Considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, this 1994 movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Steph Lady and Frank Darabont, who said that it was, “the best script I ever wrote and the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”
He told Creativescreenwriting.com, “t’s kind of like the movie I wrote, but not at all like the movie I wrote. It has no patience for subtlety. It has no patience for quiet moments. It has no patience period. It’s big and loud and blunt and rephrased by the director at every possible turn. Cumulatively, the effect was a totally different movie. I don’t know why Branagh needed to make this big, loud film…the material was subtle. Shelley’s book was way out there in a lot of ways, but it’s also very subtle. I don’t know why it had to be this operatic attempt at filmmaking. Shelley’s book is not operatic, it whispers at you a lot. The movie was a bad one. That was my Waterloo. That’s where I really got my ass kicked most as a screenwriter…”
Branagh plays Victor Frankenstein, who starts the film as a man suffering from pneumonia who has been seeking to kill his creation, tracking it into the arctic. We go back to see how things became this dire, as Victor promises his mother, at her grave, that he will conquer death. For a time, he’s joined by his teacher Professor Waldman (John Cleese), who warns him of the consequences of going against God and nature. After he’s murdered (by an unnamed man played by Robert DeNiro, who goes on to play the creature that Frankenstein brings to life), his brain is used within the creature given the spark of life.
Victor is horrified by his creation’s appearance and tries to kill him. In his nascent state, the creature is driven from town by the villagers. Even when he connects with an old blind man, it goes badly. Finally, he burns the farm of the man’s family to the ground and declares war on his creator. He kills Frankenstein’s brother William, sets up Justine, the family maid who has always loved the doctor and demands that his nemesis make him a mate. When he refuses, he murders Frankenstein’s fiancee (Helena Bonham Carter) and forces him to bring her back to life. She’s horrified at the way she looks and sets herself on fire, which brings us back to the cold ice floes and the close of the tale.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein may be imperfect, but DeNiro is absolutely incredible in the lead. He studied the way that stroke victims who have learned to speak again sound to get the right voice. I love the way he creates his own take on a creature that has been filmed so many times and his role is the absolute best thing in this movie.
The Arrow UHD release of this movie has a new 4K restoration from the original camera negatives by Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as new audio commentary by film historians Michael Brooke and Johnny Mains; new interviews with composer Patrick Doyle, costume designer James Acheson and make-up designer Daniel Parker; Mary Shelley and The Creation of a Monster, a new documentary featurette on the origins and evolution of the Frankenstein story, featuring Gothic specialists David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk; Dissecting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a new featurette with David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk on the differences between the novel and Kenneth Branagh’s screen adaptation; the Edison version of Frankenstein, made in 1910 and shown in 2K restoration form from the Library of Congress with music by Donald Sosin; original trailers; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Laz Marquez and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Jon Towlson and Amy C. Chambers.
You can purchase this from MVD.