MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN
DIRECTOR:                     KENNETH BRANAGH
COUNTRY:                     ENGLAND 1994
CINEMATOGRAPHY:   ROGER PRATT
MUSIC:                           PATRICK DOYLE
CAST:                             Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, Robert DeNiro, Ian Holm, Aidan Quinn, Richard Briers, John Cleese, Tom Hulce
WRITTEN BY:               Mary Shelley's story
SUPER FEATURES:     The novel is, STILL, better.



It is nice to know, that there is always one novel that no one, can ever touch and make any better in a film. This has been done many times, but, as usual, the emotional stuff, and the showcase moments are always taken away from the novel and presented as great moments for the screen. And a film looks good, but is not really following the novel.

While Kenneth Branagh's version is very good, and very close to the novel, it basically fails in the moments where the doctor has to defend himself. Perhaps this film might have been better if the lead were given to another actor, and Kenneth allowed himself to direct it, and not have to show off the lines, as greater than the whole. And this is the major complaint that this reviewer has of this film.

Dan Curtis's television version of this novel, still remains the best of all versions of this film, and the main reason why, was that the film lacked resources, and it had to make do with much care and dedication by the actors and people involved. The same is not quite true on this film, but it does have its moments.

The best acting in this film is done by the bit parts that are important in the novel, but come off as not very good in this film, because they are overacted, or punctuated for meaning. John Cleese is magnificent, but is wasted because his scene has to take one minute, when it should have been better taken care of. It might have set a tone of care for a great novel. Instead it showed a Hollywood tradition of cutting several pages into a set of lines. Then, the problem might arise that this story would be over three hours long. Good. The story is that good. But the
film can never be unless it does the novel justice, even if it looks good.

Missing in this film is the period feel that the Hammer studios perfected so well. The moody spaces. The superstitious public, which the novel uses so well to trap the reader in its web of suspense and desire. In Branagh's version, one gets the feeling that the whole thing has to hurry up to get to the end, which has already been given us at the start.

The monster, played by Robert DeNiro is very good, although I tend to prefer Michael Sarrazin's version in Dan Curtis's magnificent film, and I happen to like Christopher Lee's wonderful representation of the monster. His is very different, and makes an attempt at becoming a person, which happens in the novel, but was ignored in all other versions, including Boris Karloff's.

Perhaps the difficulty here is whether the story should be about the monster, or the doctor. Kenneth Branagh's version is more about the doctor than it is about the creation. While this is the right attitude of the whole thing, it never gets off the ground as one would have liked, and once again my view is that Kenneth Branagh was not as good as he might have been, had he not been directing, or vice versa. He
is a good actor, but one gets the feeling that here, he just is not prepared enough.

The film is good, don't get me wrong, but I do not feel it is as satisfying as some of the others, specially Dan Curtis' magnificent one, which still is the best of all the versions of Mary Shelley's opus novel.

3 GIBLOONS

 

   

      

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