Shown in 1973, many may not have heard of Frankenstein The True Story and this is probably because it was a made for television film.
It retells Mary Shelley’s masterpiece in two parts, both of which are now available for all horror fans to watch in full for the first time.
Co- written by famed English novelist Christopher Isherwood who wrote such heavy weight books as A Single Man and The Berlin Stories (which was translated into the musical Cabaret), the script takes several interesting departures from the original making it a very valid and exciting interpretation.
The story opens with the death of the brother of trainee doctor Victor Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting), an event that seriously affects Victor. It instills in him a deep desire for power over life so as to defy death and the ‘random’ will of God that he sees in the Christian faith so devoutly held by his fiancé Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett).
Moving to London he meets eccentric scientist Henry Clerval (the brilliant David McCallum) who, in sensing a kindred spirit, divulges his life’s work to Victor. That work is to create a new life form that, although formed from dead human flesh reanimated through the sun, would be the next step in evolution.
Enthused and eager to help, Victor assists Clerval learning all he can. And after several successful experiments on insects and a severed arm he helps as they construct “the second Adam” from the parts of several unfortunate workers who died in a mine accident.
Clerval’s one worry is that their creature will only have the brain of an illiterate peasant. However, when he succumbs to a heart attack Victor is left with the perfect opportunity to not only carry on the work but use the deceased genius’s brain in his new being.
But Victor is unaware that the incident that brought on Clerval’s death was the discovery that the process they had invented was reversing itself. Although Victor is successful in creating his creature he has no idea about the door that he has opened and the death and destruction that will follow through it.
Although many strands and themes may seem familiar within Frankenstein The True Story such as the ongoing struggle of science versus religion and the moral quandary of creating life in a lab there are also many innovative and exciting twists and turns within the 181 minute movie that fleshes out Frankenstein’s story much further than other films.
One of the most intriguing elements is that the creature played excellently by Michael Sarrazin, starts off life as a handsome young man unlike the grotesque monster that is usually used for Frankenstein’s creation.
As the plot progresses however he becomes more ugly and deformed on the outside as Victor and the world around him rally’s against his existence and tries to eradicate him until he becomes an unstoppable and destructive being driven by rage and vengeance.
Another novel introduction not from the novel is the evil Dr Polidori played with aplomb by legendary actor James Mason. A mish mash of Dr. Pretorius from Bride of Frankenstein and author John Polidori whose 1819 short story, The Vampyre, one of the first vampire stories in English the Dr is a warped and complex character who creates his own Eve named Prima a personal puppet with a psychotic streak played viciously and alluringly by Jane Seymour.
The second creation and Dr Polidori’s malicious machinations adds a whole other layer to the movie and takes up most of the second part where Victor believes his monster has committed suicide a mistake that leads to the chaotic and blood soaked climax at a ball for Prima.
Well made and packed with great guest performances from Agnes Moorehead, John Gielgud and Tom Baker to name a few Frankenstein The True Story is a must see for Frankenstein obsessives and all those looking for a new and engaging retelling on the classic tale.