Frankenstein: The True Story (1973)

Article 3350 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-1-2010
Posting Date: 10-16-2010
Directed by Jack Smight
Featuring James Mason, Leonard Whiting, David McCallum
Country: USA
What it is: Another take on the Frankenstein story

Dr. Frankenstein, distraught at the death of his brother, combines forces with Dr. Clerval to create life.

I wonder what they mean by “The True Story”; since the Frankenstein story is a piece of fiction, it seems rather silly to call any version the “True Story”. I assumed that it meant they were going to try to tell a faithful version of the original novel, but the story here is no more faithful to Shelley’s work than most of the other versions I’ve seen. So let’s just take it as another variation on the story and go from there.

Taken as such, it’s not a bad attempt at the story; it has some interesting characters and performances and finds some novel variations on the concepts. Most of the performances are quite good, though I’m particularly partial to James Mason and David McCallum here; the latter may be giving the best performance I’ve ever seen from him. Still, there’s some moments here that fall flat; for example, I find Elizabeth’s cowering in fear from the “evil” butterfly to be singularly silly. I also find the portrayal of the monster rather inconsistent, sometimes seeming to be fairly coherent and at other times mouthing the same three words over and over – beautiful, Victor and Figaro. I also find the character of Elizabeth unbelievable, especially when she takes on the role of Victor’s conscience. It’s fairly bloody for a TV-Movie, and the scene where Clerval pours acid on a crawling arm is fairly shocking. At three hours, it’s a fairly daunting watch, but I think it was originally shown over a two-night period. And I do think that overall the movie does an interesting job of putting together pieces from the various versions of the story in a new way.


1 Comment

  1. I thought this 3-hour TV-movie was the finest, most imaginative version of the Frankenstein story I’ve ever seen. Handsomely produced with a terrific cast, and Michael Sarrazin’s portrayal of the monster, here a handsome, sensitive, sensual young man, is spellbinding!

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