Frankenstein (1984)

10/24/2015 13:40

Film: Frankenstein

Year: 1984

Director: James Ormerod

Writer: Victor Gialanella

Starring: Robert Powell, David Warner and Carrie Fisher



This was a movie that I discovered years ago when searching for different adaptations of the source material. What caught my interest here was that this featured David Warner and Carrie Fisher, both actors who I recognized from childhood favorite movies. I picked this up on VHS years ago. I couldn’t watch that copy due to not having the proper cords. I found it streaming on YouTube. I’m now giving this a second watch as part of my Foray through the Fours.

Synopsis: a scientist who is obsessed with creating life does it, with tragic results.

We start with a man being executed by hanging. We do not see his face, just the bottom of the scaffold and his feet appearing. The film then shifts to a man riding in a carriage. His name is Henry Clervell (Michael Cochrane). He stops off to ask for directions. It’s been years since he’s been to Frankenstein’s castle and didn’t remember the way.

It then takes us over to our main character, Victor Frankenstein (Robert Powell). He meets with gravediggers and they report about the execution. He tells them that he cannot use this specimen since it is assumed it broke his neck. They say the knot was not tied correctly so he was strangled. This sways Victor to agree to use the body.

Henry arrives at the estate where he’s met by Elizabeth (Fisher). She is engaged to be married to Victor. We learn that he is completely absorbed into his work currently. Victor comes home and is elated to hear his old friend has come. He assures Elizabeth that he will attend dinner. His work can wait until later. Henry also meets with Victor’s younger brother, Willliam (Graham McGrath).

There are a couple more members of this household who are glad to see Henry. Alphonse (Terence Alexander) is the father and he recounts stories of how Henry was always over when this trio were growing up. I’ll add here that Alphonse is confined to a wheelchair due to an ailment. Another member is Justine (Susan Wooldridge), who is a housekeeper. It seems that here and Henry have feelings for each other. During this dinner we learn that Henry is staying about a week. He also has been officially trained to be a surgeon. This draws the interest of Victor.

A storm approaches and Victor leaves dinner early. The body arrives and he takes it to his laboratory. Henry followed his friend. Victor lets him in and tells him what he is working on. He wants his friend’s help. He is leery about this at first but intrigued by what he’s told. He aids in the surgery to place a brain into the body.

The goal is to use lightning from the storm to bring life to Victor’s creation. It doesn’t work, as it doesn’t seem to have enough power. By luck, lightning strikes directly and overloads the machines. This brings the monster to life. It does flee into the storm and falls into a nearby river. Victor is disheartened, believing all his work was wasted.

This creature survives. By luck, he finds a blind man who gives his shelter and food. He also helps teach this entity to read. Things take a turn when thieves come to this home while the creature is out. The monster then seeks out his maker to create him a companion.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Now where I’ll start is that I’ll try not to be too harsh in my critiques. At this point, there have been variations and adaptations of the story. If you watch too many close together, you can pick out the flaws much easier. If memory serves, this is using more of the play than the novel so that could also be part of the issue there.

Let me delve more into what I’m getting here. I think that this does well in condensing the tale into an 81-minute movie. What don’t necessarily learn why Victor is hellbent on making his creature, outside of being a man of science. He believes that he can do it and he’s determined to succeed. This version is interesting to have Victor working alone and then Henry, his childhood friend who is now a trained surgeon visit, to help him.

I’m going to shift gears and talk about the best part of this, which is the acting. Powell is fine as Victor. I don’t know if we get array of emotions from him, but what this does well in doing is making him manic to succeed in his experiment. I do like that the feeling lets up after he believes he’s failed to take time away. Warner brings good size to the creation. My only gripe there is that he doesn’t look like a monster outside of having a burned face. That makes sense with what brought him to life. The best performance is Fisher. She isn’t given a lot to work with but she at least brings the emotion. Cochrane was good as Henry. I believe that De Lacey, portrayed by John Gielgud, was the blind man. I like him as he helps bring emotion by teaching things to the creature. Other than that, I thought Wooldridge, Alexander, McGrath and the rest of the cast were fine for what was needed in rounding this out.

Next then is filmmaking. I’ll give the positives first. The cinematography is fine. I thought they did a solid job in framing this. It also feels like the era that it was set in, being more Victorian. I’m glad that they don’t lean too much into the pseudo-science that brings the monster to life. We get limited effects here, but we also don’t need them. The only gripe would be a bit more to make the monster look uglier. It is a TV movie so it is fine. The biggest issue here is that the pace is too slow. It feels like they’re just out to present the information, not making it exciting enough and that causes it to feel flat for me.

In conclusion, if you want a cliff notes version of the story, this is what you’re looking for. This removes major parts of the story to save time, but it tries to build emotion without being strong enough to do so. That’s not to say there aren’t good parts. The acting is solid. Fisher leading the way, but she isn’t given much to work with. I did like Powell, Warner and Cochrane as well. This is made well enough. Being a TV movie, I think limits it a lot. What I’ll say here is that this is interesting that it was made. It’s fine for what we get without standing out unfortunately.


My Rating: 5.5 out of 10