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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Frankenstein
Frankenstein
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // October 26, 2004
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted October 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE MOVIE

Frankenstein has always been a difficult title to capture on film – mainly because the story has no true villain. Perhaps because of author Mary Shelley's use of science fiction elements in her story, or perhaps more because of the 1931 film version which has become a classic, Frankenstein has been lumped in with Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolf Man as traditional "horror" fare. But what the story really is about is human tragedy – and director Kevin Connor tries to recapture some of that feeling for the 2004 made-for-TV version of Frankenstein.

Connor follows the same route director Kenneth Branagh did in his 1994 theatrical version – basically trying to tell the story as closely as possible to the way that Mary Shelley wrote it. The difference between Branagh's version and this new one is that Connor (perhaps because he was working in a television medium, or perhaps because he knew better) has lightened up on both the gore and the utter depression that one gets from watching Branagh's film (so much that I've only sat through that picture one time) and given us a movie that more slowly spirals its way into oblivion. Yes, the results for the characters are the same – but Connor has found a much better way to tell the story.

Frankenstein stars Alec Newman as Victor Frankenstein, and Luke Goss as the monster of his creation. The portrayal of the monster here – both physically and verbally – is the biggest difference from Frankenstein adaptations we have seen in the past. Connor has given his version a much more human look (Goss actually looks more like a beggar from the streets than a truly hideous creature), and the monster is far more literate and intelligent than other film incarnations…making the showdowns he has with Victor more powerful on an intellectual level.

This version of Frankenstein, however, is not without its flaws. The first hour or so of this movie (which runs almost three-hours in length) is rather dry, and it takes a while to get comfortable and interested in the characters. The payoff really comes in the last hour, though, as Victor starts to lose everything that is dear to him – and the audience is torn between feeling for Victor's tragedy and having compassion for the monster.

The majority of the cast here is made up mostly of solid, British actors – with two notable cameos. Donald Sutherland has a cameo as Captain Walton of the Prometheus, who discovers a dying Victor and the monster at the beginning of the movie in Antarctica (the movie, like the novel, is told in flashback as Victor tells his story to Walton). The other cameo is by William Hurt as German Professor Waldman, who is both Victor's mentor and college advisor. While Sutherland gives a strong performance in his role, Hurt's laughably over-the-top German accent makes anything his character say hard to take seriously. It's one of the major missteps in an otherwise solid production.

THE DVD

Video:
The video is presented in the full-frame format, and I was a little surprised at the amount of "softness" and the slight, but evident grain in the print – given that this is a 2004 film. I didn't see Frankenstein on TV, so I'm not sure if the picture quality was any better during its original airing, but this is only an average DVD transfer and not particularly impressive…although not bad enough to be a distraction.

Audio:
Viewers will have the option of listening to either a 2.0 or 5.1 Dolby Digital track of the movie. The 5.1 track is quite nice and very active – particularly in moments such as when Victor makes his creation, when the subwoofer really gets a strong workout.

Extras:
In addition to a chapter selection, the DVD contains a 5-minute featurette entitled Creating Frankenstein which seems to be just part of a larger making-of special, although we only get a few minutes of it here. Included in the brief segment is interview material with stars Alec Newman, Luke Goss and William Hurt.

Also on the DVD are a few minutes worth of Trailers, which is made up of a 60-second ad for Hallmark Entertainment, plus trailers for the earthquake movie 10.5 and the Patrick Swayze film King Solomon's Mines.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This is a tough call between a recommendation to buy and a recommendation to rent, but in either case, I think this version of Frankenstein is worth checking out. The story takes a while to get emotionally involved in, but if you give it a chance, your patience will be rewarded in the last half of the film. Because of its emphasis on tragedy over horror, and because of its loyalty to Shelley's original work, I'm going to go ahead and give this one a recommendation. It's not something that's going to "scare the willies" out of you, but that doesn't mean it's not worth your time.
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