is this: Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN (aka PROMETHEUS UNBOUND) was not only the first Science Fiction novel ever published, it was also the first Horror novel ever published*. And young 16 year old Mary was dead serious about getting the science right. So much so that she began an extensive correspondence with the most famous scientist of her era, Dr. Charles Darwin - yes, THAT Darwin.

Unfortunately, Science always gets short shrift in Hollywood unless it is being used to advance someone's political agenda, their new business, or both. In their long history of SF movies, which hasn't changed to this day, Hollywood film makers seemingly despise Science and Science Fiction: Something that most science and SciFi fans talk about to some great length on their websites. It is not for nothing that the SciFi Channel has always chose to fill their schedules with the Supernatural and "Evil Science" movies over anything else.

In Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, as produced, directed, and acted by Kenneth Branaugh (DEAD AGAIN, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS), there are just some things that man is not meant to know! The movie begins with an opening passage that doesn't exist in Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN about how, in the 18th Century, Science is taking over (the novel takes place in the 19th Century).

The movie begins with composer Patrick Doyle (HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE) and his sweeping vistas of great musical import!

Stormy Night! Stormy Orchestral tones!

One man, a Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn: IN DREAMS) is "obsessed with science and discovery". So much so that he plans to discover the North pole, by ship, even if it kills his crew.

"Then you run the risk of mutiny!" his first mate says.
Walton cares not, "We will chop our way to the North Pole if that's what it takes!"
"The loss of how many more lives?" The First mate asks.
"As many as it takes!" growls the preposterously heartless scientist/discoverer.

Now, imagine that you decide to drive your car to the North Pole.
"And if there is no fuel in your car?" someone asks. Why, you'll do it anyway!

Such is the Entertainer's mindset regarding "scary" science. Why, it's EVIL!^

TRIVIA

*
And the first zombie novel ever published. You going to tell me that the Creature isn't a zombie? You going to tell me that Romero's zombies don't walk around all slow like Boris Karloff's Frrankenstein creature?
ALL-Righty then!

Actor Ian Holm once played Frankenstein's monster in the 1968 TV series, Mystery and Imagination.

^
Unless of course, a patrician politician can hold their hand, pat their head and tell them that, "Yes science is evil and will destroy us all. BUT, but we will control that evil through the use of Our Own Science - which is good!"

Here's the thing about this idiot "Scientist" Captain,

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
(No, let's wait, because it gets worse)

So the movie gets off to a brilliant start, right?

Just as the Captain and his first mate are about to lock horns over the whole Mutiny issue, the music gets all excited and trilling (not thrilling, but trilling)! Along comes a guy from across the frozen wastes (the ship is also stuck in the ice). He is bedraggled and disheveled but at least he has gone to great pains to trim his beard and mustache. We find that his name is Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branaugh) and, Hoo boy!, does HE ever have a story to tell!

According to Victor he,

Happy Orchestral tones!

Is a young boy playing with his Mom when he is introduced to the orphan Elizabeth, his future fiance. Then he is a young man and his Mom is pregnant.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

Mom dies in childbirth! His Father (Ian Holm: ALIEN, eXistenZ, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) a doctor, delivers the baby while shirtless (and by the way, in this movie for reasons never explained, 19th Century Swiss doctors will not practice medicine unless bare-chested. I did not know that about 19th Century Swiss medicine!) and there are a few seconds of sorrow.

Happy Orchestral tones!

Three years later, Branaugh is about to go off to medical school. Shame about Mum, but anyway, Victor is now in love with the grown-up version of Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter: PLANET OF THE APES [2001], CORPSE BRIDE, WALLACE & GROMIT AND THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT).

Happy Orchestral tones!

The whole town turns out to greet and cheer for yet another medical student's arrival, that of Victor Frankenstein, who otherwise seems to be a nobody. But small town life is dull and the peasants will make any excuse to have a celebration. In this case, they appear to be celebrating some stranger's arrival by horse.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

Off at school, not content to ask questions pertaining to his studies, Victor openly questions the very foundations of his teacher's knowledge, asking why poetry, the occult, and philosophy are not part of the scientific method (or, for that matter, creationism and a God-based religion?).

Pardon me a moment as I stop writing this review so that I may bang my head against my desk at the unabashed stupidity of this movie.

Whew! Okay now.


These are things that Mary didn't write about in her book. This is all the nutball fluff of writers Frank Darabont (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, THE BLOB [1988], THE FLY II, THE GREEN MILE) and Steph Lady (I do not know) with lots of Producer/Director prodding from Kenneth. Victor's professor, a cartoonish Richard Dawkins type iconoclast, is stunned at Victor's irrationality (who wouldn't be?).

Okay, now let's have a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, was completed in 1818. That was the year that Sir John Ross was the first to try and find a Northwest passage through the Arctic. At that time, no one was sure that the icecap didn't sit on land, though many were reasonably sure, but for unscientific reasons.

Continued at the
Science Moment/1990s/Frankenstein.

Swelling Happy Orchestral tones!

Victor's outburst earns him a friend among the furtive faculty who stand in shadows: One Professor Waldman (John Cleese: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS). He takes young Frankenstein and his friend, Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce: SLAM DANCE, BLACK RAINBOW) under his wing.

Waldman shows the boys his secret experiments -

Happy Orchestral tones!

Which go abruptly wrong -

Tragic Orchestral tones!

Then right themselves -

Happy Orchestral tones!

Which gives us a lesson in the awful dangers of science. You shouldn't monkey with it. Or even Orangutan with it.

Soon Victor is even making his mentor jumpy and before you know it, Waldman is dead.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

His murderer is quickly hanged. Victor steals Waldman's brain -

Swelling Happy Orchestral tones!

Elizabeth, back home, wonders what Victor is up to these last few months and goes to confront him and his possible new lover.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

Victor sees her and tells her to get lost.

MORE Tragic Orchestral tones!

His creation is slapped together within a matter of filmic seconds and, with the help of some electric eels, Victor gives his creation life!

Swelling Happy Orchestral tones!

seems to fail -

Tragic Orchestral tones!

- then succeed -

Swelling Happy Orchestral tones!

- but not quite -

Tragic Orchestral tones!

- but wait, yes. Yes! Definite success! -

Happy Orchestral tones!

- then accidentally kills his creation -

Tragic Orchestral tones!

- blames it on the dead creature (stupid creature!)

Tragic Orchestral tones!

- and, within minutes of the whole sh-bang, loses interest in it all to sit and wonder how Elizabeth is getting on without him.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

He looks at his living quarters and realizes what a mess they are.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

He looks at himself in the mirror and notices that, no matter how he's let everything else in his life go to hell, he keeps his beard and 'stache well-trimmed.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

The town where Victor lives is dying of some plague. Henry begs Victor to leave. Victor won't hear of it.

Sturm und Drang!

He doesn't care about the townsfolk, he has his own problems. That beard and 'stache won't trim themselves.

Victor goes crazy, gets sick (he should have kept a warm shirt on while making his creation),

Blah, blah, blah.

- gets saved by his friend Henry and Elizabeth and decides to make a fresh start of it.

Swelling Happy Orchestral tones!

His creation (Robert De Niro: ANGEL HEART, CAPE FEAR, GODSEND, HIDE AND SEEK), isn't dead after all, lives in an alley, gets chased by a mob and decides to take his problems on the road.

Tragic Orchestral tones!

- And well, that's pretty much wraps up the first hour. Then we have another hour and three minutes left to go. You'd think there'd be a greater amount of time set aside for character development, but make no mistake - when Branaugh's FRANKENSTEIN isn't zig-zagging between manipulative maudlin tragedy and manipulative maudlin emotion, it's attacking the very scientific method that Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley loved so well and her science advisor, Charles Darwin, worked so hard, as her mentor, to impress upon her.

I don't know whose benighted FRANKENSTEIN this pathetic mess was supposed to be, but don't blame Mary or Charlie for it.

Two Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2007 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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