FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY
Jack Smights direction lags at times but there a number of strong sequences, especially the scene where the monster invades a ball and rips the female creations head off. It is mounted in lavish period style. Particularly good is the rooting of the film inside the historically accurate charnel houses and the appalling sanitary conditions of the hospitals of the period. Although the use of solar power rather than electricity seems an overly strained attempt to avoid the cliches of electric storm resurrections from previous films.
The impressive cast list manages to unite the cream of the British Screen Actors Guild, including the likes of Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, David McCallum and a young Jane Seymour. Leonard Whiting, while rather weak-jawed, projects great idealistic drive and intensity as Frankenstein. Nicola Pagett gives a moralistic strength of character to Elizabeth. The standout however is James Masons glitteringly megalomaniacal performance as Dr Polidori.
On tv, Frankenstein: The True Story aired as a 175 minute production, which is usually screened in two two-hour parts. The film was also released to cinemas in a 123 minute print, which curtails much of the storyline and was poorly received by critics at the time. Celebrated novelist Christopher Isherwood, best known for the autobiographical stories that formed the basis of Cabaret (1972), was not at all happy at the way his and Don Bachardys script was treated by Jack Smight and the producers and they published their own version of the screenplay in book form as Dr Frankenstein (1973).
The other versions of the Frankenstein story are: Frankenstein (1910), the silent Thomas Edison short; Frankenstein (1931), Universals classic James Whale adaptation starring Boris Karloff; The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Hammers classic adaptation with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), Hammers lame comedy remake; Dan Curtiss tv adaptation Frankenstein (1973); the Swedish-Irish production Victor Frankenstein (1977); Frankenstein (1992), David Wickes dreary tv adaptation with Patrick Bergin and Randy Quaid; Kenneth Branaghs Mary Shelleys Frankenstein (1994) with Robert De Niro; the tv mini-series Frankenstein (2004) with Alec Newman as Frankenstein and Luke Goss as the monster; Danny Boyles stage version of Frankenstein (2011) with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the role of Frankenstein and creation; and Victor Frankenstein (2015) with James McAvoy as Frankenstein.
Jack Smight is a director who has made some occasional genre forays including the Ray Bradbury adaptation The Illustrated Man (1969), the serial killer black comedy No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), the Ray Bradbury adaptation The Screaming Woman (tv, 1972) and the post-holocaust film Damnation Alley (1977). Smight is probably best otherwise known for the Paul Newman thriller Harper (1966) and big-budget films of the 1970s such as Airport 1975 (1974) and Midway (1977).