The tale of Frankenstein has never been as homoerotic as it is in this 1973 television series. Playing fast and loose with Mary Shelley’s gothic tale, this production adds an interesting spin on the Victor Frankenstein story. This epic two-part mini-series also has an impressive cast, with James Mason, Leonard Whiting, David McCallum, Jane Seymour, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud and Tom Baker all making an appearance.
This version (co-written by Christopher Isherwood) pretty much sees Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting) follow the work of his (very) good friend Henri Clerval (David McCallum). However, tragedy strikes on the eve of their greatest triumph, cutting their bromance short. Not to worry though, as Frankenstein brings his creature (Michael Sarrazin) to life the following morning. Frankenstein falls in love with his creature at first sight and he’s pretty chuffed with its male model. Frankenstein moves his ‘beautiful’ creation (his words, not mine) into his lodgings and the two of them hit the town, attracting the glances of the social scene (and the suspicious James Mason). The relationship begins to turn sour when the creature’s looks begin to fade at a rapid pace, infuriating Frankenstein. This is when things begin to move into more familiar horror territory.
Jack Smight’s film is a great example of how to take a worn-out concept and put a fresh spin on it. It has that Hammer vibe (even though it’s not a Hammer horror) and it features impressive visuals and interesting performances.It’s also quite gory, and it has strong special effects and make-up. It’s probably one of the finest film adaptations of Shelley’s novel (ironically made for television) taking what works and ditching what doesn’t. The best film versions of Frankenstein tend to take the central idea and build on it, creating its own creature. Shelley’s source material is somewhat plodding narratively (especially when adapted for the screen) and while it’s grotesque – it’s not really a horror tale. Therefore, film versions need to injected by fresh blood to make it cinematic
Frankenstein: The True Story is an fascinating version of Mary Shelley’s story and while it may not be a faithful adaptation, it is incredibly entertaining. It’s also worth watching for how Isherwood and Smight wove their subtext into the film’s narrative, making it the stuff that film theory classes were meant for.
This Second Sight DVD release comes with the mini-series in two separate 90 minute parts and a nifty (if bizarre) vintage introduction from star James Mason.