Dan Curtis was the producer behind Dark Shadows, and after the
gothic soap opera was cancelled he continued to produce eerie shows and
movies for TV. In 1972 he produced The Night Stalker, which
was the highest rated made for TV movie at the time, and the following
year he brought Mary Shelly's Frankenstein to the small screen.
This version of the famous story has now been released on DVD by Dark Sky
Films. While die-hard fans of Curtis will want to snag a copy, the
show suffers from a low budget and mediocre acting, making it a better
rental for most viewers.
Dr. Frankenstein (Robert Foxworth) is laughed at by his colleges because
of his radical ideas and sets out to prove that he's right. Piecing
together parts from dead bodies, he fashions a man. On a dark and
stormy night Frankenstein harnesses the power of lightning to bring his
creation (Bo Svenson) to life.
Once animated, it is soon discovered that the giant creature is like
a baby with no knowledge, but that he has super-human strength. Left
alone with a lab assistant, the animated corpse accidentally crushes his
newly found friend to death while giving him a hug. When Frankenstein
discovers what has happened, he straps the monster down on a slab while
he gets rid of the body, but mere leather won't hold the creature.
He escapes from the lab and hides in the forest.
Dr. Frankenstein thinks that his problems are over and spends time courting
his fiancée Elizabeth (Susan Strasberg). They're both happy
until the doctor hears about people being attacked in the mountains by
a giant with scars on his face and hands. Of course he realizes who
it is, and knows that he must stop his creation.
This adaptation of the famous story takes a lot of liberties (Shelly
never had lightning giving life to the monster, that's Universal Pictures)
but at the core stays fairly true to the original text. It portrays
the creation as lonely pathetic creature who realizes that he'll always
be shunned just because of his appearance. I was pleased to see that
they showed the creature learning to talk, and included the family from
the book. This whole sequence makes the giant seem less like a monster
and more like the object of pity. Though the script does drag in
places and the end is a bit melodramatic, but it's a good telling of the
Unfortunately this project didn't have the time or money that it needed
and it suffers because of that. This was presented as part of the
Wide World of Mystery, a late night network show that was trying to compete
with The Tonight Show. Presented on two consecutive nights, this
story had low production values and has that 'soap opera' look.
The sets look like sets and the costumes look like something that the designer
found buried in the bowels of the wardrobe warehouse. It looks like
everything was done in one take. Actors stumble over lines a couple
of times and prop malfunctions are left in. Sometimes these are glaring
errors too, like when the copper plates that are supposed to channel electricity
into the creature's heart fall off of the actor's chest before the final
jolt is given. These mistakes give the whole production an amateur
Most of the acting was just passable. Robert Foxworth is acceptable
as Dr. Victor Frankenstein but just barely. He overacts in some scenes
and seems rather stilted in others, but overall he's alright. Svenson
on the other hand is very good. He was able to make the creature
seem menacing yet pitiful and took him from child-like innocence to cold
blooded murdered over the course of the film. It's too bad that more
time couldn't have been devoted to second takes and polishing the production
a bit. If it had this could have been a classic.
This movie comes with a two channel mono soundtrack, which honestly
isn't very good. There's a lot of distortion through most of the
movie and there's a hum in the background in parts. While these flaws
never make the dialog indiscernible, the constant cracking of voices and
slurred S's makes this show a little less enjoyable to watch.
Like the audio, the video leaves something to be desired. The
show was recorded on tape in 1973 and had a very low budget and it shows.
The image is soft, details disappear into shadows and dark areas, and the
colors are flat. In the credits at the beginning, the letters don't
have nice sharp lines but are indistinct and a little blurry. Though
I doubt that this show looked much better when it was first aired, today's
technology shows just how poor low budget late-night TV looked back in
I was expecting a bare bones disc, but Dark Sky was nice enough to include
some bonus material. The biggest extra is the commentary with actors
Robert Foxworth (Dr. Frankenstein) and John Karlen (Otto, the assistant.)
The track is hosted by Jim Pierson (I hope I've spelled his name correctly...it's
not of the box of Dark Sky's web site) who keeps the discussion going and
often fills in with interesting tidbits of information about the production.
This track was much better than I thought it would be, and most of the
credit goes to Pierson who keeps things interesting. There is also
a promo clip that aired before the show originally aired, a preview to
the second part, and a recap of part one.
This is an interesting version of the Frankenstein story. Though
it cuts and alters a lot from the book, it does try to remain true to the
original source. The main problem is the lack of a budget.
Not only do the sets look artificial and like, well...sets, but they didn't
take time to redo flubbed lines or malfunctioning props. This gives
the entire production a real amateur feel that hurts it. It's still
worth watching, but the replay value isn't that high. Make this one