Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

"Did you ever consider the consequences of your actions?" - Robert
DeNiro to Kenneth Branagh

No FRANKENSTEIN film should ever be boring.  Period.  Not THE BRIDE OF
FRANKENSTEIN.  But boring is as boring does and this refreshingly
literate monster movie is one creation that never comes to life.

Don't blame the source material.  Shelley's story always contained more
philosophy than atrocity, and writers Steph Lady and Frank Darabont
doctor the horrors appropriately.  With one eleventh-hour exception,
their transgressions are all very tasteful.  This FRANKENSTEIN is a
thinking's man monster movie, where The Creature spends more time
learning language than lumbering.

With appropriate tweaks to the original story-- such as electric eels as
energy sources-- there should be enough scares here to spook anyone.
But the surrounding story never comes together.  The tone isn't quite
right, and parts of the plot always seems to be missing.  Did test
screenings do this?  The generous leaps and bounds of the story suggest
serious snipping in post-production.

The film stinks for subtext, as well.  Director Kenneth Branagh-- the
man who put Shakespeare in the cineplex-- offers no commentary on the
horrors of 16th-century medicine.  Nor does he effectively examine the
relationship between Victor and his adopted sister (Helena Bonham
Carter).  His worst omission: a sense of humor.  This FRANKENSTEIN
should be brimming with sly winks and subtle nods to earlier

(And what's with that "circling" camera technique?  Is the director
trying to infuse into ever scene a sense of action?  Excitement?

Playing the infamous Victor Von, Branagh is all buffed and beautiful for
his steamy laboratory scenes.  But his eyes burn with neither malice nor
madness-- he's a good boy who's too good.  Better is Robert DeNiro, a
stitch as The Creature.  His misshapen mass of serrated scars and
slurred syllables is a welcome presence in the second hour.

Supporting roles go to Ian Holm, Aidan Quinn, Tom Hulce, Richard Briers,
and, John Cleese as a heavy!.  Why the latter is forced to wear dental
props, though, is never explained.  Sorry, sorry.

To the credit of everyone involved, there is one, great moment to
remember.  The scene occurs toward the end of the film, when The
Creature does something very bad to someone very good.  That brief,
horrible act brings a rush of excitement into the film like oxygen into
a backdraft.  And, for a few, fleeting moments, you can clearly see the
terror that should've been there from the beginning. And then it's gone.

BOTTOM LINE:  Frankly speaking, Kenneth Branagh should stick to

Grade: C-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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