The Frankenstein myth is my favorite in all of movie monsterdom. As I like to tell people, I cut my teeth on the Universal horror cycle of the 1930’s and 40’s. It appears there is, at least, one new film adaptation of the plight of the Monster, every single year. And most of them are outright terrible. But now Bernard Rose has taken a crack at it. The British director first made a splash, with a superb 1992 fright film called “Candyman”. 24 years on, he’s continued making movies, but often struggles getting his work properly distributed. And his excellent modern take, on Mary Shelley’s classic story, is the most recent example of this.
Viktor Frankenstein (the always reliable Danny Huston), is employing 3D printing technology, to create a perfect, artificial human being. What he, and his team of scientists, bring into existence, is “Adam” (exceptional Xavier Samuel)–a handsome, blonde adult, with the mind of an infant. The creature immediately takes to mother figure/lab assistant Marie (marvelous Carrie-Anne Moss), who also happens to be Frankenstein’s wife. Adam develops rapidly mentally, but physically things quickly go awry. He contracts an infection, and they attempt to terminate him. But Adam discovers an unnatural strength, butchers some of his captors, and escapes to existence as a homeless man on the urban streets of L.A. And if you are surprised when Adam encounters a blind musician (Candyman himself, Tony Todd!), you haven’t been paying attention for decades.
With a bow to the great Boris Karloff/James Whale features of the early mid-20th century, this is about the finest, and smartest interpretations of this story that I’ve ever witnessed. Yeah, it’s damn good. It’s gory, yet touching, it’s well-acted and scripted–plus it has an admirable sense of social justice. The film also brilliantly makes low-budget use of its minimal special effects. Okay, maybe it could be called a bit heavy-handed with its employing of a subplot involving an abusive city cop. But I found the device fitting and timely. Plus, when Rose alumni Tony Todd first appears, the geek pleasures are incalculable. This “Frankenstein” deserves a much wider acceptance. So far, it has only received a limited international release, and a run through the festival circuit. It never pulled off a North American theatrical unveiling, but has recently been made available on home video. Bernard Rose is a criminally under sung talent. And his “Frankenstein” is awesome.