Frankenstein (1994 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Produced by||Francis Ford Coppola|
|Screenplay by||Steph Lady
by Mary Shelley
|Starring||Robert De Niro
Helena Bonham Carter
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Editing by||Andrew Marcus|
Japan Satellite Broadcasting
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
|Running time||123 minutes|
Frankenstein (also known by its promotional title, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) is a 1994 American horror film directed by Kenneth Branagh. The film starred Robert De Niro and Branagh. It was produced on a budget of $45 million. It is the most faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
The film opens with a few words by Mary Shelley:
"I busied myself to think of a story which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror; one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart."
The story begins in the year 1794. Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn) is leading a daring expedition to reach the North Pole. While their ship is trapped in the ice of the Arctic Sea, Walton and his crew discover a man traveling across the Arctic on his own. In the distance, a loud moaning can be heard. When the man sees how obsessed Walton is with reaching the North Pole, he asks, "Do you share my madness?" The man then reveals that his name is Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) and begins his tale.
There is a flashback to Victor's childhood in Geneva as the son of the wealthy Baron and Caroline Frankenstein (Ian Holm and Cherie Lunghi). In his childhood, Victor's parents have adopted Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), who will become the love of Victor's life.
Years later, Victor's mother dies giving birth to his brother William. Sometime before going off to the university at Ingolstadt, a grief-stricken Victor vows on his mother's grave that he will find a way to conquer death. On the night of his graduation, Victor and Elizabeth promise to marry when Victor returns from his studies.
At university, Victor's previous studies with the works of alchemists such as Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa make him unpopular with certain professors. However, he finds a friend in Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) and a mentor in Professor Waldman (John Cleese). Victor comes to believe that the only way to cheat death is to create life. Professor Waldman warns Victor not to follow through with his theory; he tested it once, but ended his experiments because they resulted in an "abomination."
While performing vaccinations, Waldman is killed by a patient who thinks the doctors are trying to poison him. After Waldman is buried, Victor breaks into the professor's laboratory, takes his notes, then begins to work on his own creation.
Victor spends months working on creating a living, breathing creature, giving it dead body parts from various sources, including the body of the murderer, Waldman's own brain, a new leg in place of the missing one and a new eye to replace the damaged one. He is so obsessed with his work that not even a cholera outbreak tears him from it. Late one night, Victor finally gives his creation life, but he recoils from it in horror and renounces his experiments.
That night, the creature (Robert De Niro) escapes, running off to the wilderness. He spends months hiding in the woods, living in an unwitting family's barn. As time progresses, the creature learns to read and speak, and even tries to win the family's love, but his efforts are in vain.
Through a journal that the creature finds in the coat that he fled with, he learns of the circumstances of his creation and that Victor Frankenstein is responsible. He then burns down the family's abandoned cottage and heads to Geneva, vowing revenge on his creator.
Victor, who believes his creation destroyed, returns to Geneva with the intent of marrying Elizabeth. He finds there that his little brother William (Ryan Smith) has been murdered. Justine Moritz (Trevyn McDowell), a servant of the Frankenstein household, is framed for the crime and hanged. That night Victor is approached by his creation, who tells him to meet him on the mountain. Realizing that the creature murdered his brother, Victor goes with the intent of destroying his creation, but is no match for his enhanced speed and strength. The creature asks who the people were that Victor used to build him. Victor replies that they were merely raw materials, but the creature replies that he knew how to read, speak and play the recorder; he didn't learn how to, he remembered how.
Rather than killing his creator, the creature insists that Victor make a bride for him. If he does this, then he promises to quit humanity forever with Victor never having to see him again. To ensure the safety of the rest of his family, Victor begins gathering the tools he used to create life, but when the creature insists he use Justine's body to make the bride, Victor breaks his promise. Enraged, the creature once more vows revenge, saying, "If you deny me my wedding night, I will be with you on yours!".
Victor and Elizabeth are married. En route to their honeymoon, Victor and Elizabeth are flanked by body guards. Meanwhile, Victor's father dies while the creature watches over him. That night Victor takes every precaution to defend his new family, but the creature finds them anyway and gains access to Elizabeth's room. He uses his hand to prevent her crying out, then despite her pleas he kills her by ripping out her heart as Victor searches the house. Victor comes back to find the monster holding Elizabeth's heart saying, "I keep my promises!". He tosses Elizabeth's body off the bed; her head slams into a nearby table, and her hair is set aflame by candles there. The creature flees out of the window amidst gunfire. Victor frantically extinguishes the fire.
Victor races home to bring Elizabeth back to life. Repulsed by what he intends to do, Henry tries to stop him. Victor argues that his father would have done the same for his mother. After Henry tells him that Baron Frankenstein is dead, Victor believes there is nothing left to lose. "Nothing but your soul," Henry replies. Once he stitches Elizabeth back together using parts from Justine's body, Elizabeth awakes. Victor has a short-lived joy having her come back to life. The monster arrives and is expecting his repayment. Victor and the monster then fight for her affections, but are cut short by Elizabeth realizing her hideous form and burning the mansion to the ground.
The story returns to the Arctic Circle. Victor tells Walton that he has been pursuing his creation for months with the intent of killing him. Soon after relating his story, Victor succumbs to pneumonia and dies. After a word with his crew, Walton hears a noise coming from the room he left Frankenstein's body in. There they find the creature weeping over his creator's dead body. They take Frankenstein's body and prepare a funeral pyre for him. The ceremony is interrupted when the ice around the ship begins to crack. The creature takes the torch and finishes the ceremony, burning himself alive with his creator's body. Walton, having seen the result of Frankenstein's obsession, puts his own aside and orders the ship to return home.
The main characters include:
- The Creation (Robert De Niro) - The product of an experiment with corpses and electricity.
- Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) - The Creation's creator, a scientist obsessed with conquering death.
- Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) - Dr. Frankenstein's best friend from medical school.
- Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) - Frankenstein's fiancée and adoptive sister.
- Baron Frankenstein (Ian Holm) - Victor Frankenstein's father.
- Professor Waldman (John Cleese) - Frankenstein's tutor and colleague who shares his interest in creating life. His brain is later used for the creature.
- Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn) - The commander of the ship which picks up Frankenstein in the Arctic Circle.
- Justine Moritz (Trevyn McDowell) - A worker in the Frankenstein household who is close friends with Elizabeth.
- Mrs. Moritz (Celia Imrie) - The head servant in the household who often fights with Justine.
- Caroline Frankenstein (Cherie Lunghi) - Victor's mother who dies during the birth of his younger brother, William.
- William Frankenstein (Ryan Smith) - Victor's younger brother.
Critical response 
Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, writing: "I admired the scenes with De Niro [as the Creature] so much I'm tempted to give Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a favorable verdict. But it's a near miss. The Creature is on target, but the rest of the film is so frantic, so manic, it doesn't pause to be sure its effects are registered." Janet Maslin wrote, "Branagh is in over his head. He displays neither the technical finesse to handle a big, visually ambitious film nor the insight to develop a stirring new version of this story. Instead, this is a bland, no-fault Frankenstein for the '90s, short on villainy but loaded with the tragically misunderstood. Even the Creature (Robert De Niro), an esthetically challenged loner with a father who rejected him, would make a dandy guest on any daytime television talk show."
Conversely, James Berardinelli of Reelviews.net gave the film three out of four stars, writing: "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein may not be the definitive version of the 1818 novel, and the director likely attempted more than is practical for a two-hour film, but overambition is preferable to the alternative, especially if it results — as in this case — in something more substantial than Hollywood's typical, fitfully entertaining fluff."
Box office 
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Academy Awards||Best Makeup||Daniel Parker, Paul Engelen, Carol Hemming||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Production Design||Tim Harvey||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Horror Film||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Kenneth Branagh||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Helena Bonham Carter||Nominated|
|Best Make-up||Daniel Parker, Paul Engelen||Nominated|
|Best Music||Patrick Doyle||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Robert De Niro||Nominated|
|Best Writing||Steph Lady, Frank Darabont||Nominated|
Other media 
The movie also had a pinball table made based on it, as well as a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis game (the latter of which was by Sony Imagesoft), following a platform-style format. A Sega CD game was also produced by the same company that had a more adventure-based format that would sometimes switch to a fighting game.
- Mathews, Jack (1994-10-31). "Sleep Tight, a Monstrous Season Approaches : Movies: Those perennial masters of the dark, Frankenstein's monster and Count Dracula, return in a pair of new films. As always, they keep changing with the times.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- Mitchell, Sean (1994-11-06). "Kissing the 19th Century Goodby With "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' behind her, Helena Bonham Carter vows to get away from period movies. But she's done so well as the prim and proper English lady. (Except for the stripping thing.)". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." Rotten Tomatoes. 28 August 2007.
- Reviews, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," rogerebert.com
- Film Review: Frankenstein; A Brain on Ice, a Dead Toad and Voila! - NYTimes.com
- Mary Shelly's Frankenstein - A Film Review by James Berardinelli
- "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)." Box Office Mojo. 28 August 2007.
- Natale, Richard (1994-11-07). "Stargate Keeps Surprising Lead Over the Pack Movies: The sci-fi thriller holds onto the top box-office spot despite stiff competition from heavily hyped star vehicles `The War' and `Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at the Internet Movie Database
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at Box Office Mojo