Frankenstein: The True Story DVD Review
No doubt everyone knows the story of Frankenstein by now. Mary Shelley’s classic novel from way back in 1818 has been through as many adaptations as the likes of Dracula and other classic horror icons, and they continue to this day with Aaron Eckhart’s I, Frankenstein this year and next year’s Frankenstein starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Some veer towards the horror aspect while others look to deconstruct the science behind Shelley’s ideas.
With Frankenstein: The True Story, Second Sight Films have released one of the most acclaimed versions of the tale, and certainly one of the more interesting spins on the original idea. Originally made for television back in 1973, an all-star cast including Leonard Whiting (Romeo and Juliet), Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die, Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman), Tom Baker (Doctor Who), and David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) amongst others, Frankenstein: The True Story is a story in the vein of Hammer Horror and a true product of its time.
What’s It About? Victor Frankenstein (Whiting) loses his brother and his faith in God, turning to a darker side of life in order to fuel his new found fascination with bringing the dead back to life. Inspired by the work of scientist Henry Clerval (McCallum), Frankenstein steps in to help him as he becomes frail due to a debilitating heart condition. The aim – to create a new race of superior beings from the parts of corpses. As you can imagine, things are never quite as simple as they may seem, and Clerval is soon deceased, allowing the focus to shift to Frankenstein himself. Predictably, Clerval’s death doesn’t mean he stops being a part of the work, as his brain is used in Victor’s first creation – a creature that looks beautiful on the outside, and somewhat intelligent and sweet on the inside. Unaware of all Clerval’s discoveries, the tale of Victor Frankenstein and his new creature unfolds in a horrific and heartbreaking fashion.
Verdict: Frankenstein: The True Story may not live up to its name – after all, none of this is true whatsoever – but it’s a fascinating and emotional story that gets right to the heart of the matter. Shelley’s ideologies and themes are strong here, and the tension and foreboding carries a weight that many similar productions fail to achieve. It’s easy to write off yet another re-telling of Frankenstein, yet here the acting and tight script manage to hit home and remain relevant even to this day. The 70s production values add to the overall feel of terror, and the presentation of science vs religion and man’s interference with the dead will always be an intriguing and effective set of ideas to present to an audience. It’s not one of those films that hits you in the face with horror, but instead one that has underlying fear and trepidation as you witness the slippery slope Victor goes down. He’s a desperate man driven by grief who gets so caught up in his perceived power that he is ignorant to the problems before it’s too late.
Extras: An introduction by James Mason.
Final Words: Frankenstein: The True Story manages to remain a fascinating look at one of the most familiar plots out there. Taken in the context of a 1970s production, the acting, writing and values are all top notch and come together to create one of the best adaptations out there. Whiting has the depth to pull off the complexity of Victor Frankenstein, while Michael Sarrazin as the Creature does so much with so little. Whether you’re a fan of the original novel or not, this is certainly worth a watch and successfully pays tribute to the source material while putting its own ideas to good use. It’ll be interesting to see if next year’s movie manages to live up to the same standards.
Frankenstein: The True Story is out on DVD now.