26 November 2014

Frankenstein: The True Story (1973)
184 min.
Directed by Jack Smight.
With James Mason, Leonard Whiting, Michael Sarrazin, David McCallum, Jane Seymour, Nicola Pagett, Agnes Moorehead, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Tom Baker, Michael Wilding, Margaret Leighton.
Mary Shelley's classic 1818 novel gets the comprehensive treatment with this superior TV horror.

Young surgeon Victor Frankenstein (Whiting) is devastated by the untimely loss of his brother.

Emotionally spent, and disillusioned with conventional medicine, Victor takes up with eccentric doctor Henry Clerval (McCallum) and the two begin experimenting with reanimating lifeless bodies.

When Clerval dies unexpectedly, Victor presses on with their studies. He succeeds by breathing life into a handsome creature (Sarrazin) composed of various body parts.

Everything goes swimmingly at first, but before long, Victor's attractive creation inexplicably begins to decompose.

Victor tries to cut his losses by dumping his new 'friend,' but the evil scientist Polidori (Mason) blackmails him into creating a female mate to keep the first aberration company.

Reluctantly, Victor reanimates the beautiful Prima (Seymour), but soon realizes he's made an irreversible mistake...one which may cost him his own life.

This 1973 gem is a rewarding mini-epic filled with masterful performances; Whiting and Sarrazin are superb, while Mason is terrific as the villain of the piece (no surprise there). Kudos also to Victor's gal Elizabeth (Pagett) for a strong, if thankless, portrayal.

With sequences that are both studious and shocking (Seymour's beheading at the grand ball is one of the film's best moments), this Frankenstein is a must see revelation.

It perfectly captures many of the themes of Shelley's original novel (the loss of identity, the transitory nature of beauty, the hazards of modernity), while also serving up a deliciously fun plate of gruesome delights.

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