Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (film)

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Frankenstein
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
James V. Hart
John Veitch
Screenplay by Steph Lady
Frank Darabont
Based on Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley
Starring
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Andrew Marcus
Production
company
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date
  • November 4, 1994 (1994-11-04)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country United States
Japan
Language English
Budget $45 million
Box office $112 million

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a 1994 horror drama film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese, and Aidan Quinn. The film was produced on a budget of $45 million and is considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, despite several differences and additions in plot from the novel.[2]

Plot[edit]

In 1794, Captain Walton leads a troubled expedition to reach the North Pole. While their ship is trapped in the ice of the Arctic Sea, the crew discovers a man, Victor Frankenstein, traveling across the Arctic on his own. Victor proceeds to tell Walton and the crew his life story.

Victor grows up in Geneva with his adopted sister, Elizabeth Lavenza, who will become the love of his life. Before he leaves for the university at Ingolstadt, Victor's mother dies giving birth to his brother William. Traumatized by grief afterward, Victor vows on his mother's grave that he will find a way to conquer death. However, he is shunned by his peers, who view him as a madman. Eventually, he and his friend Henry Clerval meet Shmael Augustus Waldman, a professor whose notes contain information on how to create life; Waldman warns Victor not to use them lest he create an "abomination".

While performing vaccinations, Waldman is murdered by a stubborn patient, who is later hanged in the village square. Using the body, a leg from a fellow student named Schiller who's fallen victim from cholera, and Waldman's brain, Victor builds a creature based on the professor's notes. He is so obsessed with his work that he drives Elizabeth away when she comes to take him away as Ingolstadt is being put into quarantine. Victor finally gives his creation life, but soon regrets his decision and tries to kill it with an axe; the creature steals his coat and is driven away by the townspeople when it tries to steal food.

The creature escapes, running off to the wilderness. He spends months living in a family's barn without their knowledge, gradually learning to read and speak based on observations and memories from Waldman's brain. He attempts to earn the family's trust by anonymously helping them with their failing farm, and eventually converses with the patriarch, an elderly blind man, after murdering an abusive debt collector. But when the blind man's family returns, they attack the creature and abandon their farm. The creature finds Victor's journal in his coat, learning of the circumstances of his creation. He burns down the farm and vows revenge on his creator.

Victor, who believes the creature to be dead from the cholera epidemic, returns to Geneva to marry Elizabeth. He finds his younger brother William has been murdered. Justine, a servant of the Frankenstein household, is inadvertently framed for the crime by the creature and hanged by a lynch mob before anyone can prove her innocence. The creature abducts Victor and demands that he make a companion for him, promising to leave his creator in peace in return. Victor begins gathering the tools he used to create life, but when the creature insists he use Justine's body to make the companion, Victor breaks his promise and the creature exacts his revenge, strangling Baron Frankenstein and tearing out Elizabeth's heart.

Maddened with grief beyond measure, Victor races home to bring Elizabeth back to life. He stitches Elizabeth's head onto Justine's fully intact body, and she awakes as a re-animated creature. The two are briefly and happily reunited until the creature appears, demanding Elizabeth as his bride. Victor and the monster fight for Elizabeth's affections, but Elizabeth, horrified by what she has become, commits suicide by setting herself on fire, 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 to kill him. Soon after relating his story, Victor dies from pneumonia. Walton discovers the creature weeping over Victor's body, confessing that for all his hatred, he still considers Victor to be his "father". The crew prepares a funeral pyre, but the ceremony is interrupted when the ice around the ship cracks. Walton invites the creature to stay with the ship, but the creature insists on remaining with the pyre. He takes the torch and burns himself alive with Victor's body. Walton, having seen the consequences of Victor's obsession, orders the ship to return home.

Cast[edit]

  • Robert De Niro as The Creation, the product of an experiment with corpses and electricity. Initially kind and innocent, the Creation gradually becomes violent and murderous when it realizes that it will never be accepted as human.
    • De Niro also portrays Professor Waldman's killer, whose body was used for the creature.
  • Kenneth Branagh as Victor Frankenstein, a scientist obsessed with conquering death, which ultimately destroys his family and himself.
  • Tom Hulce as Henry Clerval, Dr. Frankenstein's best friend from medical school, and later, his trusted partner when he inherits his father's practice.
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein, Frankenstein's fiancée and adoptive sister. She is resurrected following her murder at the hands of the Creation, but ends killing herself out of self-loathing.[3]
  • Ian Holm as Baron Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein's elderly father and one of the Creation's victims.
  • John Cleese as Professor Waldman, Frankenstein's tutor and colleague who shares his interest in creating life, but fears the consequences of doing so. His brain is later used for the creature following his death.
  • Aidan Quinn as Captain Robert Walton, the commander of the ship which picks up Frankenstein in the Arctic Circle.
  • Richard Briers as Grandfather, an elderly blind man who is kind to the Creation.
  • Robert Hardy as Professor Krempe, a university tutor of medical sciences who condemns Frankenstein's theories of life beyond death.
  • Trevyn McDowell as Justine Moritz, a worker in the Frankenstein household who is close friends with Elizabeth. She is executed after the Creation plants William's locket on her after killing him.
    • Christina Cuttall as young Justine Moritz
  • Celia Imrie as Mrs. Moritz, the head servant in the household who often fights with Justine.
  • Cherie Lunghi as Caroline Frankenstein, Victor's mother who dies during the birth of his younger brother, William.
  • Ryan Smith as William Frankenstein, Victor's younger brother.
    • Charles Wyn-Davies as young William Frankenstein
  • Hugh Bonneville as Schiller
  • Jenny Galloway as Vendor's wife
  • Patrick Doyle (uncredited) as Ballroom orchestra conductor
  • Alex Lowe as Crewman
  • Stuart Hazeldine (uncredited) as Man in crowd scene
  • Fay Ripley (deleted scenes) as Whore

Reception[edit]

Frank Darabont[edit]

Original screenwriter Frank Darabont later called the film "the best script I ever wrote and the worst movie I've ever seen." He elaborated:

There's a weird doppleganger effect when I watch the movie. It's kind of like the movie I wrote, but not at all like the movie I wrote. It has no patience for subtlety. It has no patience for the quiet moments. It has no patience period. It's big and loud and blunt and rephrased by the director at every possible turn. Cumulatively, the effect was a totally different movie. I don't know why Branagh needed to make this big, loud film... the material was subtle. Shelley's book was way out there in a lot of ways, but it's also very subtle. I don't know why it had to be this operatic attempt at filmmaking. Shelley's book is not operatic, it whispers at you a lot. The movie was a bad one. That was my Waterloo. That's where I really got my ass kicked most as a screenwriter... [Branagh] really took the brunt of the blame for that film, which was appropriate. That movie was his vision entirely. If you love that movie you can throw all your roses at Ken Branagh's feet. If you hated it, throw your spears there too, because that was his movie.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Critical reviews were mixed; the film currently holds a 39% approval rating ("Rotten") on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews with the consensus: "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is ambitious and visually striking, but the overwrought tone and lack of scares make for a tonally inconsistent experience".[5]

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."[6] 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 aesthetically challenged loner with a father who rejected him, would make a dandy guest on any daytime television talk show."[7]

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."[8]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[9]

Box office[edit]

The film fared poorly upon its U.S. theatrical release, grossing only $22 million, but did well in global markets where it grossed $90 million.[10][11]

Accolades[edit]

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/Thriller 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

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN (15)". Columbia TriStar Films. British Board of Film Classification. October 14, 1994. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Sean (1994-11-06). "Kissing the 19th Century Goodby [sic] 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.
  4. ^ Bauer, Erik (2016-04-22). "Frank Darabont on The Shawshank Redemption". Creativescreenwriting.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  5. ^ "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1994-11-04). "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Movie Review (1994) | Roger Ebert". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (1994-11-04). "Movie Review - - FILM REVIEW: FRANKENSTEIN; A Brain on Ice, a Dead Toad and Voila! - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  8. ^ "Reelviews Movie Reviews". Reelviews.net. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  9. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  10. ^ "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)". Box Office Mojo. 1994-12-02. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  11. ^ 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.

External links[edit]