*As the intro plays out, we see James in his movie room*
James: Of course there's been several movie versions of Frankenstein over the years, way too many to count. Just as an example...
*James reaches down and pulls out some VHS tapes*
James: There's the 1931 Universal version, the 1957 Hammer version, and the 1993 made-for-television version, that nobody remembers! But I sure do, it was made for the network TNT and it premiered on June 13th 1993.
*We see James hold up a TV Guide that has an ad for the movie. We then see a commercial for the film*
Announcer: Tomorrow night at 8, he will be released!
Frankenstein: I made him... I must destroy him.
James: And now that it's the 20th anniversary, I think it's time it gets some recognition. That same month, TNT was running Monster Vision every Saturday night with Penn and Teller hosting.
*We see Teller sneak up on Penn wearing a mask, Penn screams and has a panic attack*
James: I was at the peak of my monster phase at the time and it was an impressionable month for me. They ran an encore showing of this new Frankenstein as part of Monster Vision, I was already a fan of the classic Universal version so I had to watch it.
When I saw it, I was repelled by it! It was more gruesome than anything I had ever seen on television and the monster didn't look anything like the classic image of Boris Karloff that I knew. Then I read the original novel by Mary Shelly and realized how much closer this movie is to it's source material.
Um... I'd be interested to know of all the Frankenstein movies in existence which one is the closest to the book. To find a definite answer, I would have to watch over 80 films and restudy the book uh... but I will say this one is a contender. But with that being said it does many differences.
How exactly Frankenstein creates the monster is left vague in the novel, but here he uses some kind of cloning machine.
Frankenstein: It's alive...
James: He copies himself and the monster is born into a tank of water. It's surreal and fantastic but for this interpretation, it works. The part that so many of these movies ignore it when Frankenstein brings life to his creation, in the novel he's horrified by it and rejects the monster. But here, once again, the monster is the one who runs away. This monster is as tragic as they come.
We all remember when the Karloff monster accidently drowns a little girl. Well here, he does the opposite. He rescues a girl from drowning, only to get shot at. Also Frankenstein and the monster share some kind of bond, sort of like ET and Elliot, every time something happens to the monster, Frankenstein feels it.
*We see the monster fall down a cliff, he lets out a scream and Frankenstein is lying in bed with a horrified look*
James: There's a scene where they're both having happy moments. The monster's making friends with the old man and Frankenstein's with his fiancé. Huh... so right now at this moment what's happening with the monster? Is he making out with the old man? This aspect of the movie is where I think it went a little too far.
And it's not always addressed, there's a scene where the monster gets electrocuted and nothing happens to Frankenstein. It's not consistent enough and there's no ultimate payoff. The monster accidently kills Frankenstein's brother, an aspect of the novel that most film adaptations ignored.
Frankenstein: He killed my brother...
James: Frankenstein, overwhelmed with feelings of revenge chases after his creation.
Frankenstein: And of you gentlemen seen a stranger?
James: It's almost like a western.
*Frankenstein goes outside and sees the monster standing right there. Frankenstein draws a gun and pulls back the hammer*
James: This is where the movie gets real interesting and the performances start to shine.
The Monster: You made me... and you teach me nothing! WHY DID YOU MAKE ME LIKE THIS?!
James: Frankenstein is played by Patrick Bergin and the monster's played by Randy Quaid, who manages to invoke both sympathy and horror. Both of these guys ham it up a lot.
The Monster: Help me...
James: They play it like they're trying to win academy awards, and that's not a bad thing. There's nothing worse then a one note performance and that's defiantly not the case here. Sometimes when a director tells an actor um, how big to go with the performance they'll use a scale of 1-10. They'll say like... "Give me your 7 or give me your 8." And so on. Here's Patrick Bergin's 1.
Frankenstein: I've discovered the secret of life Clerval, here, in this very room.
James: Here's his 10.
Frankenstein: I SWEAR, BY THE GOD WHO MADE ME, I WILL DESTROY YOU!!!
James: So there's a lot of range. The creepiest most disturbing scene that still haunts me to this day, is when Frankenstein is forced into creating a mate for his monster. He uses his fiancé as the source for the cloning and it puts her in too much pain. And just as the female monster's beginning to take shape, Frankenstein aborts it and we're savored every gross detail of all the flesh and blood pouring out into the gutter.
The monster watches from the window and is enraged. He crashes through the glass and tears apart the lab.
*We see the monster break into the lab by crashing through a window. He reaches for the fleshy remains of his aborted mate and he starts to rip the lab apart*
James: This is an old cliché seen in plenty of Frankenstein films but never with so much manic emotional context. After the monster collapses, Frankenstein assumes he's dead and goes on to marry his fiancé. On their wedding night, the monster strikes back and kills his wife.
James: Now Frankenstein is madder then ever and chases the monster all across the world. The monster leads him to the baron ice lands of the North pole, so that hey can feel the same sense of abandonment and isolation as himself. This is some pretty heavy stuff, it truly brings the sad and tragic nature from the pages of the novel onto the screen.
It begins as a pretty weak adaptation but it gets a lot better as creator and creation become mortal enemies. It's not perfect but for a TV movie, it's not bad. So, why's it so forgotten? I'd imagine mostly because the following year, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was released. This one came out in theaters and was a big production with big stars like Robert DeNiro.
The TNT version never got the attention it deserved, so I hope I can help shed some light on it. If you're a fan of the Frankenstein story and you want to see a lot of the movies, definitely don't skip this version.
Give it a watch... if you can find it.
Announcer: Frankenstein, a terrifying motion picture from TNT. Tomorrow night at 8!
*The Cinemassacre logo pops up as we fade out*