Frankenstein: the True Story (1973)

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Frankenstein: the True Story (1973)

Post  BoG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 1:11 pm


This was, by TV standards, a lavish telefilm broadcast over two nights on Nov.30 and Dec.1, 1973. It starred old pro James Mason in the scene-stealing role of the manipulative Dr. Polidori, with a pair of ruined hands, and young Leonard Whiting as Victor Frankenstein, David McCallum as Frankenstein's mentor Henri Clerval, and Michael Sarrazin as the creature. Also in key roles were Nicola Pagett as Frankenstein's fiancee-then wife and Jane Seymour as the female creation. There were also small roles for some well-known actors, including Agnes Moorehead, Ralph Richardson as the blind man, John Gielgud and Tom Baker as the ship's captain in the final act.
There were interesting and even fascinating variations to this adaptation of the famous Mary Shelley novel. The creature begins life as the ideal beautiful man, not as a monster (it's referred to offhand as Adam a couple of times but never actually named).  It's the deterioration of his beauty that begins the horrific aspects to the story. Sarrazin as the creature represents Frankenstein's ideal brother at his creation, to replace the one recently killed. The story also revolves around three sets or generations of geniuses, not just Frankenstein, who is the youngest member of this select group. Polidori is the eldest and has the experience, the confidence and, unfortunately, the guile - and he's also disfigured, an eerie similarity to the creature. Clerval is Frankenstein's father figure or young uncle, teaching him the fundamentals of such radically advanced science. Frankenstein's youth makes him most suitable for physical surgical techniques, but he is overshadowed by the knowledge and experience of the two older men.

The story raises the familiar questions associated with this tale: what is Frankenstein's responsibility towards his creation? After the creature begins to deteriorate, Frankenstein seems at a loss as to what to do with him. It was simple before - with a beautiful, perfect man - but after, Frankenstein is a portrait of conflicting emotions. Part of the creator wants nothing more to do with his creation, that it might be better off destroyed. But, another part can't help but feel pity for it and even a kind of protectiveness. There was also an interesting role in Elizabeth, Frankenstein's wife. She is shrewish for most of the film but begins to demonstrate a strength towards the final act absent from her husband. Unfortunately for her, she goes too far with Frankenstein's creation, as does Polidori. Jane Seymour is in dual roles - first as a peasant girl and then as the new Eve - named Prima by Polidori. She is quite different in the two roles.

Mason, also the most experienced thespian here, raises this telefilm to nearly the highest levels for such fare. All his scenes are superb. His Polidori is the one who actually perfects the technique of life creation - his Eve doesn't have Adam's physical problems. But, her cover beauty masks a pernicious, inhuman personality - an irony in that Adam does not have this defect; it's an ultimate deceit, like most of Polidori's life. His goals are eventually revealed as just an accumulation of political power, nothing to do with science, and it soon comes back at him. Not much was required of Sarazzin to enact the role of the creature, especially when he's simply  a pretty, vacant-eyed man. But, after he becomes a monster - even though not physically imposing - his "iron body" is obviously more durable, stronger by far than a normal man's and it seems as if anything or anyone he comes in contact with will soon be destroyed. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10

True Trivia:
there also exists an edited down theatrical version which was released overseas. That version also has a bit more to the couple of gory shots.
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